Implications of healing power and positioning for collaboration between formal mental health services and traditional / alternative medicine : the case of Ghana

Kpobi, Lily ; Swartz, Leslie (2018)

CITATION: Kpobi, L. & Swartz, L. 2018. Implications of healing power and positioning for collaboration between formal mental health services and traditional / alternative medicine : the case of Ghana. Global Health Action, 11(1):1445333, doi:10.1080/16549716.2018.1445333.

The original publication is available at https://www.tandfonline.com

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

Article

Background: Many current debates about global mental health have increasingly called for collaboration between biomedical and traditional medical health systems. Despite these calls, not much has been written about the variables that would influence such collaboration. To a large extent, collaboration dialogues have considered biomedicine on the one hand, and a wide range of traditional and faith-based treatments on the other hand. However, this dualistic bifurcation does not reflect the plurality of healing systems in operation in many contexts, and the diverse investments that different non-biomedical healing approaches may have in their own power to heal. Objective: We set out to explore the diversity of different healers’ perceptions of power, and the relationship between that power and the perceived power of biomedical approaches. Methods: Through a qualitative design, and using the case of medical pluralism in urban Ghana as an example, we conducted interviews among different categories of traditional and alternative medicine (TAM) practitioners living and/or working in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Results: Through thematic analyses, differences in the notions about collaboration between the different categories of healers were identified. Their perceptions of whether collaboration would be beneficial seemed, from this study, to co-occur with their perceptions of their own power. Conclusions: We suggest that an important way to move debates forward about collaboration amongst different sectors is to examine the notions of power and positioning of different categories of TAM healers in relation to biomedicine, and the attendant implications of those notions for integrative mental healthcare.

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