A Journey: American Indian Behavioral Health Programs Building Culturally Competent Clinical Skills and Adapting Evidence-Based Treatments
There are federal mandates attached to funding for behavioral health programs that require the use of evidence-based treatments (EBTs) to treat mental health disorders in order to improve clinical outcomes. However, these EBTs have not been constructed with American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) populations. There are over 340 EBTs, and only two outcome controlled studies have demonstrated effectiveness with AI/AN populations to treat mental health disorders. AI/AN communities often have to select an EBT that is not reflective of their culture, language, and traditions. Although EBTs are frequently used in AI/AN communities, little is known about the adaptation process of these interventions with the AI/AN population. For this study, a qualitative design was used to explore how American Indian behavioral health (AIBH) organizations in the Southwest adapted EBTs for cultural relevancy and cultural appropriateness. One urban and two tribal AIBH programs were recruited for the study. Over a six-week period, 24 respondents (practitioners and cultural experts) participated in a semi-structured interview. Transcripts were analyzed using the constant comparative analysis approach. As a result, four themes emerged: 1) attitudes towards EBTs, 2) how to build culturally competent clinical skills, 3) steps to adapt EBTs, and 4) internal and external organizational factors required to adopt EBTs. The four themes identify how to build a culturally responsive behavioral health program in Indian country and are the purview of this dissertation.