CHELSEA STRAYER, then a student at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, received funding in October 2008 to aid research on 'Psycho Prophylaxis Applied: Education, Relaxation, and Self-Regulation in Asante Indigenous Healing,' supervised by Dr. James Pritchett. In Ghana, West Africa, despite economic and geographic access to biomedical hospitals, many patients continue to utilize Asante indigenous ritual healing ceremonies. Why? While the prevalence and efficacy of indigenous ritual healing is the subject of much debate in anthropological research, only a few studies have actually shown what the physiological effects of indigenous ritual healing ceremonies are and how these effects are elicited via the ritual healing process. Using a biocultural approach, this research argues that Asante indigenous rituals can be compared to the process of psycho prophylaxis -- which promotes preparation, prevention, and protection against an ailment through psychological input and seeks to mediate the negative health effects of stress by educating patients about expectations, eliciting relaxation responses, and promoting self-regulation in treatment. These responses are measured qualitatively via extended fieldwork, participant observation, and interviews. Also, these responses are measured quantitatively by taking patient heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate before, during, and after ritual ceremonies. The results of this research show that there is a significant relaxation response in patients who attend Asante ritual healing ceremonies. These positive results affirm the prevalence of witchcraft, cursing, family obligations, and spiritual ailments, which keep patients coming back for more.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Strayer, Chelsea Shields, Boston U., Boston, MA - To aid research on 'Psycho Prophylaxis Applied: Education, Relaxation, and Self-Regulation in Asante Indigenous Healing,' supervised by Dr. Parker Shipton