Educational Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Counseling Psychologist 43:8 (2015), pp. 1114–1134 doi: 10.1177/0011000015606221


Copyright © 2015 Theodore T. Bartholomew, Brittany E. Gundel, and Neeta Kantamneni. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


Refugees are often forced into states of imposed vulnerability in which loss is common and migration is normative. Karen refugees from Myanmar have endured a long civil war with the Burmese government, followed by their forced relocation to refugee camps and subsequent global resettlement. This phenomenological study aimed to understand the meanings ascribed to pre-resettlement stress among resettled Karen refugees. We interviewed six participants who were identified through purposeful sampling in a Karen refugee community. Using phenomenological analysis, we identified and interpreted 286 meaning units. The meaning units were then grouped into four themes: (a) Loss From Oppression, (b) Resignation and Acceptance in a Context of Regular Violence, (c) Ongoing Insecurity While Confined in Camps, and (d) Redefined Selfhood. The results provide a contextual understanding of the pre-resettlement stressors experienced by Karen refugees.