Exploring adaptation and quality of life of refugees in the United States
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The United States is a melting pot of different cultures and individuals from countries all over the world. A major part of that diverse constituency includes forced migrants, who typically experience disruptions in their everyday lives during the resettlement process. Contemporary occupational therapy has begun to examine the occupational needs of this marginalized group and focus on occupational engagement of these resettling individuals. This mixed method study aimed to understand adaptation and quality of life of forced migrants attempting to reconstruct their lives in the United States. Three research studies were conducted to respond to the research study purpose. Study 1 was a mixed method design that examined the relationship between adaptation, as measured by a health related quality of life survey, and temporal adaptation. Five individuals resettling in the United States for different lengths of time completed a brief survey and provided an explanation for their choices. Study 2 utilized open ended interviews to understand the perspectives of two individuals seeking refuge in the United States. This phenomenological study provided insights into the lived experience of the two migrants and described the ways in which their experiences influenced their choices, priorities and goals for the future. The primary aim of Study 3 was to explore the everyday lives and occupations of forced migrants from the perspective of service providers who work with these individuals. An ethnomethodology approach using open ended interviews with seven service providers including occupational therapy faculty, a social worker, and a community agency representative was completed. The studies showed that adaptation was a multi-dimensional, individualistic process where each participant had distinct trajectories, based on their experiences and expectations. Migrants from different countries had different needs and faced different environmental challenges. As a result, it was proposed that occupational therapists can assist them in overcoming these challenges, thereby improving quality of life. Occupational therapy appears to be a much needed service for these individuals who are resettling; and model interventions are described. A detailed synthesis of the three studies with implications for occupational therapy practice and research are included.