5.4 Emerging Directions

The challenges of working with immigrant and refugee families are many and the need to improve our theoretical and methodological approaches is critical. First, there is a need for more in-depth and clinically-based research with families. While the body of knowledge about individuals is vast, family interventions remain understudied. There is also a need for more culturally sensitive research methods and interventions that go beyond typical Westernized ideas and methods and that move to incorporate indigenous strengths and cultural-specific practices. Third, we need trained, culturally sensitive practitioners who are willing to grapple with the complexities of working with immigrants and refugees to effectively intervene and achieve positive outcomes. Last, we need an appropriate resettlement infrastructure (e.g., school, medical, legal, economic, political) to support the healthy transition and integration of immigrant and refugee communities. As the number of refugees in the world continues to grow, we need stronger and proactive policies and programs to support their resettlement process. For example, a more comprehensive infrastructure for promoting successful refugee resettlement would involve screening and assessing for mental health, in addition to the required physical health examinations conducted within months of arrival, and building provider capacity across resettlement states for treating individual and relational levels of mental health functioning. At a broader level, a host of legal, human rights and policy level changes will need to be achieved nationally and globally to reduce the punitive stressors associated with undocumented immigrant status, which impact the daily lives of millions in this country.