Working in Indigenous Contexts: Self-Reported Experiences of Non-Indigenous Australian Psychologists


Rob Ranzijn, School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, St Bernards Rd, Magill, SA 5072, Australia. Tel: +08 8302 4468; email:


Despite assertions in the literature that psychologists adopt culturally inappropriate strategies for working with Indigenous clients, there is little empirical evidence about this. The aim of this study was to document the self-reported experiences of non-Indigenous psychologists working with Indigenous clients, the factors that they felt constrain these interactions, and the clinical, assessment and communication strategies they perceived as effective in Indigenous contexts. Structured interviews were held with 23 psychologists, 18 females and five males, with age groups ranging from 20–30 to 50+. Thematic analysis of the data revealed that participants experienced contradictions between the typical Western white psychologists' ways of interacting with clients, which they had been taught and the typical ways in which relationships are structured in Indigenous communities. The results suggest that the Western model of psychological training does not work very well in Indigenous contexts, and that psychologists working in Indigenous contexts have to work out their own methods on a trial-and-error basis. This points to the need for more systematic cultural competence training. However, there is a lack of research into the effectiveness of psychological intervention from the viewpoints of Indigenous clients themselves.