Aims and benefits

The project “Improve-MH: Mental Health Promotion for Refugee Parents and Their Children” is a multicenter randomized controlled trial of primary care treatment. Refugees often suffer from mental health problems, especially depression, anxiety, and trauma-associated disorders, which are widespread.

The planned project aims to improve Arabic speaking refugee parents’ mental health and prevent the development of mental health problems in their children (0-6-year-olds). Two risk factors will be addressed: the psychopathology and the parenting skills of the parents. It is predicted that improving the parents’ mental health and parenting skills will promote their children’s healthy development.  

The parents receive an intervention (Improve treatment) for 10 weeks, which is  

1) a short intervention to reduce psychological complaints (by a general practitioner, 4 sessions, each lasting about 30 min.),  
2) an established online training to promote a positive parenting style (Triple P Online, 8 modules, 60 min. each), as well as 
3) weekly accompanying telephone calls (by psychologists, max. 30 min. each)

The Improve treatment is to be compared with the usual treatment of depression, anxiety, and stress in primary care.

Additional study information

Inclusion criteria comprise being a refugee parent with children between 0 and 6 years of age, speaking Arabic, and having psychological distress (clinically relevant severity in the depression-anxiety-stress scales; DASS-21). Parents are examined pre, post, and 3 and 6 months after treatment. Specifically, the mental health of the parents and their children is assessed. Physical health, general well-being, and psychosocial variables of parents and their children are also assessed using culturally sensitive measuring instruments.

Study procedures

The following figure illustrates the process a patient goes through when participating in the Improve study. This process consists of 10 weeks of treatment and regular data collection.

Screening and inclusion of patients
Pre- Assessment
10-week treatment and accompanying data collection
Random allocation to IMPROVE or treatment as usual
- Brief intervention at general practitioner (4 sessions)
- Online parenting program Triple P (8 modules)
- Accompanying telephone contacts
- Data collection (after each session with the general practitioner)

Usual treatment
- according to the judgement of the general practitioner
- Data collection (in parallel with IMPROVE treatment)
3-month waiting period
First follow-up assessment
3-month waiting period
Second follow-up assessment
Data analysis and results


M.Sc. Lisa Heller

Dr. Kerstin Konietzny
+49 234 32 21507



Prof. Dr. Silvia  Schneider

Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Fakultät für Psychologie
Direktorin Forschungs- und Behandlungszentrum für psychische Gesundheit

Project Duration

01.02.2019 – 31.07.2025