The perceived role of religion and spirituality in the lives of women refugees in the UK
: A thematic analysis

  • Lilit Torosyan

Student thesis: PsychD


Background - This qualitative study aimed to explore the perceived role of religion and spirituality (R/S) in the experience of refugee women in the United Kingdom by answering the following question: what role, if any, do refugee women in the UK see R/S play in their lives following forced migration? For many refugees, R/S can create means of coping, finding meaning in life, and maintaining psychological well-being after forced migration. Despite evidence that women's mental health is disproportionately affected following forced migration experience, the existing research has not been gender-sensitive. In addition, being predominantly quantitative, existing studies had minimal scope in exploring the meaning-making process of refugee women. An in-depth study of the perceived role of R/S in refugee women's lived experiences would help explore the constructive potential of these phenomena and the precautions to consider in providing mental healthcare. Method - Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a heterogenous sample of seven women refugees living in the UK following forced migration and subsequently transcribed and analysed with thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2021). Results - Four themes were generated: 1) 'No man's land', 2) 'Navigating a personal path, 3) 'Faith offers containment', and 4) 'Trust in the higher power'. Conclusions - Participants reported a complex relationship with R/S. R/S were almost universally acknowledged as important, and a strong relationship with a benevolent higher power was reported as a supporting factor. However, most participants reported difficulties defining their R/S identities, with their R/S practices being pushed to the background by everyday practicalities, and their involvement with R/S shifting toward a more individualistic kind. The study discusses this shift in the context of similar trends in the broader UK society. Guidance is suggested on incorporating R/S in clinical assessment and practice, and recommendations for future research and study limitations are discussed.
Date of Award21 Mar 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorEdith Steffen (Director of Studies) & Orla Parslow-Breen (Co-Supervisor)


  • Forced migration
  • coping
  • refugees
  • spirituality
  • religion

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