Clinically Impactful vs. Bad Medicine: Considerations for Integrating Traditional Native American Healing Practices into Counseling and Clinical Psychology

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Tom Barrett

Second Advisor

Diana Ducote-Sabey

Third Advisor

Leah James


Native American, psychotherapy, healing, Indian


Native American (NA) scholars and research gathered from clinical programs suggest that a key component of successful treatment for NAs includes integrating traditional healing with modern psychotherapy and counseling. Several studies have explored the efficacy of existing programs. However, few evaluate factors to consider when transitioning to an integrated model of care utilizing traditional healing and modern psychotherapy treatment methods. Using a sample of 31 NA mental health professionals, this study examined factors related to integrating traditional healing and psychotherapy to determine which variables appeared most divergent from equal distribution of responses per ranked item (i.e., expected responses). Results indicated clinically significant differences between expected responses and participant findings in fears associated with determining competency and qualifications of healers, inability to hold others accountable for malpractice and/or misappropriation of material, lack of permission in some clinical setting to perform traditional healing, client biases towards ceremonies, and having no fears. Other clinically significant differences were found in opinions about the importance of protecting tribal information, which included ceremonial languages and songs possessing an inherently protective quality due to complexity and signing an informed consent. Further, differences in participants' rankings of healer qualifications related to healers receiving proper training by a credible tribal leader, length of training, and using traditional healing with a non-NA as a means to reconnect or support a NA family member were clinically significant. Finally, assessment of major differences between psychotherapy and traditional healing indicated respondents ranked psychotherapy focusing on pathology and healing utilizing a wellness model as significantly different from the expected response.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

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