Psychodynamic Intercultural Therapy with Migrants from Eastern Europe: Its Strengths and Limitations as Indicated by Therapists’ Perspectives

  • Tatsiana Steven

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


There is evidence to suggest that migrants, refugees and members of ethnic minority groups experience higher risks of mental health difficulties with lower rates of access to mental health help than the general population. There is also limited knowledge available on the psychological help for those less advantaged groups with even less known about the support provided for migrants from Eastern Europe, who constitute one of the largest migrant groups in the United Kingdom. This thesis aims to explore the following research question: what, according to practitioners’ perspectives, might be the strengths and limitations of Intercultural therapy, as one of the approaches developed in the 1980s for working with migrants, refugees and ethnic and cultural minorities, in supporting migrants from Eastern Europe? The study mobilised a qualitative methodology with seven semi-structured interviews conducted with expert qualified Intercultural therapy practitioners who were trained in psychodynamic approaches. A thematic analysis was applied to analyse interview material with three main themes developed as a result. This study suggests that, according to the practitioners’ perspectives, Intercultural therapy’s emphasis on working with culture and the consequences of racism and discrimination could be helpful for migrants from Eastern Europe due to existing cultural differences between Eastern and Western Europe and, associated with these, the potential pressures of ‘westernisation’ which migrants might experience, as well as Eastern European migrants’ being subjects of racialisation and discriminatory practices. This study documents how Intercultural therapy places primary importance on including those experiences into the therapy process and seeing them within the intersectionality framework, and explores practitioners’ accounts of the strengths and limitations of cultural and language matching for Eastern European clients. The interpretations and applications arising from this study should be of interest for Counselling psychology practitioners and training programmes, as well as for other mental health professionals, public policy makers and members of the general public who belong to cultural, national and racialised minorities or experience any forms of discrimination. This study concludes by indicating further areas of research into, and the wider application of, Intercultural therapy as a unique approach for working with less advantaged and less settled population groups in the United Kingdom.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • values
  • Eastern Europe
  • racialisation
  • migrant
  • Intercultural therapy

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