Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 496–518 | Cite as

“How Can We Help You”: Mental Health Practitioners’ Experiences of Service Provision in Northern Namibia

  • Theodore T. BartholomewEmail author
  • Shelene G. Gentz
Original Paper


Although 12–13% of Namibians are reported to struggle with psychological distress, very few practitioners are available to provide mental health services in Namibia. Those practitioners who are available are often trained from Western counseling and psychiatric perspectives that may not readily align to beliefs about illness held constructed in Namibian cultures. Institutional effort is invested in the education and use of mental health practitioners, including counselors, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and psychiatrists. However, little is known about the experiences of these providers. Therefore, this study, a grounded theory ethnography, was undertaken as part of broader ethnographic work to understand how mental health practitioners (N = 7) in Northern Namibia view their work with Aawambo Namibians given that Namibian mental health practitioners are few but embedded in the country’s health care system. Four categories were identified in analyses: Provision of Mental Health Services in the North, Practitioners’ Conceptualizations of Psychological Distress: Western and Aawambo Influences, Beliefs about Mental Health Services in the North, and Integration of Traditional Treatment and Counseling. Results are discussed with respect to cultural competence in Namibian mental health practice and potential for integrating traditional practices and mental health services.


Namibia Mental Health Care in Namibia Integration of Traditional Healing Grounded Theory Ethnography Mental Illness Explanations 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational StudiesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.University of NamibiaWindhoekNamibia

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