Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions (EASE) Tanzania: Adapting and Piloting an Evidence-Based Low-Intensity Psychological Intervention for Young Adolescents

Building on the growing international momentum to address the major data  gaps and lack of tailored responses for addressing the needs of adolescents,  the IRC with its partners, WHO and John Hopkins University (JHU) is adapting and piloting the Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions (EASE) programme, a brief group psychological intervention developed  by WHO and delivered by non-specialist providers for young adolescents exposed to adversity and impaired by distress, for Burundian refugees in Tanzania.

 

This  EASE project  has two main components:  (1) adapting the EASE intervention  for Burundian refugees; and (2) piloting  and evaluating the adapted intervention. During   the adaptation phase, the IRC conducted an ethnographic assessment and desk review. In individual interviews,  adolescents described their top psychosocial concerns as worry, anxiety, stress and fear, reported by 78% of  participants, with nearly 95% of girls interviewed highlighting one of these as a major support need. This was followed by sadness, reported by 65% of respondents. Religious prayer and seeking support from religious leaders were identified as the most important ways of coping with psychosocial problems. Nearly 75% of participants identifying services in the camp as helpful in dealing with difficulties associated with experiences of violence.

 

In  the current  pilot phase, 82  young adolescents in  severe distress with impaired functioning, along with their caregivers, were randomized into  EASE treatment and an enhanced treatment as usual (ETAU) conditions and evaluated at baseline and endline. 

 

The process evaluation interviews (N=36) indicated that EASE was feasible, relevant and acceptable for Burundian refugees in Tanzania. Attendance rates were high for both adolescents (94%) and their caregivers (86%). Future pilots may want to further simplify the Kirundi being used in EASE materials, as well as better coordinate EASE session schedules with school schedules. The baseline and endline surveys (adolescents, N=82; caregivers, N=64) provide indicative trends:

  • Significant decreases in total psychological distress in adolescents, between baseline and endline, but no significant differences between the EASE and ETAU groups overall.
  • Stronger decreases in distress and internalizing symptoms for boys participating in EASE compared to girls.
  • Caregivers had significant improvement in reported depressive symptoms for EASE caregivers compared to ETAU caregivers. EASE caregiver participants reported decreased symptoms. 

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.