Mental health services for unaccompanied children - Refugee Council

Mental health services for unaccompanied children

Most mental health practitioners aren’t trained to help traumatised children from different cultural backgrounds. In 2015 we developed My View, a specialist mental health service for refugee children and young people who arrive in the UK on their own.

Many of the children and young people we help have suffered traumatic experiences, unimaginable to most. They have witnessed the death, abduction or torture of parents or other relatives. They have been the victims of torture, violence, abuse or trafficking. Understandably, they have overwhelming feelings of loss, separation or survivor’s guilt.

My View takes as its starting point that the children we support have extremely distressing but normal responses to the traumas they have faced. What’s more, despite their young age, they have also shown huge resilience in surviving their past experiences. We aim to help these children harness their extraordinary strength.

“I did not have any hope when I first came here. I was thinking to harm myself but you have supported me and gave me education to myself.” Unaccompanied refugee child, My View

My View: What we do

Many of the children referred to our service are offered therapeutic support, either in one-to-one or group settings. We  help young people work towards managing symptoms such as nightmares, intrusive thoughts and anxiety.

Our therapists come from a range of different backgrounds and are able to adapt to each individual’s needs, offering sessions based on art, dance, drama, music, play and talking therapy approaches.

For one-to-one therapy, young people are usually offered 12 weekly appointments. These take place within a consistent and confidential framework: each young person has a designated therapist, and the client-led sessions are held at the same time every week within a dedicated room.

Alternatively, young people can attend a therapeutic group, where they can explore their thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive space. Group members are invited to use creative arts approaches in order to process their emotions in action based and non-challenging ways.

In certain cases we offer short-term psychosocial activities, many of which take place during the school summer holidays. For instance, in 2018-19, activities included an outing to Kew Gardens, a one-day equine therapy workshop, and a series of five weekly group gardening sessions at Brockwell Community Garden.

Surviving to Thriving

In Birmingham and Leeds, the service is offered in partnership with the British Red Cross in a project called Surviving to Thriving.

The project supports separated/unaccompanied refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people in Birmingham and Leeds. The services offered provide life skills, advice, mental health support, and leadership opportunities to help young people rebuild their lives and thrive in the UK.

Under the remit of Surviving to Thriving, the My View project in Birmingham and Leeds specifically offers:

  • 1:1 therapeutic support
  • Group therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Psychosocial outings

To refer a young person to our service, please visit our Service Support page.

For more information about the services offered by the British Red Cross, please visit:

Following therapy during 2020/21:


of children reported an improvement in their physical and mental wellbeing


said they were able to sleep better


reported less feelings of suicide or self-harm
“The counsellor never told me I must do this or that, which gave me confidence to try to say many things – things I can’t say to friends. Even if I’m not happy I can say what I want. I just want to say thanks to my counsellor and My View for helping me cope with my problems and feel better.” Unaccompanied refugee child, My View

Children's stories

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You can help unaccompanied children to rebuild their lives in the UK by making a donation or volunteering on one of our projects.

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Access training

Refugee Council is committed to sharing best practice in our work. My View therapists offer regular training and workshops for other professionals working with unaccompanied child refugees. View our current training courses.

Get support

If you would like to refer a child or young person to the My View children’s therapy service, find out more by visiting our Service Support page.