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Am J Psychother. 2002;56(4):508-21.

Treating Haitian patients: key cultural aspects.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA.


The Haitian community in the United States is growing steadily. They make up a significant portion of many cities. As a group, Haitian immigrants are a challenge to mental health professionals. Their view and concepts of the world are unique. Non-Haitian clinicians need to be knowledgeable of the culture in order to provide competent care. The goal of this article is to help clinicians understand aspects of Haitian culture that will facilitate mental health treatment. A historical perspective is offered since the history of Haiti has shaped society, families and therefore individuals. The role of the supernatural is addressed to provide a better understanding of the Haitian psyche. The political and economic climate in Haiti has led to a significant increase in the number of Haitians migrating to the United States. Haitians are faced with the challenge of adapting to a new culture; they experience stress and become vulnerable to mental illness. As a result, there is increasing demand for mental health services. This article highlights aspects of Haitian culture relevant to mental health clinicians. It provides an overview of Haitians' attitudes toward mental health and the utilization of psychotherapy. Concepts relevant to Voodoo beliefs and practices are discussed since these beliefs can shape attitudes, and compliance with treatment. Recommendations for engaging and maintaining Haitian clients in psychotherapy are made. Case vignettes are provided for illustration.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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