Ways of Knowing™ Symposium: Exploring the Role of Intuition in Health & Healing

Ethnomedicine Systems

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076Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., Saybrook Research and Graduate School

Throughout his professional life, Dr. Stanley Krippner’s books, research, and presentations reflect his commitment to helping conventional medical providers understand cultural-based healing.

His work has become highly relevant as cultures continue to migrate throughout the globe. In the future, there will be no ethnic majority in the USA.

Dr. Krippner shared that his path was shaped by experiences with alternative medicine as a sickly child, his interest in Native American ways as a child growing up on a Wisconsin farm, and his encounters with Grandmother Twyla, a Native American elder. Although Dr. Krippner believes that shamanism has come of age, he is concerned that society truly honor its gifts and not “rip off” the cultural heritage and knowledge of shamans.

Ethnomedicine is defined at the comparative study of indigenous medical systems. Ethnomedicine’s relevance is obvious—less than 20% of the world’s population is served by conventional, biomedicine practitioners. Dr. Krippner highlighted the critical difference between biomedical’s emphasis on curing (removing of symptoms to return patient to health) and ethnomedicine’s focus on healing (attaining wholeness of body, mind, emotions and spirit.)

E. Fuller Torrey describes 4 common treatment principles no matter what system of medicine is being considered:

  1. A shared worldview that makes the diagnosis or naming process possible.
  2. Positive patient expectations that assist recovery.
  3. Certain personal qualities of the practitioner that appear to facilitate the patient’s recovery.
  4. A sense of mastery that empowers the patient.

Two ModelsThere are two models for generally describing and evaluating medical systems: Siegler’s and Osmond’s 12-faceted model, and the parameters used by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM.) Dr. Krippner demonstrated the utility of the Siegler/Osmond model by comparing the traditional Navajo system of healing with the allopathic biomedical system in the following 12 aspects: 1. Diagnosis; 2. Etiology; 3. Patient’s behavior; 4. Treatment; 5. Prognosis; 6. Death and suicide; 7. Function of the institution; 8. Personnel; 9. Rights and duties of the patient; 10. Rights and duties of the family; 11. Rights and duties of the society; 12. Goal of the model. This comparison was completed in detail in Dr. Krippner’s attached paper, but was too detailed and lengthy for the scope of the lecture. The NCCAM system was also detailed in the attached paper.

Spirituality and Health was a final area that Dr. Krippner considered in examining both conventional and ethnomedicine. Spirituality is never separated out from the holistic view of health central to an indigenous perspective. The constructs of spirituality, regardless of what form of health care is being practiced, provide a common language for understanding the human desire for health and wellness. Dr. Krippner defined the spiritual as those aspects of human behavior and experience that reflect an alleged transcendence or intelligence or process that inspires devotion and directs behavior. The four major dimensions of spirituality he discussed are:

  1. Intrinsic Health
  2. Meaning and Purpose in Life
  3. Transcendent Beliefs and Experiences
  4. Community Relationships.

In summary, Dr. Krippner stated that the future of ethnomedicine depends upon granting traditional healers professional autonomy; educating tradtional healers in abandoning worthless and harmful practices; and teaching traditional healers and their communities effective public health measures.

Ethnomedicine Systems Chart

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  • Ways of Knowing™: Cultural-Based Healing Traditions and Practices