Traditional Healing and Its Discontents: Efficacy and Traditional Therapies of Neuropsychiatric Disorders in Bali


In a discussion of patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and/or Tourettes’s Syndrome (TS), in Bali, Indonesia, traditional healing and psychiatric perspectives are used to highlight the power and weakness of each to treat these conditions. Given they are drawn from the same culture, should not indigenous explanatory models provide meaning and be more efficacious at relieving the suffering of people with OCD and TS-like symptoms? What if they provide an understandable meaning for patients but these meanings have no efficacy? Ethnographic data on Balinese models for illness are presented. Multiple data sources were used to frame the complex Balinese traditional healing systems. Forty patients were interviewed regarding their utilization of traditional healers, and healers were observed treating patients and interviewed regarding their treatment regimens and explanatory models. Traditional explanatory models for illness provide an understandable and integrated system of meaning for these disorders but are not successful in relieving symptomatology. Neurobiological approaches, traditional healing, and ethnographic methods are compared and contrasted to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each in relation to issues of exegesis and efficacy.