Psychosocial interventions for survivors of human trafficking


In 2021, there have been an estimated fifty million individuals presently experiencing trendy slavery (Worldwide Labour Organisation, Worldwide Organisation for Migration and Stroll Free, 2022). Fashionable slavery consists of human trafficking, which entails motion of individuals, both inside or throughout nations, with the purpose of exploitation (UKRI, 2023). Experiences of victims of trafficking throughout transit and on arrival to their vacation spot can embody sexual exploitation, compelled (unpaid) labour, home work, compelled crime and/or the elimination of organs (Migrant Assist, 2023). The journey undertaken could or might not be in opposition to the particular person’s will, however they might then be subsequently compelled into actions underneath the affect of coercion.

The expertise of being trafficked is isolating and intimidating (Mak et al., 2023), with consequent vulnerabilities to bodily, psychological, and sexual well being circumstances (Ottisova et al., 2016; Ottisova et al, 2018). Survivors usually lack official identification (Hemmings et al., 2016) or authorized permission to stay of their vacation spot location, expertise unstable socioeconomic circumstances, they usually could concern revictimisation and/or repercussions for family members (Altun et al, 2017).

There’s a rising proof base on the psychological well being, authorized and different help wants of survivors of human trafficking. Their wants vary from requirements, similar to housing, to help for complicated psychological well being and trauma associated signs. Vital efforts have been undertaken to ascertain the therapy and help wants of survivors, in addition to to develop appropriate psychosocial interventions for human trafficking survivors.

The present weblog summarises a realist evaluation just lately revealed in The Lancet Psychiatry in regards to the several types of psychosocial interventions, which particular populations these interventions work with, and the way and in what contexts (Mak et al., 2023).

a blurry picture from above people walking

In 2021, the Worldwide Labour Organisation estimated that there have been fifty million individuals experiencing trendy slavery worldwide. Survivors of recent slavery have a variety of wants, from housing to complicated psychological well being help.


The research employs Sales space et al. (2019) tips for conducting a realist evaluation. Primarily based on the realist precept of rationalization of causation and targeted on theory-based synthesis, the authors have performed the evaluation in three phases- a scoping evaluation, a scientific search, and a realist evaluation.

  1. A scoping evaluation was performed to hypothesize a Context-Mechanism-Consequence (CMO) configuration for growing an preliminary conceptual mannequin for post-trafficking interventions. Basically, the authors aimed to hypothesise “what interventions work for whom, in what circumstances, and the way”.

CMOs are the constructing blocks of realist investigation. They’re outlined under:

  • Contexts are the conditions, populations, and circumstances by which an intervention, or elements of an intervention, function.
  • Mechanisms are how individuals reply to sources inside an intervention and are the underpinning causal pressure for the way interventions function. They will take many kinds, together with social, materials, emotional or technological.
  • Outcomes are the outcomes of curiosity which can be attributable to the triggering of the mechanism. They don’t essentially refer as to whether the intervention ‘works’ or not within the conventional sense, as they might not persist as soon as the context has modified.

Suggestions on suitability and relevance of the CMO mannequin from professionals and survivors at NGOs supporting different survivors of human trafficking was integrated. Testing CMO configurations’ hypotheses knowledgeable the subsequent two phases of the research (Pawson et al. 2004).

  1. A scientific search was performed utilizing PRISMA tips to look, display screen and embody related research and extract information from them. Research attribute information was extracted, together with element of interventions which was labeled into the preliminary conceptual mannequin developed in Stage 1. CMO configurations on these elements have been extracted and analysed qualitatively.
  2. Within the realist evaluation, the authors “examined how interventions meant to switch or truly modified the context of trafficking survivors by triggering adjustments in sources and reasoning [mechanisms] and, because of this, affected their social and psychological outcomes.”
three hot air multi coloured hot air balloons fly against a blue sky

Primarily based on the realist precept of rationalization of causation and targeted on theory-based synthesis, the authors performed their evaluation on psychosocial interventions for survivors of human trafficking in three phases: a scoping evaluation, a scientific search, and a realist evaluation.


