Date of Award

8-17-2009

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Jeffrey Ashby - Co-Chair

Second Advisor

Joel Meyers - Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Akinyele Umoja

Fourth Advisor

Miles Irving

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the ways in which Orìsà priests and their clients conceptualize issues and concerns described by Western based approaches as mental health problems. The two research questions guiding this inquiry included: (a) how do Orìsà priests and their clients conceptualize issues and concerns associated with mental health problems in Western psychology and (b) what methods and techniques do Orìsà priests and their clients use to address issues or concerns associated with mental health problems in Western psychology? This study was grounded in African-centered theory by providing a cultural lens to guide the research design, data collection, and analysis. Data were collected during semi-structured individual interviews with four Orisa priests in a three phase model, for a total of 12 interviews. The study also included three focus groups (six informants per group), who did not participate in the individual interviews. Each group met for two sessions, for a total of six focus groups. Bracketing of assumptions by research team members and use of a reflexive journal was used to ensure credibility and dependability of the data (Creswell, 1998). Data analysis consisted of a recursive process divided into multiple steps, to help strengthen methodological rigor and verification of study procedures. The three part process included codebook development, code application, and data analysis. Three major themes emerged from the data. The first theme, The Conceptualization of Mental Health Problems as Spiritual Matters included one subtheme, Transgenerational Transmission. The second theme, Origins of Mental Health Problems, included three subthemes (Western Socialization, Spiritual Forces, and Ifa as a Healing System). The final theme, Addressing Mental Health Problems, included three subthemes (The Divination Process, Referrals, and Western Therapy). Results of this study indicate that respondents primarily conceptualize mental health problems as spiritual matters and seek to address these problems with the help of an Orìsà priest. In addition, some respondents sought the services of a Western trained therapist for the same issue. Practice and research implications are discussed.

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