Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Saunders, Stephen M.

Second Advisor

Wierzbicki, Michael

Third Advisor

Torres, Lucas


Depression, defined by a EuroAmerican biomedical diagnostic criterion, using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition, Text Revision is prevalent among First Nations peoples. However, some studies suggest that the term depression may hold little heuristic value outside of its EuroAmerican conceptualization. This study utilized qualitative methods to understand how depressive symptoms are conceptualized and experienced by traditional Oneida people. A vignette was presented and in-depth interviews of seven traditional healers, culture and Oneida language experts were conducted to: (1) gain a basic understanding of traditional views of mental health, (2) acquire multiple conceptualizations of someone who presents with DSM-IV-TR symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder including possible causes and treatment, and (3) understand depressive symptoms, as perceived by traditional healers and culture bearers, affects the functioning of the community. Healers set the stage to determine whether the diagnostic label of depression holds heuristic value within the culture and is useful for conceptualizing and treating a patient's symptoms of distress within a traditional cultural counseling setting. The results contribute knowledge about one traditional First Nation's conceptualizations of depression as a diagnostic label and extend a framework for understanding cultural and local idioms for mental health concepts such as depression.