The research included 41 articles. Most research have been performed in excessive revenue nations, targeted on interventions focusing on survivors of sexual exploitation, included youngsters and younger inhabitants, and survivors have been largely ladies. Within the pathways of care mannequin developed within the authors’ scoping search, they categorised post-trafficking psychosocial interventions in 4 phases:

1. Identification (screening and figuring out an individual as a ‘sufferer’ of human trafficking)

5 interventions targeted on utilizing screening instruments, coaching suppliers in interviewing and evaluation, disclosure choices and third-party interviews. Mechanisms in these interventions included enhancing understanding amongst suppliers about trafficking, offering a secure atmosphere, and making certain confidentiality of knowledge for facilitating disclosure. These research included coaching programmes, growing screening protocols at medical settings, NGOs, community-based websites (for e.g., purple mild districts) and coaching group members to establish and report trafficked victims. Non-verbal disclosure successfully elevated the reporting of victimisation.

2. Stabilisation (quick wants for security and sources of assorted help)

Sixteen research have been recognized in stabilisation stage. The interventions ranged from quick disaster help, authorized assist, housing, and medical wants, referral system and dental and forensic assessments. These interventions aimed to be trauma-informed for realigning reminiscences with resilience and power. Nonetheless, adherence to therapies was impacted by inner (e.g., rapport with the supplier) and exterior boundaries (e.g., language boundaries). The psychological interventions within the stabilisation stage alleviated signs of PTSD, anxiousness, melancholy, suicidality, and emotional disturbances.

3. Restoration (making certain medium- and long-term functioning and autonomy)

With most research included on this stage, the authors had hypothesized three areas of their preliminary idea mannequin – rebuilding an autonomous life, psychological integration and pharmacological interventions. Nonetheless, the authors recognized research solely within the first two areas:

  • Rebuilding an autonomous life: The important thing themes of interventions have been help with interpersonal relationships, employability, training, empowerment, sexual well being, avoiding revictimisation and reoffending.
  • Psychological integration: This space concerned grounding and integration of survivors’ traumatic reminiscences. Interventions included psychoeducation about exploitation and its influence, trauma knowledgeable psychotherapies (cognitive behavioural remedy, eye motion desensitisation and reprocessing, and artistic leisure approaches) and leisure actions. A few of the interventions have been delivered by therapists from the identical or completely different nationality as survivors’ or by group/social employees and have been delivered in particular person or group settings. The service suppliers required coaching and supervision. Workers turnover, burnout, and lack of ample entry to suppliers in all areas have been highlighted as boundaries. The authors focus on the “sociocultural misalignment” between service suppliers’ and survivor’s backgrounds (particularly emotional expression, disgrace, and blame) – even examined interventions could not assist individuals from all cultural backgrounds and ages. Decreased PTSD, melancholy, conduct and disgrace signs together with the advance in survivors’ vanity, stress and cognitive capacities have been widespread outcomes.

4. Reintegration (impartial residing in a secure group)

This can be a tough stage for a number of causes, together with stigma in opposition to survivors. Interventions addressed this by together with recontacting family members, growing new ties with the local people, help for the household, authorized and housing help and constructing vocational and monetary capability. Incomes potential was famous essential to enhancing survivors’ social standing and certain profitable reintegration.

red, pink, blue lights under high exposure streak across the photo

People who’ve skilled trendy slavery are sometimes uncovered to extended and/or repetitive excessive adversity and trauma, which might enhance the danger of experiencing psychological well being issues and in addition re-victimisation. Restoration and reintegration post-trafficking is a fancy course of.


Mak et al. (2023) concluded that the:

promising interventions have been those who provided various alternatives for disclosure, adopted a trauma-informed care strategy, aimed to construct the long-term competencies of survivors, utilized an built-in strategy to the continuity of care, and fostered long-term social inclusion.

a group of women stand together laughing

Mak et al. (2023) concluded that “promising interventions have been those who provided various alternatives for disclosure, adopted a trauma-informed care strategy, aimed to construct the long-term competencies of survivors, utilized an built-in strategy to the continuity of care, and fostered long-term social inclusion.”

Strengths and limitations

The authors used realist strategies to evaluation how psychosocial interventions work (or don’t work) for human trafficking survivors in several contexts. Past the constraints cited by the authors, there have been some further limitations.

