January 28, 2020

Psychological Factors in Tertiary Prevention

Issue Paper, InFoEx Workshop, Berlin, May 23–24, 2019

Psychological factors and mental health issues are a complex and sensitive – yet important – issue in tertiary prevention of radicalization and Islamist extremism. 

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This Issue Paper lays out the most important aspects of these topics as addressed during the second InFoEx workshop in May 2019. Topics range from risk assessment tools to professional (medical) confidentiality. The paper thus aims to contribute to a better and more nuanced understanding by including highlights from expert discussions and additional perspectives of relevant researchers, as well as practical recommendations.
From these findings, the following, more general recommendations result for those involved in the design, planning, funding, and implementing of tertiary prevention projects and programs:

Key Recommendations

  1. Ensuring integration of mental health expertise in tertiary prevention: There is no consensus on how exactly mental health impact an individual’s decision to disengage from an extremist group. Yet there is a cor-relation and experts largely agree that tertiary prevention should include mental health expertise and provide psychological support when needed.
  2. Developing a common understanding around mental health: To ensure a common understanding of the topic, involved actors should generate definitions, standards, and assessment tools, as well as establish ongoing monitoring and evaluation processes.
  3. Enhancing and improving multi-agency training: There is an urgent need for joint trainings of different professions, such as social workers or security agencies. Project budgets should aim to include training units, for example regarding risk assessment, information-sharing, and medical confidentiality.  Existing training pro-grams should be regularly updated to include current developments in research and practice on radicalization and extremism, as well as relevant challenges, such as legal matters regarding prevention work.
  4. Providing frameworks for effective cooperation and support counseling within and across professions: Funding authorities should provide funding for projects that develop opportunities for institutionalized ex-change between professional peers as well as across professional borders. In this way, the access to professionals with relevant knowledge on radicalization and extremism can be improved, for example through (internal) intervision and peer-to-peer counseling.
  5. Expanding (existing) public structures: Existing support structures should be expanded to alleviate pressure on mental health specialists who are supporting tertiary prevention and ensure access to psychiatric care.
  6. Translating research findings into practice and informing research from practical experience: Researchers should make sure to involve mental health professionals in the design of their research, as well as ensure that research results are discussed with practitioners and translated into practical recommendations. At the same time, workshops including case intervision, as well as talks on and presentations of practical experience, can be used to influence research questions and design


InFoEx is a joint project of the Migration, Integration, and Asylum Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). Over the course of 2019 – 2020, InFoEx is collecting inspiring practices from practitioners working in tertiary prevention in Germany and abroad, as well as insights from academics conducting research in this field.

It is the project’s objective to identify and generate empirical findings on processes of (de)radicalization, with a focus on their practical applicability for deradicalization efforts. To this end, the BAMF Research Centre initiated a consortium of research fellows who are embedded at local advice centers that work together with the BAMF Advice Centre on Radicalisation and various research institutions partnering with the BAMF Research Centre. These research fellows, along with the counselors working at the local advice centers, constitute the core stake-holders of InFoEx.

About the Workshop in Berlin, May 23 – 24, 2019

Among the 30 participants were network partners of the BAMF Advice Centre on Radicalisation from civil society and government institutions, as well as practitioners and academics from Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom. To align the workshop with the needs of its stakeholders, research fellows embedded at local advice centers in Germany shared – in agreement with practitioners at their local advice centers – specific information needs and questions regarding counseling work in tertiary prevention prior to the workshop.

Bibliographic data

Issue Paper, 28.01.2020, 16 pp.

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