Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Nick Coady

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This qualitative research study is situated within an Indigenous research methodology. The goal of the research was to develop an in-depth understanding of traditional healing from the perspectives of practitioners of traditional healing. It was important to explore the experiences of practitioners of traditional healing because there continues to be a lack of literature on this subject, as well as a significant lack of understanding and awareness about traditional healing and Indigenous Canadian people in mainstream society. The theoretical underpinnings of this research are holism and the four aspects of the self, visually represented in the Anishnaabe medicine wheel.

In-depth audio-recorded interviews were conducted with 16 Indigenous people who self-identified as traditional people who use the ceremonies, medicines, teachings and Elders from their cultures in their healing work. Each participant was approached in a traditional Anishnaabe way, with tobacco in red cloth. The research questions explored their experiences as practitioners and recipients of traditional healing methods.

The themes that emerged from the research articulate an in-depth understanding of traditional healing. The themes are grouped under eight categories: defining health and healing, the source of problems, the qualities of healers, guidelines for effective helping, the process of healing, integrating traditional and western methods, selfgovernment, and the strengths/limitations of traditional healing. The process of healing was the largest category of themes and it included groups of themes related to focusing on the self, giving back, using traditions, and sustaining wellness. The themes are discussed in light of the literature review on traditional healing and implications for social work research and practice are identified.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons