Exploring mental health practice among Traditional health practitioners: a qualitative study in rural Kenya

Christine W. Musyimi, Victoria N. Mutiso, Lianne Loeffen, Anja Krumeich, David M. Ndetei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BackgroundInvolvement of traditional health practitioners (THPs) in the form of collaboration with the formal health care system is suggested to improve the pathways to mental health care in Kenya, yet understanding of the current traditional practice and THPs' perspectives is lacking. The aim of this study was to explore the views of THPs with respect to their mental health practice.MethodsThis study qualitatively explored the views of THPs, using four focus group discussions (FDGs) each consisting of 8-10 traditional and faith healers, resulting in a total of 36 participants. Thematic content analysis using a grounded theory approach was performed using QSR NVivo 10. Emerging topics were identified and examined by re-reading the transcripts several times and constantly re-sorting the material.ResultsFour themes that reflect THPs' mental health practice perspectives emerged as follows: 1) Categorization of mental illness; 2) Diagnostics in traditional mental health practice; 3) Treatments and challenges in current traditional mental health practice; and 4) Solutions to improve traditional mental health practice.ConclusionsThese themes provide insight into the perspectives of Kenyan traditional and faith healers on their mental health practice, in an attempt to offer a meaningful contribution to the debate on collaboration between informal and formal health care providers in improving mental health services in Kenya. Furthermore, the presented challenges and solutions can inform policy makers in their task to improve and scale up mental health services in resource-poor areas in Kenya. Addressing these issues would be a first step towards understanding the solid foundation of traditional medicine that is necessary before collaboration can be successfully attempted. Further research is also recommended to assess patients' needs and explore potential forms of collaboration, in order to achieve sustainable improvement in the mental health care pathways for patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number334
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018


  • Traditional health practitioners
  • Traditional medicine
  • Mental health
  • Rural
  • Kenya
  • CARE

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