Diagnosis And Treatment Of Mental Illness By Vhavenda Traditional Healers In Vhembe District, South Africa

Salome Thilivhali Sigida, Nare Judy Masola


In rural African communities, traditional healers hold an esteemed and powerful position in the diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses. They assume a significant role in addressing the mental health care needs of individuals by offering cultural appropriate treatment and they are easily accessible. This was a qualitative study, and specifically, the case study method was utilised. Ten traditional healers were chosen through purposive and snowball sampling to participate in the study. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and analysed using the thematic analysis method. The findings revealed that several procedures (like throwing of bones and direct observation of patient’s behaviours) are used to diagnose mental illness. The findings also revealed that mental illness can be treated through the use of traditional remedies and practices (like rituals). From the findings of the study, it can be suggested that both traditional medical interventions and some culturally relevant psychological procedures are used to treat mental illness. Increased cooperation between western oriented psychotherapists and African traditional healers is therefore highly recommended.

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