Author, anthropologist and internationally renowned authority on alternative systems of health care, Dr Antonio Zavaleta’s intention in writing Curandero is to introduce both lay and professional readers to curanderismo and psychotherapy and in this I think he succeeds beyond expectation.

Neither curanderismo nor psychotherapy are within my field of expertise, however as someone who worked briefly within the mental health support field I found myself agreeing with many of the ideas I read in Curandero relating to the importance of culture in treating mental health issues. Ignoring cultural needs can cause issues in itself. As Cherokee author, Jamie Sams, says in the preface, losing parts of your cultural heritage and your personal sense of identity is “a sort of soul loss”. The emerging field of ethno-psychotherapy integrates the implications of human diversity into therapeutic practice.

Curandero is “not a book about demonizing psychiatry” but rather, introduces the importance of culture in treating Hispanic populations. And in doing so demonstrates that the beliefs, practices, procedures … and certainly the intentions of both curanderos and psychotherapists are more like one another than dissimilar. Yet despite this, “curanderismo continues to be shunned and not accepted into the family of mental health care providers serving the vast Hispanic population in America.” Dr Zavaleta also makes it clear that not all Hispanic people utilize curanderos but that in curanderismo there is an enormous cultural asset that lies untapped and unused.

Service providers in the traditional system of mental health could benefit immensely from this book, particularly in understanding the cultural needs of Hispanic people with psychological disorders. However, Curandero is an essential resource, not just for psychotherapists and mental health administrators across the United States; it has a far wider beneficial readership in understanding that there is a need for cultural needs to be taken into account in any health system or practice of contemporary society.

Book Details: Antonio Noé Zavaleta, Ph.D. Curandero. AuthorHouse (8 Oct. 2020). ISBN: 978-1665502795.

Review Details: Curandero was reviewed by by June Kent, editor of Indie Shaman magazine and this review was published in Issue 48.

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