Con Alma : dialogues in decolonizing counseling--reciprocal ethnographic explorations in indigenous spaces for community healing
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Postcolonial critiques have emphasized the need for Western psychology to become more reflective of the histories, worldviews, and lived realities of historically marginalized communities across the globe (Comas-Díaz, 2000; Duran & Duran, 1995; Pickren, 2009). These works have included the contributions of liberation psychologists who advocate for the need to privilege the knowledge systems, concerns, and perspectives of local communities when proposing avenues for psychological research, intervention, and theoretical development (Watkins & Shulman, 2008). Recognizing the legacies of colonialism in North America, U.S. psychologists working with Indigenous communities have advocated for better collaboration with grassroots elders, teachers, and community groups, noting the importance of recognizing the validity of Indigenous epistemologies and the colonizing tensions that still exist between Indigenous healing systems and Western psychology (Duran, Firehammer & Gonzalez, 2008; Gone, 2007; Gone & Alcántara, 2007). Against this backdrop, the present research was carried out as an immersive, long-term ethnographic study in collaboration with Alma de Mujer (Alma), a community of Indigenous-identified women in central Texas, who are committed to creating accessible spaces for their communities to practice Indigenous lifeways and healing. Employing reciprocal ethnographic methods, the author spent two years participating in events and gatherings with the Alma community, as well as conducting in-depth interviews. Community members were consulted on an ongoing basis about the development of the research. The document centers on four objectives: First, the author traces the history of the Alma community as it emerged from social liberation and psychospiritual healing movements over the latter half of the 20th century. Second, based on the women's stories, the author presents community members' narratives about how healing is situated within the community's Indigenous knowledge systems. Specific attention is given to the holistic and reciprocal nature of healing in these stories. Third, the author includes contributions from Indigenous healers who remark on their experiences of the tensions between Indigenous healing systems and Western mental health institutions. Fourth, the author concludes with a personal critical reflection as a trainee in Western psychology and considers how dialogues between local Indigenous communities and Western psychology might be further explored.