Using traditional spirituality to reduce domestic violence within aboriginal communities

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jan;16(1):89-96. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0213.


Objectives: We report the results of involving traditional healing elders (THE) in the clinical care of aboriginal families who were involved in domestic violence in the context of a clinical case series of referrals made for domestic violence.

Methods: Psychiatric consultations were requested from senior author L.M.M. for 113 aboriginal individuals involved with domestic violence as recipients or perpetrators (or both) between July 2005 and October 2008. As part of their clinical care, all were encouraged to meet with a THE, with 69 agreeing to do so. The My Medical Outcomes Profile 2 scale was being used as a clinical instrument to document effectiveness. Elders used traditional cultural stories and aboriginal spirituality with individuals, couples, and families to transform the conditions underlying domestic violence.

Results: For those people who met with the THE, a statistically significant change (p < 0.0001) occurred in symptom severity from baseline to final interview of 4.6-1.52 on a scale of 0-6. The most common presenting symptom was being beaten (39 people), followed by drinking (37 people), drugs (13 people), grudges and anger (12 people), sadness (9 people), hates self (8 people), fear (7 people), sleep problems (6 people), anxiety (5 people), and lost spirituality (2 people). Each person chose two primary symptoms to rate.

Conclusions: Including elders in the care of people who are the recipients of domestic violence is effective. We speculate that it helps by providing traditional stories about relationships and roles that do not include violence. Spiritual approaches within aboriginal communities may be more effective than more secular, clinical approaches. Research is indicated to compare elder-based interventions with conventional clinical care.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Battered Women / psychology
  • Counseling
  • Criminals / psychology
  • Domestic Violence / ethnology*
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Saskatchewan
  • Spirituality*