A Guide for Culturally Sensitive Clinical Practice With Native Americans

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Abstract

Reviews the book, Mental Health Care for Urban Indians: Clinical Insights From Native Practitioners edited by Tawa M. Witko (see record 2006-02691-000). It is no secret that Native Americans have suffered a history of genocide that remains unparalleled, not only in the United States but throughout the world. For many of us, however, the details of their struggle remain buried, as the true story is rarely told in educational settings or history books. What has been written usually focuses on Indians residing on reservations, who reflect only a small number of the population, as 70 percent of Native Americans currently reside in urban areas (p. 48). This edited volume by Witko changes that. With this highly informative and creative text, the authors have contributed enormously to the psychological research available on Native Americans, particularly those residing in urban areas. Although Witko acknowledges that the book is not comprehensive, the contents provide a wealth of information on each chapter's focus area and through reference sections that extensively cite previous work on Native Americans. We are also provided with several models, Web sites, and titles of other books that are relevant in this area. Furthermore, all authors are Native Americans, and their tribal affiliations are provided. This is powerful not only because of the importance of Native Americans speaking for themselves rather than others deciding what is best for them, but also because it demonstrates that mental health providers of Native American backgrounds do, in fact, exist. Overall, the authors have birthed a text that delivers far more than its title promises. It should be considered a gold standard for anyone interested in culturally competent mental health service delivery with Native Americans and for the multicultural movement in general. Part 1 of the text focuses on more detailed historical accounts related to Native Americans. Part 2 of the book focuses on specific treatment issues in the Native American community, specifically among urban populations. The third and final section of the book focuses on new directions when working with Native Americans in urban settings. With this text, the authors have successfully continued what Native American people have been demonstrating ever since North America was “found” by Columbus: resilience and ingenuity. Their work demonstrates a return to the natural way of things, this time with the incorporation of those Western treatment models that may add to the picture, if used sensitively. The recommendations provided herein represent the essence of cultural competence and respect for traditional culture(s).

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