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Indigenous, folk healing practices 

Indigenous, folk healing practices
Chapter:
Indigenous, folk healing practices
Author(s):

Wen-Shing Tseng

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199696758.003.0180
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date: 23 August 2019

The comparative study of indigenous healing practices and modern psychotherapy has revealed the existence of certain universal elements of the healing process that operate as important factors for therapy, whether the therapy is carried out in a primitive or modern form. The universal and nonspecific healing factors identified are: the cultivation of hope, the activation of surrounding support, and the enhancement of culturally sanctioned coping. The study of indigenous healing practices has also pointed out the existence of supernatural dimensions of healing power, which are less intentionally utilized in modern therapy. Despite the general usefulness of folk therapies, the ill effects of some have not been widely studied and reported. Yet, clinical observation has disclosed that some folk therapists cause harm to the clients who seek their services. Under the guise of treatment, tricking a client out of his money by deceit or fraud, or sexual involvement with a client, are examples of disreputable behaviour that are occasionally reported. Harming a client by prescribing dangerous substances, and physically injuring or even killing a client by accident during the performance of an exorcism, are other examples of serious complications that have occurred. No matter what position is taken, there is one simple fact that deserves attention, namely, that there exists a wide range of professional quality among so-called folk healers, and different motivations for practice. Some are benign healers motivated by a desire to serve, while others are not. Some are well-trained in their particular professions and know how to practice within its limitations, while others are not—and are liable for malpractice. The major problem is that, from a public health point of view, in most societies, there still are no formal guidelines for regulating folk therapy, as there are for modern therapy. Folk therapy, whether it is shamanistic practice or faith healing, should be subject to periodic surveys and reevaluation by the public health administration, as is modern clinical work, so that its benefits to clients can be protected and any potential malpractice can be prevented. If any folk therapist refuses to be examined and regulated, he or she should be discouraged or prevented from practicing.

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