American Indian identity in mental health services Utilization data from a rural Midwestern sample

Samantha M. Hack, Christopher R. Larrison, Joseph P. Gone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The governing bodies for psychiatry, psychology, and social work all publicly support culturally competent mental health care and have called for increased awareness of the importance of racial, ethnic, and cultural identity in mental health treatment and outcomes. However, since 1960 the population of people identifying as American Indian in the United States has grown faster than can be explained by birth rates, raising questions about the personal meaning of identity for newly self-designated American Indians. For this research, interviews were conducted with 14 self-identified American Indian clients receiving rural mental health care services in the Midwest. The goal was to assess clients' cultural connection to their racial identity and to understand what impact their American Indian identity had on their mental health care experiences. A modified Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) method was used to develop the interview protocol and code responses. Interview data revealed that clients primarily based their racial identity on family stories of an American Indian ancestor and the majority did not feel their identification as American Indian was relevant to their mental health care. Regardless of lack of cultural connection, participants often reported feeling personal pride associated with identifying as American Indian. Implications for both researchers collecting self-reported race data and for mental health practitioners who might serve self-identified American Indian clients are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-74
Number of pages7
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • American Indian
  • Identity
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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