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An evaluation of a common elements treatment approach for youth in Somali refugee camps

  • L. K. Murray (a1), B. J. Hall (a2) (a3), S. Dorsey (a4), A. M. Ugueto (a5), E. S. Puffer (a6), A. Sim (a7), A. Ismael (a8), J. Bass (a1), C. Akiba (a1), L. Lucid (a4), J. Harrison (a4), A. Erikson (a9) and P. A. Bolton (a1)...

This paper reports on: (1) an evaluation of a common elements treatment approach (CETA) developed for comorbid presentations of depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, and/or externalizing symptoms among children in three Somali refugee camps on the Ethiopian/Somali border, and (2) an evaluation of implementation factors from the perspective of staff, lay providers, and families who engaged in the intervention.


This project was conducted in three refugee camps and utilized locally validated mental health instruments for internalizing, externalizing, and posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. Participants were recruited from either a validity study or from referrals from social workers within International Rescue Committee Programs. Lay providers delivered CETA to youth (CETA-Youth) and families, and symptoms were re-assessed post-treatment. Providers and families responded to a semi-structured interview to assess implementation factors.


Children who participated in the CETA-Youth open trial reported significant decreases in symptoms of internalizing (d  =  1.37), externalizing (d  =  0.85), and posttraumatic stress (d  =  1.71), and improvements in well-being (d  =  0.75). Caregivers also reported significant decreases in child symptoms. Qualitative results were positive toward the acceptability and appropriateness of treatment, and its feasibility.


This project is the first to examine a common elements approach (CETA: defined as flexible delivery of elements, order, and dosing) with children and caregivers in a low-resource setting with delivery by lay providers. CETA-Youth may offer an effective treatment that is easier to implement and scale-up versus multiple focal interventions. A fullscale randomized clinical trial is warranted.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: L. K. Murray, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Hampton House, 8th Floor, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. (Email:
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