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Abstract

War, political terror and forced migration impairs social functioning and erodes social relationships. Displacement magnifies vulnerability by separating people from family, meaningful roles and connection to community. Though the presence or absence of social resources can affect a person’s life and wellbeing after war, there has been limited empirical investigation into the social lives of refugees including interventions that may foster the rebuilding of such resources in exile. While group-based treatment is conceptualized as an ideal format for rebuilding social support and connection, there has been very limited investigation into the social and interpersonal processes and outcomes in group-based treatment with survivors of war, political terror and forced migration and no studies focused on Syrian refugees. The purpose of this qualitative dissertation study was to explore the social-relational losses that result from war, political terror and forced migration among Syrian refugees in Jordan. A central goal of the study was also to examine whether social connection and cohesion might be conduits to healing in group-based interventions. In addition to the more commonly-studied mental health outcomes of treatment, the study investigates how group-based treatment may contribute to the development of social and community resources for group members. Working in partnership with the Center for Victims of Torture in Jordan, this study focused on the experiences of Syrian urban refugees in Jordan who participated in a 10 week interdisciplinary group treatment program. In total, 31 interviews were conducted in Arabic with Syrian men and women. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify themes, patterns and processes across the interviews. Findings are organized into a two-paper format and the dissertation concludes with a discussion of implications for practice, research and policy. In the first paper, Ambiguous losses: The social-relational and place-based consequences of war and forced migration, I examine the social lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan and losses resulting from war and forced migration using a lens of ambiguous loss. I discuss four primary domains of ambiguous loss: loss of security, loss of cultural roles and identities, loss of cultural values and practices and loss of social spaces. In the second paper, Relational processes and experiences in group-based treatment for Syrian refugees in Jordan, I shift the focus of attention to group-based intervention and examine social-relational experiences in the groups. Facilitated by two core processes, it was found that group members developed close and caring relationships. Both group processes were imbued with cultural meaning and the group relationships functioned as an important lever for other therapeutic benefits, especially gaining a sense of hope, meaning, and strengthening family relationships. Findings from the dissertation are expected to strengthen understanding of the impact of war and forced migration on social-relational resources, the role of relationships in healing, and the promise of group-based treatment as a way of fostering social relationships.

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