UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lost in translation : an ethnographic study of traditional healers in the Açorean (Azorean) islands of Portugal Bezanson, Birdie Jane


This interdisciplinary research project investigated the process of healing utilized by Açorean Portuguese traditional healers. The purpose was to facilitate an understanding of this process for multicultural counselling practices in North America. The theoretical framework is informed by medical anthropology and the work of Arthur Kleinman (1980, 1987). Kleinman has been called an ethnographer of illness because of his belief that suffering is social and, as such, culturally constructed. He contends that without consideration of the experience of suffering and the social aspects of suffering, health care practitioners face poorer outcomes in treatments (Kleinman, 2005). The current ethnographic study was carried out in the Açorean Islands of Portugal and asked the following research question: How do traditional healers in the Açorean Islands facilitate wellness in people suffering from illness? Illness was defined as the personal experience of physiological and/or psychological disease or distress (Kleinman, 1980). This research contributes to the growing body of knowledge dealing with multicultural counselling as follows: a) it adds knowledge by contributing an in-depth description of Portuguese Açorean traditional healers, which was previously absent from the counselling psychology literature: b) it expands on existing research to further explicate the significance of suffering in the world for Portuguese Açoreans and the role traditional healers play in witnessing this suffering; and c) it highlights the multifaceted impact of language when English speaking counsellors work with second language English speaking clients.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International