Diagnosis And Treatment Of Mental Illness By Vhavenda Traditional Healers In Vhembe District, South Africa


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In rural African communities, traditional healers hold an esteemed and powerful position
in the diagnosis and treatment of various illnesses. They assume a significant role in
addressing the mental health care needs of individuals by offering cultural appropriate
treatment and they are easily accessible. This was a qualitative study, and specifically,
the case study method was utilised. Ten traditional healers were chosen through
purposive and snowball sampling to participate in the study. Data was collected through
semi-structured interviews and analysed using the thematic analysis method. The findings
revealed that several procedures (like throwing of bones and direct observation of
patient’s behaviours) are used to diagnose mental illness. The findings also revealed that
mental illness can be treated through the use of traditional remedies and practices (like
rituals). From the findings of the study, it can be suggested that both traditional medical
interventions and some culturally relevant psychological procedures are used to treat
mental illness. Increased cooperation between western oriented psychotherapists and
African traditional healers is therefore highly recommended.


Salome Thilivhali Sigida
Nare Judy Masola
Department of Psychology, University of Limpopo,
South Africa



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