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Evaluating psychological therapy for minority groups

IAPT services are designed to improve access to psychological therapies, but are these treatments designed to work for everyone? That was the central question of Afsana Faheem’s PhD and it’s one that has sent her on a journey through multiple disciplines.

A STEAM scholar at Birmingham City University, Afsana didn’t take a traditional route to research. After studying at BCU and working as a faculty course administrator and AHUA graduate project manager, she came across the STEAM scholarship and it was a case of the right project converging with a fantastic opportunity. Afsana’s research concerns psychological therapies and whether they’re truly effective for everyone. IAPT services do a great deal to reach more people in need of therapy, but those therapies can suffer from Eurocentric biases, and therefore tend to be less effective for Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME) due to cultural differences and other factors.

Working in the D­­epartment of Psychology in the School of Social Sciences, Afsana’s PhD has led her to work in a variety of disciplines, including different strands of psychology and education. Her work has found that black and ethnic minorities are not entirely receiving the type of treatments they need and they often don’t recover at the same rate as the majority White British population.­­ “BAME groups tend to come into service with higher levels of depression and anxiety related disorders than their White counterparts and are not fully recovering following treatment.”

Making a difference

Afsana has worked with a number of NHS Trusts around the country, which have allowed her to compile a huge data set consisting of over 330,000 service user records. This data set enabled Afsana to reliably evaluate the success of the programme from minority groups, which she hopes will be utilised by the NHS to make improvements in the future. “I want my research to have an impact within clinica­­­­­­­­­­­­l practice in order to help improve services for BAME groups.”

The network base she has developed during her research has already given her work the best possible start to achieve these goals. “I’ve been able to develop a really good network base with NHS trusts as part of my research and they have shown keen interest in my work”, she says. “Once my work is published I think it will encourage more interest in the area.”

Afsana’s tips for future researchers

After a long and exciting research journey, Afsana stresses that future researchers should choose a topic or project they’re really interested in. “I would strongly recommend choosing a subject or topic area that you’re passionate about as it will keep you motivated during the course of your PhD”, she says. “My driving force has been my passion for the research topic and the added benefit it can have within the sector.”