Gender and biomedical/traditional mental health utilization among the Bedouin-Arabs of the Negev. Academic Article uri icon


  • Twenty Bedouin-Arab non-psychotic subjects in Israel (10 male, 10 female) utilized biomedical and traditional healing mental health care systems. Common patterns of utilization were observed: first to family/friends, then to a general practitioner, next to a traditional healer, and finally to a psychiatrist. Men were more familiar with the biomedical system, and women with the traditional. Women, more than men, made group utilization decisions; men, more than women, saw traditional healers outsider their home communities. Gender differences were found in symptomatology and in patient construction of etiology. The biomedical system successfully addressed physical symptoms. The traditional system struck a stronger therapeutic alliance, tended to diagnose more comprehensibly, and was perceived by many patients as being more clinically beneficial. Biomedical practitioners can learn from traditional healers how to read a client's ecological map, incorporate the family/community in treatment, and communicate in the patient's cultural idiom. In their search for models of traditional/biomedical system integration, scholars should turn to patients themselves, who are currently living such integration.

publication date

  • January 1, 1999