Date of Award

January 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Yusuf Ransome

Second Advisor

Ashley Hagaman


Western medicine typically describes traditional and spiritual healing as a homogenous healing system independent, and in many ways antagonistic to “science.” However, Western medicine fails to acknowledge the global influence of traditional and spiritual practices and its potential to strengthen current mental wellness care. For centuries, traditional and spiritual healing has served as a foundational system in many African nations, utilized to overcome challenges, pain and trauma. It is rooted in harmonious monism which reconciles the duality between mind and matter and conceptualizes the universe as interconnected and interdependent. African spiritual practices unite individuals to a community of shared values, connecting the body, mind and spirit and offering a sense of hope. Within the existing literature there is a gap in our understanding of the positive impact that African traditional and spiritual practices can have on mental health care globally. Thus, we conducted a scoping review and used an inductive approach to examine the literature from several databases including Scopus, Ovid Global Health, PubMed, WHO Africa and Web of Science. Of the 280 retrieved articles, 245 articles were screened for eligibility and 5 were included in our final review. Our review identified several practices such as sacrificial practices, cleansing and water practices, prayer, and drumming. These practices revealed shared elements of traditional and spiritual healing, including interconnectedness, collective healing, positive equilibrium, and hope. Though spiritual systems and practices on the continent cannot be homogenized, their shared symbolism and values can be integrated into mental health therapies worldwide.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 05/22/2026