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Professor Theresa Betancourt
Boston College

Theresa S. Betancourt is the inaugural Salem Professor in Global Practice at the Boston College School of Social Work and Director of the Research Program on Children and Adversity (RPCA). Her primary research interest is to understand the protective processes that contribute to risk and resilience in the mental health and development of children and adolescents facing adversity in a variety of cultures and settings. Dr. Betancourt has led several initiatives to adapt and test evidence-based behavioral and parenting interventions for children, youth, and families facing adversity due to poverty, illness, and violence. Dr. Betancourt additionally focuses on strategies for scaling out these interventions using implementation science approaches. She is Principal Investigator of an intergenerational study of war / prospective longitudinal study of war-affected youth in Sierra Leone. Dr. Betancourt has also developed and evaluated the impact of a Family Strengthening Intervention for HIV-affected children and families and is leading the investigation of a scale up home-visiting early childhood development (ECD) intervention to promote enriched parent-child relationships and prevent violence that can be integrated within poverty reduction/social protection initiatives in Rwanda, this project is set to reach almost 10,000 families by the end of 2022. In the US, she is engaged in community-based participatory research on family-based prevention of emotional and behavioral problems in refugee children and adolescents resettled in the U.S. through the collaborative development and evaluation of parenting programs led by refugees for refugees that can be linked to prevention services involving refugee community health workers. Dr. Betancourt has served on the advisory board for the 2021 UNICEF State of the World’s Children report, titled, “On My Mind: Promoting, Protecting, and Caring for Children’s Mental health.” Additionally, she has advised Amnesty International on a key advocacy report on mental health in Sierra Leone entitled ““They are forgetting about us:” The Long-term mental health impact of war and Ebola in Sierra Leone.” Dr. Betancourt serves on a high-level World Health Organization Mental Health Gap Topic Expert Group (TEG), the Lancet Commission on Gender Based Violence and Maltreatment of Young People, as well as serve as a thematic advisor for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) for a series of workshops on Violent Extremist Disengagement, Reconciliation, Trauma Recovery. Furthermore, at Boston College, she participates in the Public Health Global Public Health and Common Good Faculty group and at the Lynch Graduate School of Education, as a faculty member representing BC School of Social Work in an application to establish an Institute for Early Childhood Policy. Dr. Betancourt has been profiled in the BC Chronicle, New Yorker, National Geographic, NPR,, and in an interview with Larry King on the program, “PoliticKing.”

Selected Publications:

Frounkfelker, R., Miconi, D., Farrar, J., Brooks M.A., Rousseau, C., Betancourt, T.S. (2020). Mental health of refugee children and youth: Epidemiology, interventions, and future directions. Annual Review of Public Health.

Betancourt T.S., Berent, J. M., Freeman, J., Frounfelker, R.L., Brennan R.T., Abdi, S., Maalim, A., Abdi, A., Mishra, T., Gautam, B., Creswell, J.W., & Beardslee, W.R. (2019). Family-based mental health promotion for Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees: Feasibility and acceptability trial. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2019.08.023

Frounfelker, R., Assefa, M., Smith, E., Abdirahmana, A., & Betancourt, T.S. (2017). “We would never forget who we are”: Resettlement stress, family functioning, and resilience among Somali Bantu refugee youth. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 26(11), 1387-1400.

Ellis, B.H., Hulland, E.N., Miller, A.B., Barrett Bixby, C., Lopes Cardozo, B., Betancourt, T.S. (2016). Mental health risks and resilience among Somali and Bhutanese refugee parents. Migration Policy Institute.

Betancourt, T.S., Frounfelker, R., Mishra, T., Hussein, A., & Falzarano, R. (2015). Addressing health disparities in the mental health of refugee children and adolescents through community-based participatory research: A study in 2 communities. American Journal of Public Health, 3, s475-s482.

Betancourt, T.S., Abdi, S., Ito, B., Lilienthal, G.M., Agalab, N., & Ellis, H. (2015). We left one war and came to another: Resource loss, acculturative stress, and caregiver-child relationships in Somali refugee families. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 21(1), 114-125.

Betancourt, T.S., Speelman, L., Onyango, G., & Bolton, P. (2009). A qualitative study of mental health problems among children displaced by war in northern Uganda. Journal of Transcultural Psychiatry, 46(2), 238-256.

Verdeli, H., Clougherty, K., Onyango, G., Lewandowski, E., Speelman, L., Betancourt, T.S., Neugebauer, R., Stein, T.R., & Bolton, P. (2008). Group interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed youth in IDP camps in northern Uganda: Adaptation and training. Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 17(3), 605-624.

Bolton, P., Bass, J., Betancourt, T.S., Speelman, L., Onyango, G., Clougherty, K., Neugebauer, R., Murray, L., & Verdeli, H. (2007). Interventions for depression symptoms among adolescent survivors of war and displacement in northern Uganda: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(5), 519-527.


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