Healing and Counselling in the Traditional Spiritual Setting

Cultural variations have been a major topic of discussion regarding healthcare procedures in the mental health discourse. The variety of medical procedures influences medical pluralism. This medical pluralism in India is evident in the variety of healers and therapeutic modalities. Traditional, indigenous, and contemporary medical procedures are all subject to cultural chauvinism in healthcare because they are all ingrained in the nation's healing system and health culture.

This conventional medicine offers various healing modalities and considers various approaches to understanding, diagnosing, and treating illness. However, the decision to approach a certain healer is influenced by a collection of sociocultural assumptions, the history of the patients and their families, and the convenience and provision of such practitioners.

Scenario in India

Every region of the nation has access to a wide range of traditional and modern healers who can treat mental health issues. This medical heterogeneity offers healthcare services and various explanations of the ailment. Thus, whether physical or mental, all ailments are treated using a pluralistic approach. A failure or unsatisfactory result from one healer compels individuals to visit other healers, and often people contact many healers to seek solace from their illnesses. Many different types of healers cure mental diseases, notably in Indian villages. Ayurvedic practitioners, folk medics, caregivers in temples, and conventional medical professionals (psychiatry) were the four categories of healers identified by Weiss et al. Indian healthcare is essentially separated into two segments: conventional healthcare and modern healthcare. Once more, the folk, religious, and classical sectors make up the traditional healthcare sector.

Folk and Religious Sectors

In India, the traditional and religious sectors are regarded as the oldest suppliers of healthcare services. In Indian civilization, religious organizations are well entrenched and have a long history of offering therapeutic procedures. The therapeutic methods differ between the folk and religious sectors, even though both adhere to supernatural aetiologies. In both sectors, breaking a taboo—either by the sufferer or by his descendant in this life or a former one—personal sin, bad purpose, enraged gods, spirit annihilation, infiltration by numerous forces, witchcraft, etc.—are the main causes of mental illness.

In religious settings, the recovery procedure relies on ritualistic practices and religious chants, and it is identical for all sufferers. People are inclined to believe that religious poojas and prayers can help lessen mental illness's effects. In addition to obligatory prayers, various disciplines like fasting or eating only uncooked foods are followed. The prayer requests from the healers for each patient typically follow a consistent format. This kind of spiritual healing is frequently utilized to treat and manage psychiatric illness and has become the method of choice for many.

The healers in the folklore domain come from various ethnic or religious backgrounds. Folk physicians, witch doctors, anti-witches, or mystics are the names given to them; other acceptable local names include Gunia, tantric, baba, Ojha, fakir, and sadhu, among others. Their medical treatments combine ancient and modern treatments with some religious practices to treat the condition. Following a physical examination of the patient's fingers, face, eyes, and locks, they may perform mathematical computations using the patient's name. They employ various treatment methods, including reciting spells, piercing sufferers with needles, thrashing and flogging them, smacking them, tying them up in shackles and chains, scorching them, and even burning them with a hot iron to cause blisters. Some traditional healers also prescribe handcraft capsules or granules made from unique varieties of herbal remedies, oils, or unidentified chemicals to lessen the severity of mental illness, as well as tabiz (an amulet), invoking of enchantments, or bala (a ring), which they presume would safeguard the client from dark doers.

Classical Sector

Extreme psychological sickness is referred to as Unmada in Ayurveda. Unmada's recuperation can be divided into three kinds. To heal Unmada, Daiva Vyapashraya proposes performing rituals, making sacrifices, receiving spiritual healing, and reciting incantations (holy phrases). These practices are advised in Unmada because outside forces or spirits bring them on. Yukti Vyapashraya treats Unmada with ghee/oil, dairy, elixirs, herbal remedies, and specific dietary restrictions. Psychotherapy, such as spiritual education, moral uplift, etc., is a focus of Satvavajaya and aids in treating Unmada. This type of treatment will assist the mind in controlling its attraction to harmful objects.

Characteristic Features of Traditional Counselling

Sacred Therapies

The sacred's significance in Indian healing rituals is one of their distinctive features. Numerous things can invoke the sacred, including regional representations of Lord Shiva, ancestor spirits, devils, etc. Different healing modalities employ various sacred objects, but for the majority, the material and spiritual worlds coexist. Gods, evil spirits, and other supernatural beings exist in physical and metaphysical realms. The goal of folk healing is to keep these realms in concord.

Holistic Approach

Holistic traditional healing focuses on a person's total health. It includes the body, the self, and society under a dynamic equilibrium framework. The holistic approach considers a person's values, interests, beliefs, social interactions, spiritual orientation, and other factors. The strong symbiotic relationship seen between the mind and the physique is something that many traditional healers instinctively understand. Because if the mind is ill, the physical does not stay stable, and conversely. In turn, an unhealthy body can be cured by altering the mental state because a sick and agitated mind creates the circumstances for physical issues to strike the person. Modifying the interpersonal and psychological foundation of the suffering person's life is essential to the recovery process in the communal living in which the healer participates.

Healers as Diviners

According to the Ayurvedic system, which has significantly impacted Indian folklore, health is a balance between internal and external factors regulated by diet and a hierarchy of social relationships based on purity and pollution. The individual, not the issue, is the emphasis of traditional healing. The problem receives only incidental attention during therapy sessions; the focus is on "Who is in pain?". It is common to discover healers renowned for their capacity to house a deity or spirit, under whose yoke they gain extraordinary abilities to manipulate the thoughts of their patients and cure them. The healer becomes a conduit for people to interact with spirits and gods. They have glimpses and have the power to grant favors at will. They are thought to have direct access to the paranormal as diviners and get their healing abilities from divinity. The local populations adore them while also fearing them.

Socio-centric Treatment

All folk remedies assume that illness is viewed as a social issue rather than a personal one. Pathologies arise from social norms, traditions, moral requirements, modes of interaction, and role expectations, and they differ across cultures. In the research on mental health, the sociogenic aspect of the affected individual is well acknowledged, and society should have a bigger say in how these disorders are treated.

Cultural Compatibility

The beliefs and customs of the native communities include the healer and the healing techniques. The descriptive framework used by a healer is generally in line with popular thought. These notions regarding pain and suffering have developed over millennia and have been supported by innumerable situations. Many people accept and actively use the hypothesis of supernatural causality to interpret a variety of circumstances. Thus, healing modalities developed around these beliefs are more widely accepted. For instance, taking down the sacred peepal tree would disturb the spirits. Many regions of the nation believe that the offense is what brought on the victim's illness or other problems. People go to the ojhas (holy men) to appease the spirits and lessen the agony.

Reasons for Choosing Traditional Healing Practises

It has the following reasons


Literature also demonstrates that traditional healing methods are widely used and generally accepted by all social classes and that people frequently turned to traditional healing because they believed that mental diseases had a paranormal cause. In conclusion, indigenous physicians and healing practices significantly influence the recovery process for mental illness treatment amongst individuals in India.

Updated on: 03-Feb-2023


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