Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Traditional Healers & Mental Health Services


Traditional Healers & Mental Health Services
10th November 2010 / London Conference

Many people do not seek help from their GP or via their local mental health services when they become unwell for a number of different reasons. Some people seek advice and support via traditional healers, preferring possibly to enter into a therapeutic dialogue with someone who is from the same culture or who understands their cultural perspective and can facilitate some form of cultural re-integration. The reasons why people seek help from traditional healers vary. Outside the biomedical model the mind / body dichotomy is less evident. The “idiom/s of distress” individuals present with may not be as compartmentalised as they are in the medical model.

Traditional healing is practised in many countries across the world. Healers use a number of interventions to heal people including; recitation of specific prayers, fasting, the wearing of amulets, the chanting of specific music, meditation, the making of sacrifices, conducting exorcism ceremonies and the ingestion of medicines and potions. In the UK some people receiving care from their local mental health services will have also sought out and may well be receiving care simultaneously from a traditional healer. However, the extent to which this manner of help seeking behaviour and the healing interventions they have received are acknowledged or discussed with the service user by mental health professionals working within the biomedical model, varies.

Many people, including mental health professionals are dismissive of traditional healers and their practices, citing a lack of evidence base to prove the effectiveness of healing interventions or their concerns about the amount of money some healers charge. However, there are those who are interested in finding out more about healers and their practices. The extent to which mental health professionals are able to collaborate and / or work jointly with healers remains unclear. We know of very few examples where this is the case in the UK.

This one day conference will seek to demystify the area of traditional healing and will focus on:

• Definitions of a traditional healer

• The training of healers

• Why do people seek help from a healer? What kinds of problems do they present with?

• How do healers make a “diagnosis”?

• What do healers do? Healing and healing practices

• What evidence exists about the effectiveness of healing interventions?

• What are the benefits and risks of mental health professionals and others working collaboratively with traditional healers?

Some of the key questions which will be discussed during the one day event include:

• Should and can psychiatrists and traditional healers work together? What possible problems might arise? What might be the benefits or risks for the service user? 

• Should we be extending service models to include traditional healers? 

• Do service users find the support they receive from traditional healers helpful? 

• What can mental health professionals learn from traditional healers and vice versa? 

Programme of the day

9.00 - 9.30

Registration, Tea & Coffee

9.30 - 9.50


Muslim Healers in London
Dr. Simon Dein
Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Medicine at the University College London and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow.

9.50 - 10.40

Meeting Population Needs for Mental Health: Do Traditional Healers Have A Role?
Professor Rachel Jenkins
Professor of Epidemiology and International Mental Health Policy, Director of WHO Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Research and Training.

10.40 - 11.30

The Practice of Spiritual Healing in Greece: A Positive Example of Approaching Health and Well-being from a Spiritual Perspective
Dr. Fevronia Christodoulidi
Counsellor/Psychotherapist, Supervisor and Counselling Trainer in Manchester.

11.30 - 11.45

Tea & Coffee

11.45 - 12.30

Co-operation or Collision? Healing Cultures and Collaboration in Mental Health Care in South Africa and Lessons for the UK
Malcolm Alexander
Consultant in Public Involvement and Community Development and Associate Researcher with the UCL Research Department of Mental Health Sciences.

12.30 - 1.00

Morning session Q&A

1.00 - 1.45


1.45 - 2.35

Traditional Healing, Therapy and Mental Health
Dr. William West
Director of Professional Doctorate in Counselling, Reader in Counselling Studies, School of Education, University of Manchester.

2.35 - 3.25

Under What Circumstances Do People with Mental Health Problems Consult Traditional Healers? Examples from Italy and Lessons for the UK
Dr. Micol Ascoli
Consultant Psychiatrist, East London NHS Foundation Trust/Tower Hamlets Cultural Consultation Service Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London.

3.25 - 3.40

Tea & Coffee

3.00 - 3.50

Traditional Healers and Mental Health Professionals Working Together: Confusion, Collaboration or Creative Synthesis?
Jane Gilbert 
Independent Consultant Psychologist in Penrith, Cumbria.

4.30 - 4.45

Afternoon session Q&A

4.45 - 5.00

Plenary, Closure & Evaluation sheets


Who Should attend?

This conference will be relevant to all professionals in the field of Mental Health and Social Care, including those from Local Authorities and NHS trusts across the UK, Chaplains, Community Faith Leaders & Healers, Equality Leads, Community Development Workers, Service User Representatives, Charities, Third Sector, Educational Establishments, Academics and Policy makers.


The Resource Centre
356 Holloway Road
N7 6PA

Tel: +44 (0)20 7700 0100

Conference Booking 


Conference Brochure


Conference Booking Forn

Conference Contact

Ahmed Qureshi (conference co-ordinator) tel. 07540 356 526 
email us on: or visit us on




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