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  Mario Incayawar, M.D., M.Sc.
Mario Incayawar, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D.
Ron Wintrob, M.D.
Ron Wintrob, M.D.
Lise Bouchard, Ph.D.
Lise Bouchard, Ph.D.

Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers: Unwitting Partners in
Global Mental Health


Editors: Mario Incayawar, Ronald Wintrob, and Lise Bouchard


May 2009


Most of the world’s population, who live in developing countries, has limited access to medical care (including psychiatric care), according to the World Health Report, 2001, of the World Health Organization. It is estimated that up to 85 percent of the world’s population relies on traditional healers and medicines to meet their health care needs. The World Health Organization, in its Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002–2005, notes that in Uganda, for example, the ratio of traditional healers to population is 1:200. This contrasts dramatically with the availability of biomedically trained health professionals, for which the ratio is 1:20 000. In certain regions of the world such as in the Andes of South America, there are no psychiatric or mental health services available to the 30 million Indigenous Peoples. They therefore rely completely on traditional healers, family and community support to cope with their mental health problems and relieve their psychological distress. This volume focuses on the significant contribution of traditional healers to the wellbeing of most of the world’s population and highlights the role of these unintended partners in global mental health.

This exceptional book responds to the intense current interest in defining and understanding the contribution of traditional medical knowledge and the intervention techniques of traditional healers to national mental health services around the world.

  • The first book on the relationship between psychiatrists and traditional healers
  • Delineates the knowledge and clinical skills of traditional healers from diverse cultural areas around the world
  • Describes the clinical and social roles of traditional healers in their communities and the challenges of constructing national mental health programs that include traditional knowledge and healing techniques
  • Psychiatrists discuss the effects of local culture upon mental health and consider the impact, benefit and incorporation of traditional healing in clinical psychiatric practice.
  • Includes contributions from leading scholars in this field from Andorra, Quebec (Canada), China, Egypt, Finland, Japan, Italy, South Africa, India, United Kingdom, USA, the Maori (New Zealand), as well as, the Quichua, Modoc / Klamath, and Sioux Lakota Nations of South and North America.

Facts on psychiatrists

It is estimated that in low-income countries there is one psychiatrist for one million people.

In Ecuador, there is one Quichua psychiatrist for a population of 5 million Indigenous People.

Facts on traditional healers

In Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the ratio of traditional healers to general population is 1:200 to 1:400, constrasting dramatically with Western trained health professionals for which the ratio is 1:20 000.

In the sub-Saharan Africa, traditional healers outnumber biomedically-oriented health practitioners by 100 to 1

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News and reviews

"With so many contributors from diverse areas of experience and expertise, the editors of this book have done a marvellous job of ensuring that this treasure trove of information is presented in a way that any lay reader can comprehend and enjoy." Oye Gureje 2010 197:336-37

See a book review by Anthony J. Marsella and Paul Pedersen in PsycCRITIQUES. Vol.55 (16), 2010, entitled Mental Health in a Global Community: Time to Integrate Western and Traditional Cultural Healing Methods.

"With the publication of Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers, early proposals,
recommendations, and suggestions have acquired a new legitimacy and currency
that will be hard to ignore by any sector of the Western mental health system, including those with strong biological orientations." Marsella & Pedersen 2010

"Traditional healing typically includes a strong spiritual emphasis that links the health and welfare of the individual patient to the family, community relationships, and even
cosmic forces. No one can deny that this should be the standard of care, and Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers can significantly launch a revolution in this area." Marsella & Pedersen 2010


Free sample chapters

Wintrob R. Overview: Looking Toward the Future of Shared Knowledge and Healing Practices Free PDF Chapter

Maldonado-Bouchard S. South American Indigenous Knowledge of Psychotropics - The Need for Culturally Adapted Intellectual Property Rights Free PDF Chapter

Bouchard L. The Awakening of Collaboration between Quichua Healers and Psychiatrists in the Andes Free PDF Chapter

Incayawar M. Future Partnerships in Global Mental Health - Foreseeing the Encounter of Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers Free PDF Chapter

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