Traditional Anishinabe Healing in a Clinical Setting: The Development of an Aboriginal Interdisciplinary Approach to Community-based Aboriginal Mental Health Care

Marion A. Maar, Marjory Shawande


Traditional medicine has been practiced by Aboriginal people for thousands of years at the community level. It is still practiced today outside of the mainstream health system by many Aboriginal people. However, providing this type of care in a clinical, health centre setting and in co-operation with western treatment methods is new, and requires a merging of traditional Aboriginal and western medical world views in order to develop protocols for service delivery that ensure the integrity of both systems. The groundwork required to ensure the safety of clients, providers, and organizations within the new integrated system is still largely undocumented. To address this gap, we studied factors that support the successful integration of traditional Aboriginal healing and western mental health care approaches, and document the experiences of clients and providers. To accomplish this we contextualize 10 years of experience of traditional healing services development with in-depth interviews and focus groups with 17 community service providers and 23 clients. We found that the development of traditional healing protocols, inter-professional education for providers and community members and a focus on client access to traditional Anishinabe health services provide the basis for the integration of western and traditional healing practices in the model under study. Our findings show integrated care resulted in positive experiences for clients and providers. We conclude that traditional healing approaches can be successfully integrated with clinical mental health services. Further research is necessary to improve our understanding of client experiences with this integrated  approach and the impact on wholistic health and well-being.


Traditional Medicine, Traditional Healing, Aboriginal mental health, integrated services, interdisciplinary care



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