Decolonization as methodological innovation in counseling psychology: Method, power, and process in reclaiming American Indian therapeutic traditions

J Couns Psychol. 2021 Apr;68(3):259-270. doi: 10.1037/cou0000500.


Decolonization harbors great potential as a transformative methodological innovation for advancing social justice in counseling psychology. One domain of colonized knowledge with relevance for the field is therapeutic expertise in American Indian communities. In this article, I draw extensively on vignettes from the life narrative of a historical Aaniiih-Gros Ventre medicine man to reveal various facets of his healing practices. I do so as an illustrative case example of a decolonial reclamation of Indigenous therapeutic traditions for the discipline. In discussing method, power, and process in association with decolonization, I first summarize emergent divergences between Indigenous traditional healing and modern counseling based on excerpted vignettes. Then, I observe that method in pursuing decolonization through Indigenous therapeutic reclamation is currently open to various forms of qualitative inquiry, that power in pursuit of Indigenous therapeutic reclamation must appraise the role of therapeutic regimes in the creation of modern subjects, and that process in pursuit of Indigenous therapeutic reclamation must allow for decolonization to extend to the repatriation of Indigenous relationships to land. Finally, I gesture beyond the consideration of Indigenous therapeutic traditions to trace the profound implications of a decolonization agenda for knowledge, practice, and training in counseling psychology. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • American Indians or Alaska Natives* / psychology
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Male
  • Psychology / methods*
  • Social Justice