Beliefs about Health and Mental Health Traditional Native American Perspective . University of Oklahoma School of Social Work Master’s Advanced Curriculum Project Dr. Lisa Byers (Cherokee) Supported by:. Social Work Relevance.
Traditional Native American Perspective
University of Oklahoma
School of Social Work
Master’s Advanced Curriculum Project
Dr. Lisa Byers (Cherokee)
Health beliefs determine the meaning of illness and service preference
Knowledge of Native American traditional concepts of wellness and illness
Compare to Western conceptualizations of illness
Provide knowledge of traditional healing
Impart elements of respect for traditional healing
Assessment of health through explanatory models
Prior to beginning PowerPoint have students engage in the ‘Origins of Illness’ In Class Activity
Encompasses Emotional, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Realms of Self, Others, and the Environment
All must be in balance to have health or wellness
Big Horn Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel concept from Native American culture provides a model for whom we are as individuals: We have an intellectual self, a spiritual self, an emotional self, and a physical self. Strength and balance in all quadrants of the Medicine Wheel can produce a strong, positive sense of well-being, whereas imbalance in one or more quadrants can cause symptoms of illness. Addressing issues of imbalance can potentially diminish your patient’s symptoms and enrich their quality of life.
- Louis T. Montour, MD, CM; CCFP; ABFPPresented at the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Native Physician Association in Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, August 23-25, 1996.
Illness is the result of imbalance
Within the self systems, the family, tribe, or the world
An individual may not be living up to their roles or obligations to their self or to the group
A symptom can occur in any of the realms (emotional, mental, physical, spiritual)
Restore balance across all realms within the individual and within relationships
Individual, her/his family, and/or clan
Individuals that are deemed important to healing process by the person or healer
Origins of Disease and Medicine A Cherokee example:
Story tells of how birds, fish, insects, animals, and humans lived in harmony until the humans overcrowded the animals and created weapons to kill them. The was retaliation from the birds, fish, insects, and animals in the form of disease. The plant world responded by offering their leaves, roots, bark to make medicine to save the Cherokees.
Discussion with Client
American Indian and Alaska Natives may be reluctant to discuss traditional medicine
Protective in past traditional spirituality and healing was considered illegal
Current era of exploitation of Native American spirituality and healing
Medicine people are known within the tribe or area
Medicine people do not advertise in a commercial manner
A client may ask for funds to travel back to see their traditional healer-your agency will need to determine if such travel is fundable
If an individual is new to the area and cannot utilize the healer that they have used in the past, here are some options:
Contact local Native American social workers or Native American based social service agencies
Access individuals who will know the way to access a healer and the protocol
Native Americans will not attach every injury with spiritual significance
They know that if they break a bone they need to go to the emergency room or a physician
Later they may reflect on whether there was a meaning behind the event, if they were distracted by a worry that may have lead to carelessness or not.
Listen to person’s story about their symptoms & illness.
Follow Up Questions:
What do you believe caused this illness?
Who have you seen in the past to help with this kind of illness?
Was it whom you preferred to see?
Was it helpful? What made it helpful or not helpful?
Who would you like to see now?
How would you adapt the Explanatory Model questions for a Native American elder?
What do you think caused this?
Why do you think it started when it did?
What do you think your illness does to you?
How does it work?
How severe is your illness?
Will it have a short or long course?
What kind of treatment do you think you should receive? What are the most important results you hope to receive from this treatment?
What are the main problems your illness has caused for you?
What do you fear most about your illness?
Barlow, A., & Walkup, J.T. (1998). Developing mental health services for Native American children. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America: The Child Psychiatrist in the Community, 7(3), 555-577.
Montour, L.T. (2000, Winter) The medicine wheel: Understanding “problem” patients in primary care. The Permanente Journal , 4(1), 34-39.
Cherokee Nation (no date). The origins of disease and medicine. Retrieved August 10, 2008 from http://www.cherokee.org/Culture/Default.aspx?section=culture&culture=literature&cat=PdWeE5zX1DE
Kleinman, A., Eisenberg, L., & Good, B. (1978). Culture, illness, and care: Clinical lessons from anthropologic and cross-cultural research. Annals of Internal Medicine, 88, 251-58