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October 2014Vol. 15, No. 9Integrating Traditional Healing in Trauma Treatments

Because culture is integral to healing among Native American communities, the National Native Children's Trauma Center works to integrate traditional cultural activities—including traditional healing—in evidence-based trauma treatments. The Center, located at the University of Montana, is funded by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a Treatment and Service Adaptation Center within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. An article in the Winter 2013 issue of CW360°, a publication from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, highlights how the Center supports and serves Native communities through cultural adaptations of trauma treatments. 

The Center's work has focused on providing cognitive behavioral treatments in American Indian reservation schools and creating trauma-informed behavioral health, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems. To overcome barriers to acceptance within the Native community, Center staff have developed a three-pronged developmental approach to building trust:

  1. Staff work only in communities to which they are invited.
  2. Data resulting from Tribal partnerships are owned by the Tribe and may be disseminated only with Tribal approval.
  3. The identities of Tribes with whom the Center works are not disclosed without the Tribe's permission.

According to the authors, the fusion of evidence-based interventions and cultural activities has enhanced the acceptability, sustainability, and effectiveness of trauma treatments. They also note that cultural adaptation also leads to increased access to mental health services in the communities in which they work.

More information about the National Native Children's Trauma Center is available on its website:

The Winter 2013 issue of 360º also features the article "Native Families Impacted by Historical Trauma and the Role of the Child Welfare Worker," by Marilyn J. Bruguier Zimmerman and Patrick Shannon. 

"Cultural Adaptations of Trauma Treatments in Indian Country," by Wynette Whitegoat and Richard van den Pohl, CW360° Trauma-Informed Child Welfare Practice, Winter 2013, is available here: (1 MB)