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Dissertation Title:

Cross-Cultural Considerations for Psychological Practice: Clinical Implications of an Indigenous Healing Epistemology


Omyda Heather Hernandez

Date, Time & Place:

August 20, 2015 at 11:30 am
Studio, Lambert Road campus


This study sought to contribute to the body of cross-cultural and multicultural psychology literature by embarking on a qualitative exploration of how health and illness are conceptualized and treated from an Amerindian indigenous shamanic perspective. Utilizing Charmaz’s (2006) grounded theory methodology, a conceptual theory of indigenous shamanic healing interventions and their mechanisms of efficacy was developed.
This theory emphasized the importance of a multidimensional conceptualization of health and wellness and its implications for psychological treatment, as well as illuminated the limitations of Western psychological conceptualizations of mental health and illness. The findings challenge Western psychological notions of talk therapy to move beyond symptom focused, insight oriented, and cognitive-affective understandings of psychological distress, and highlight the importance of conceptualizing health and illness from a multidimensional perspective. By focusing on mental health symptoms in isolation of spiritual and physical dimensions of subjective experience, psychological practitioners run the risk of viewing mental illness and its treatment from a limited etiological view. This experience may leave patients feeling that aspects of their subjective experiences go unseen, untreated, or unintegrated into their understanding of their own mental health.
The findings suggest that the APA’s current adoption of the medical model is limited in its scope, potentially leading to less efficacious treatments of mental illness particularly with culturally diverse populations. Clinical implications of a multidimensional conceptualization of health and wellness are discussed. Recommendations are made for how Western psychology can utilize Amerindian indigenous healing epistemology to move toward a more cross-culturally competent psychological discipline.


*Please note: All defense attendees must shuttle to campus from the Best Western in Carpinteria*

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track OP,
  • Chair: Dr. Oksana Yakushko
  • Reader: Dr. Lisa Sloan
  • External Reader: Dr. C. Michael Smith
  • Keywords: Shamanism, Indigenous Psychology, Spirituality, Cross-cultural, Holistic, Integrative, Culture, Diverse