The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychologists

The Field Guide for Barefoot Psychologists is a pilot educational and self-care tool written for individuals (16+) forcibly displaced, and for those working with them. It is intended most specifically for migrants and refugees who themselves may work in humanitarian and aid programs, as they have the most close and organized contact with large numbers of community members struggling with mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, the Guide is intended for general refugee and migrant populations, as well as practitioners of any background who work with conflict-affected populations.

The Field Guide is a translational brain science book; it is a multi-chapter learning resource that leverages insights and methods from the brain sciences to inform practice in a programmatic field setting. Grounded in the belief that science is a right and self-awareness is an asset, the Field Guide unpacks the biological and psychological processes associated with the experience of forced displacement, including issues such as trauma, toxic stress, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. It also specifically explores positive assets for cultivating resilience, including the science of neuroplasticity, belonging, and post-traumatic growth. Overall, the Field Guide walks users through an educational and practical process that includes psychoeducation, self-assessment, and replicable self-care exercises to increase resilience and capacity to overcome PSS challenges in themselves or communities.

A pilot draft of the Field Guide was made possible with the support of Ford Foundation, the Institute of International Education, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNCHR) Innovation Service, and #MeWe International. To date, the Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab has worked with Questscope, #MeWe International, Mobaderoon, and DARB-SYR in Lebanon and Jordan to host community consultations on relevant mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) issues, and field test sections of the Field Guide for both relevance and potential impact.  In addition, the Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab has hosted two international workshops—in Boston, MA, and Amman, Jordan—with practitioners and scholars to discuss possible content and devise potential roll-out models for the Field Guide.

Over 24 months, Beyond Conflict seeks to transform the  into a world-class tool with proven impact on refugee and migrant mental health in communities affected by the Syrian Refugee Crisis, as well as imminent relevance for other contexts including Central America and the United States with migrant and immigrant communities. Over the next 24 months, we aim to use the Field Guide to elevate the role of translational brain science within the humanitarian, migration, and youth engagement fields, and to illustrate the positive impact of investing science knowledge resources within refugee and migrant communities as a resource for resilience and healing.