Effect of Mindfulness-Based Trauma Recovery for Refugees on Shame and Guilt in Trauma Recovery Among African Asylum-Seekers

Romi Oren-Schwartz, Anna Aizik-Reebs, Kim Yuval, Yuval Hadash, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We sought to, first, better understand the role of emotional responding, and specifically shame and guilt, in trauma recovery among asylum-seekers following forced displacement; and, second, to explore whether therapeutic effects of a mindfulness and compassion-based intervention on trauma recovery among asylum-seekers are mediated by therapeutic effects of the intervention on shame and guilt. Study aims were tested through a randomized waitlist-controlled trial of a 9-week Mindfulness-Based Trauma Recovery for Refugees program among a community sample of 158 Eritrean asylum-seekers (55.7% female) residing in an unstable high-risk urban postdisplacement setting in the Middle East (Israel). First, in a cross-product test of parallel mediation, we found that shame, but not guilt, mediated the preintervention associations between traumatic stress exposure history, as well as current postmigration living difficulties, and current posttraumatic stress (abShame =.035, 95% CI [.024,.048], abShame =.183, 95% CI [.122,.249]) and depression (abShame =.384, 95% CI [.234,.55], abShame =.405, 95% CI [1.117, 2.693]) symptom severity. Second, in a linear mixed effects model of mediation, we found that reduced shame from pre to postintervention, mediated the effect of MBTR-R, relative to waitlist control, on improved posttraumatic stress (ACMEShame = -.18, BCa 95% CI [-.34, -.04]) and depression (ACMEShame = -1.78, BCa 95% CI [-3.29, -.29]) symptom severity outcomes. Findings provide insight into the potential role of shame in trauma and stress-related recovery among FDPs (forcibly displaced people). Findings indicate that mindfulness and compassion-based training promotes trauma recovery, in part, through reducing feelings of shame postdisplacement.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the courageous asylum-seekers who generously participated in the intervention and study; Sendel Abraham, Dawit Weldehawariat Habtai, Yikealo Beyene, and Mogus Kidane for their assistance in translation, recruitment, and study organization; the team at Kuchinate for hosting us to carry out this study, including Diddy Mymin-Kahn, Sister Azezet Habtezghi Kidane, Ruth Garon, and the inspiring women of Kuchinate—Hewan Desta, Eden Gebre, Asmeret Haray, Fiori Yonas, Achbaret Abraha; Orit Reem and Ron Alon for instructing the groups; Ron Peleg for his help in participant recruitment and data collection; Michal Schendar for conducting qualitative interviews with participants; Meital Gil Davis for behind-the-scenes coordination of study logistics, research funding, and personnel; and Ido Lurie and Ori Ganor for psychiatric consultation. The study is registered (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04380259). The authors have no conflict of interests to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Guilt
  • Mindfulness
  • Refugees
  • Shame
  • Traumatic stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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