Acculturation Of Native-Americans

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Acculturation of Native-Americans


Native Americans constitute a significant population that is growing and has great need for mental health and counseling services. Social problems in Native communities include high rates of alcoholism, alcohol-related deaths, drug use, youth suicide, and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite their mental health needs, Native Americans are seriously underserved by the mental health professions, particularly psychology. Given the shortage of Native psychologists and counselors, non-Native counselors will be serving Native Americans and should have a basic understanding of their~ history, present status, and general ideas about traditional healing. However, the Native American population is extremely varied. A major variable is an individual's level of traditionalism versus acculturation to mainstream American society. Some Native ideas about traditional healing include the importance of a harmonious relationship with all of creation, emphasis on spirituality, and a holistic approach that mobilizes family and community to support the individual. Suggested approaches and strategies include providing a counseling orientation at the first session that explains the mutual responsibilities of counselor and client, maintaining trustworthiness, learning about tribal background, avoiding insight-oriented therapies, focusing on behaviors rather than emotional states, being aware of subtle verbal and nonverbal components of communication, visiting the client's home, collaborating with traditional healers, and using self-help and mutual support groups.

Acculturation of Native-Americans


Focusing on counseling Native Americans is due to this writer's previous experience on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin as a VISTA volunteer. Duties included counseling and tutoring teen-aged boys and girls, providing social services through the Community Action Program, directing an activities and recreation center, and working with high school seniors in scholastic and vocational programs. As a young man, twenty-three, and recently removed from an urban college campus, the shift to a rural locale populated with a markedly different race of people proved both enlightening and frustrating. Armed with boundless enthusiasm, and more than a little naiveté, this writer was to learn over the next twelve months that many of his preconceived notions about Native American society were the result of limited education and misinformation, factors that were only then, in the late 1960's, beginning to be rectified in our country through an emerging Native American pride and its people's demand for restitution from the United States government.

Intensive study and six weeks of training offered a measure of preparation for the term of service, but it was only through the harsh lessons of experience that a better understanding was realized of the ways of the Menominee's with whom this writer lived and worked. While understanding it would not be possible to be accepted completely by the community, in retrospect, some measure of respect for trying to learn from these people rather than striving to change them, was achieved.

Prevalence of Social Problems

All of the societal problems which existed on the Menominee Reservation are still pervasive there and in every Native American community throughout this nation. Alcoholism, drug use, suicide among the young, and crime continue to be the prevalent issues, and they are occurring at ...
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