  • Firstly, stakeholder and survivor suggestions have been included in growing the preliminary conceptual mannequin, nevertheless, the evaluation may have benefitted from together with them within the evaluation or inviting their suggestions in reporting the findings or as a commentary piece.
  • Secondly, the ultimate CMOs have been reported, however not additional examined inside this research. They might be additional explored and refined, for instance, by way of interviews with survivors.

A power of this evaluation is that, though the authors didn’t use technical checklists to appraise the standard of the included research (in step with steering for realist opinions), they acknowledged methodological limitations and issues of particular person research when particularly making inferences from that research.

Implications for coverage, apply and analysis

For coverage makers, the evaluation spotlights the necessity for using a devoted workforce to help the trafficking survivors. There’s additionally a problem of applicability of interventions throughout setting and growing coverage suggestions which can be related for a spread of various world contexts – particular, domestically related suggestions could also be required.

There’s a must enhance the coaching and supervision of specialist and non-specialist professionals working with trafficking survivors. Additional coaching for non-specialist stakeholders and professionals who’re in frequent and shut contact with survivors, for instance in camps or authorities lodging, can also be required. Survivors of trafficking are involved with many organisations and sectors, they usually could not disclose their experiences outright; due to this fact offering coaching which improves understanding of recent slavery must be a precedence for all main psychological, housing, employment, welfare, and immigration help networks and organisations (amongst others).

The research findings suggest devoted interventions for particular wants at every stage of restoration are required. Nonetheless, restoration might not be unidirectional, and survivors must be concerned in resolution making round their administration plans, which may helpfully contribute to them “rebuilding an autonomous life”.

The evaluation suggests exploring service suppliers’ and survivors’ views on the developed mannequin of care. There’s a want for testing interventions, particularly cultural variations, for feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy at every stage of the proposed care pathways fashions. Mechanisms of change as mediators for enhancing interventions for survivors of human trafficking additionally have to be studied.

a glass globe is held in a white hand

Creating coverage suggestions round interventions for survivors of human trafficking is difficult as a result of vary of various world contexts by which they’re required – particular, domestically related suggestions could also be required.

Assertion of pursuits

Shivangi Talwar is conducting her PhD analysis on enhancing therapies for grownup survivors of childhood sexual abuse in South Asia. She is predicated on the Division of Psychiatry, College School London. There are not any conflicts of curiosity.


Main paper

Mak, J., Bentley, A., Paphtis, S., Huq, M., Zimmerman, C., Osrin, D., … & Kiss, L. (2023). Psychosocial interventions to enhance the psychological well being of survivors of human trafficking: a realist evaluation. The Lancet Psychiatry10(7), 557-574.

Different references

International estimates of recent slavery: Compelled labour and compelled marriage. (2022). Worldwide Labour Organisation, Stroll Free and Worldwide Organisation for Migration.

Fashionable slavery and human trafficking assertion. (2022). UK Analysis and Innovation.

Slavery and human trafficking. (2023). Migrant Assist.

Ottisova, L., Hemmings, S., Howard, L. M., Zimmerman, C., & Oram, S. (2016). Prevalence and danger of violence and the psychological, bodily and sexual well being issues related to human trafficking: an up to date systematic evaluation. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 25(4), 317–341.

Ottisova, L., Smith, P., & Oram, S. (2018). Psychological penalties of human trafficking: Complicated posttraumatic stress dysfunction in trafficked youngsters. Behavioral Drugs, 44(3), 234–241.

Hemmings, S., Jakobowitz, S., Abas, M., Bick, D., Howard, L. M., Stanley, N., Zimmerman, C., & Oram, S. (2016). Responding to the well being wants of survivors of human trafficking: a scientific evaluation. BMC well being companies analysis, 16, 320.

Altun, S., Abas, M., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L. M., & Oram, S. (2017). Psychological well being and human trafficking: responding to survivors’ wants. BJPsych worldwide, 14(1), 21–23.

Attain each sufferer of trafficking, depart nobody behind. (2023). United Nations Organisation. Final accessed 2 August, 2023.

Sales space, A., Wright, J., & Briscoe, S. (Eds.) (2018). Scoping and Looking out to Help Realist Approaches. SAGE Publications Ltd,

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