Master of Science in Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology - Thesis Abstracts

"Mental Health Perspectives of Native Americans"

by Ruth Arvisio (August, 2011)

The counseling profession is becoming more multifaceted as the U.S. population shows an increasing demographic shift in ethnic minority groups, including Native Americans. However, there is substantial evidence that Native Americans underutilize mental health services, although they are exposed to more stressors than European-Americans. This study explored the perceptions of Native Americans towards mental health practitioners who serve them. My hypothesis was that Native Americans would find a counselor's cultural competency the most important variable despite counselor ethnicity. This was both confirmed and contested by the focus group data. This qualitative research with Native American produced valuable data as tribal members revealed their perspectives on counselor ethnicity, counselor cultural competence, cognitive match, counselor empathy, trustworthiness and confidentiality. Results revealed that tribal members expressed that agencies do not show enough interest in understanding the Native American experience. Tribal members also emphasized that understanding on the part of the counselor was of primary importance and may be a more feasible approach to addressing cultural competence issues.

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