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The Case for the Indigenous Therapist

E. Fuller Torrey, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1969;20(3):365-373. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1969.01740150109015.
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THERE is strong evidence, both direct and indirect, upon which to build a case for the indigenous therapist. The evidence is strong enough to suggest a series of systematic innovations, carefully supervised and evaluated, to ascertain the place of indigenous therapists in formal psychiatric services. If and when the indigenous therapist is so utilized, he could be a useful adjunct to already existing services and a major part of the solution to the mental health manpower problem.

The term "indigenous therapist" implies a person who is sanctioned by a particular culture or subculture to do "psychotherapy" even though he has not been so trained by acceptable Western professional standards. The term, therefore, includes a whole range of individuals from shamans, witch-doctors, and medicine men to college students working in mental hospitals, housewives working as psychotherapists, and neighborhood residents being used as "mental health assistants" in


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