Intercultural Psychotherapy: An Historical Perspective

  • Ronald WintrobEmail author
  • John M. de Figueiredo


Throughout human history, people have experienced unanticipated losses and life crises. These have included natural disasters, accidents, illness, interpersonal strife, armed conflict, and wars. Efforts to cope with these personal losses and life crises have involved attributing their cause either to supernatural or other malign influences beyond their control, or to personal failings. Healing rituals evolved to appease the spirit world, diminish psychological distress related to personal responsibility for losses, provide hope for recovery, and restore community solidarity. In this chapter, we review the history of psychological and acculturative stress related to migration, whether voluntary or involuntary, and the changes in national policy toward immigrants and refugees over the past century. We also review the common features of healing rituals, including psychotherapy, and the factors that enhance personal resilience and functional improvement through psychotherapy. We describe the social, psychological, and national policy effects of the vastly increased flow of voluntary and involuntary migration over the past century, as well as the need to provide culturally competent and sensitive forms of psychotherapy for the increasingly multicultural populations which mental health staffs currently encounter in clinical settings.


Unexpected loss Demoralization, subjective incompetence Healing rituals, enhanced resilience Immigration policy, acculturative stress Cultural diversity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryYale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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