Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Gyda Swaney

Commitee Members

Paul Silverman, Jennifer Waltz, Nadine Wisniewski, Gilbert Quintero


American Indian, Coping, Grief, Intervention, Native American, Social support


University of Montana


Numerous theorists have linked centuries of historical trauma to continued unresolved grief, a high level of distress (e.g., depression), and high rates of social problems (e.g., substance use/abuse) in American Indian communities, but interventions aimed at addressing the losses experienced by this population are virtually non-existent. Members of a tribe in Montana identified historical unresolved grief and personal grief, as the most salient underlying factors related to health disparities in their community. Collaboration between the tribal community, the tribal Community College, The University of Montana, and Montana State University led to the development of a culturally anchored grief intervention for historical trauma and grief which was guided by two M.A. level tribal professionals. A quasi-experimental research design with pre-, post-, 1 month, and 3 month follow-up repeated measures was utilized to examine the efficacy of the 3-daylong Grief Retreat interventions. More specifically, the current research project examined the effects that the grief intervention has upon participants' self-reported coping behaviors and perceived social support of members of the American Indian community by which and for whom the intervention was developed. This study is part of a larger project. A repeated measures ANOVA test was used to analyze data obtained from participants' response scores completed pre- and post-intervention. Additionally, memo/journal notes and participants' responses to two open-ended questions were maintained throughout the study to inform the statistical analysis and results. Pair-wise comparison of pre-intervention (T1) and 1 month post-intervention (T3) time points revealed significantly lower substance use and self-blame coping behavior utilization among participants who completed the intervention. However, no statistically significant changes in participant's perception of social support were observed. Practical and clinical significant findings are discussed. Qualitative information indicated that participants benefitted from exposure to various aspects of the two major components of the retreat (i.e., enculturation and education) which led to the use of more adaptive grief coping (i.e., active emotional coping) and growth. Although this study was intended primarily to benefit this tribal community, findings limitations, and recommendations are identified and discussed with hopes that future research will benefit other American Indian people.



© Copyright 2013 William Henry Shunkamolah