Cultural Therapy

CARIMENSA offers workshops, training, and interventions in Cultural Therapy to individuals/organizations based locally, regionally, and internationally.

What is Cultural Therapy?
In Jamaica, Cultural Therapy emerged in the 1970’s during a period in which the mental health process was trying to find a therapeutic vehicle that would unite widely diverse outlooks and expectations of patients and workers who were at different professional, educational, ideological and class levels. The aim was to bring about therapeutic change, the mobilization of production, to facilitate de-stigmatization, and to promote mental health education in the country. The intervention was originally implemented in 1977 with the "Third World" band, in which psychological and theatrical skills met to create their album "Explanitations". The process involved daily reasoning between the band members and therapist, using history as therapy. This was followed by the introduction and development of Psychohistoriography (the cornerstone of Cultural Therapy) at the Bellevue Mental Hospital in 1978 where the technique was used for group therapeutic sessions with staff and patients, the aim of which was to achieve significant decreases in medication dosage, psychosocial disability scores, improvements in functioning and discharge rates of patients.

The collective process of Cultural Therapy involves the syncretic blend of large group psychotherapy with the elements and essence of cultural activities such as Psychohistoriography, the oral tradition, the use of the circle, folk traditions, story-telling, poetry, arts, crafts, music, dance and theatre. The process, which has been called sociodrama, is combined in an eclectic manner with culturally sensitive counselling and psychotherapy. This form of psychotherapy uses cultural formations and icons as the driving process.

At the core of Cultural Therapy is the understanding that everyone has a 'creative self' which may be utilized, dormant, or unrecognized; but regardless of the current status, each person has the ability and desire to be creative. This 'creative self' is a mechanism embedded in individuals that can be used to express intrapsychic or interpersonal conflicts in a non-threatening manner. By providing a place of whimsy, individuals who are having difficulties in expressing their emotions or dealing with experiences directly, can manage problems in an indirect way.

Cultural Therapy is a method of therapy that cuts across ages, genders and cultures, allowing people to become safely engaged with each other. It is a means of addressing objectives through the manipulation of the culture of the group, tapping into the 'creative self' of each member and using it as the driving force of change all the while hinged on therapy that is presented in a dialogical group context. Cultural Therapy is not only about singing, dancing or creative art, it is about the various elements of the process that are used in a collaborative effort to bring groups together to reveal commonalities between group members and to achieve a common goal. It utilizes a group's culture to change their mind, behaviour and situation, and ultimately helping them to become more productive.

It is important to recognize that the product of the 'creative self' may not be something to be shared with the world, nor will it be guaranteed to be understood or accepted by the world. The point is instead, what the process of following and allowing the inner impulses to be expressed will do for the individual group members and the group as a whole. Thus, increasing productivity is not only limited to economic gain, but on a much more important level, it may be the productivity of an individual in being functional on a daily basis.