A pilot study of a stepped-care brief intervention to help psychologically-distressed women displaced by conflict in Bogotá, Colombia.

J. M. Shultz, H. Verdeli, Á. Gómez Ceballos, L. J. Hernandez, Z. Espinel, L. Helpman, Y. Neria, R. Araya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Colombia's 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been exposed to trauma, loss, and hardships. Common mental disorders (CMDs) are prevalent in this group, yet there are few evidence-based psychosocial interventions for this population. We assessed the feasibility and acceptability of a stepped-care intervention for women IDPs in Bogota, Colombia. Methods: Feasibility to recruit participants for an intervention trial, to screen for CMDs and displacement-related traumas, to refer high-risk cases to professional consultation, to implement evidence-based interpersonal counseling (IPC) for women with diagnosed CMDs, to retain participants in the intervention, and to conduct follow-up assessments was assessed. Assessment instruments were validated. The intervention was delivered by trained outreach personnel. Intervention acceptability was assessed by monitoring session attendance, dropout rates, and satisfaction. Potential efficacy was evaluated with pre- and post-intervention measures of CMDs. Results: We recruited 279 women IDPs into the intervention. On screening, 177 (63.4%) had symptom levels suggesting a CMD. Participants endorsed a wide range of displacement-related exposures. Most participants receiving IPC decreased their symptom levels at follow-up. Many participants did not complete the recommended number of IPC sessions; loss to follow-up was 30%. The performance of the outreach personnel improved after the initial intervention team was replaced with community members trained to deliver the intervention. The Bogotá health system was unable to reliably accommodate emergency psychiatric referrals. Conclusions: The IPC intervention shows promise, but significant challenges remain for improving reach, adherence, and participant retention. We identified strategies and partnerships to redress some of the main study limitations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal mental health (Cambridge, England)
StatePublished - 2 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Conflict
  • Distress
  • Intervention
  • Refugees
  • Trauma
  • Mental Disorders
  • Group Intervention


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