Healing Mental Illness with Shamanism: Is It Possible?

Healing Mental Illness with Shamanism - Is it possible? 

By Sarah Petruno Shamana

If you would have asked me 10 years ago, if healing mental illness with anything beyond pure ol’ science was possible, I would have rolled my eyes.

Not possible, I’d say.

Now, I’m a shaman.

I’ve been diagnosed with 4 mental illnesses in the western medicine system - none of which are active anymore.

During that time 10 years ago, I was a staunch supporter in science and only science as the way to curing and healing disease of any kind.

My own father died of complications of alcoholism, a disease of addiction, that I unwaveringly believed to be a problem that science needed to tackle - finding the cause of addiction and curing it.

At the time of this writing, a western medicine cure for addiction has not been found.

It also hasn’t happened yet with any mental illness. Science has treatments, but no cures.

No matter what you have, there’s always considered to be the chance of relapse. The symptoms may disappear, but yet, you are considered to have a genetic and chemical predisposition for it to happen again at any time.

And here I stand, on the other side of traditional science. A now defector of a once rising star academic system, I saw wide flaws in my chosen study, Psychology and as my pathway to shamanism opened, I switched gears.

Science never healed my mental illness.

Drugs masked symptoms, but no healing occurred on any combination of pharmaceuticals.

As a graduate student and researcher inside the university walls of a psychology department, I saw no cures.

Not due to lack of effort, but in my opinion, due to lack of exploration beyond the physical, measurable, tangible world.

While science is slowly coming around, especially the fields of physics and chemistry, by and large - it’s based on data, numbers, measurable units, and phenomena detected by available instrumentation.

It’s based largely in what is known as the physical world.

But there are two other worlds.

Healing Mental Illness with Shamanism - Is it possible? 

The Energetic and the Spirit World

As humans, we’re more than our DNA, our arms, our legs, our blood, our tissue, our organs, and our neurotransmitters.

All those bits and pieces are the result of moving, energetic parts. Our matter is made of energy. And even that is still touching on a concept that we can pin down, theoretically.

There’s also the human spirit. Our human spirit.

It’s who we are, beyond our molecules. Our personality, our mannerisms, the parts that make us, us. It’s the sparkle in our eye. The reason we are loved, is not because of our blood, but because of our Spirit.

In shamanism, these other parts of us are called our energetic and spiritual body.

Considering this, it can be said that when science looks into the solution to a problem, they only consider 1/3 of the picture - the 1/3 of us that is physical in nature.

The other 2/3 of the equation is largely unaddressed by science.

But, not by Shamans.

Because the energetic and spiritual bodies comprise 2/3 of the human experience and existence, it’s widely believed among shamans that there is no such thing as a purely physical illness, because we are never purely physical.

This includes mental illness.

Healing Mental Illness with Shamanism - Is it possible? 

All components interact - the physical, the energetic, and the spiritual, and in many ways, issues can boil and stew below the surface, in the energetic and spiritual bodies, before they ever make their presence known as physical symptoms that you notice.

Think parasites. If you’ve ever had one or even know about them, you know that many, many parasitic species are capable of festering, if you will, below the surface, unnoticed by you for often YEARS before the physical symptoms make a blip on our radar. Once they do, you head to the doctor, and learn that you were infected with an exotic parasite 10 years ago on a trip to Brazil.

When you remove the parasite, physical symptoms of the parasite’s presence disappear.

The parasite, in this example, is any issue that exists within your energetic or spiritual body that festers to create the physical symptoms that you see and feel. Think emotional trauma, pain, hurtful experiences, divorce, abuse, and family or relationship issues - all of these experiences have the propensity to harm us emotionally and spiritually, and when gone unhealed, they can create manifest as physical symptoms. 

Shamans work to heal the energetic and spiritual selves existing below the surface, they heal the parasite, and in doing this work, physical illness can be healed.

From the perspective of shamanism, the symptoms that western medicine classifies as mental illness are considered to be the physical part of the illness - but not all of it. The cause typically lies below the surface in the energetic and spiritual bodies. That’s where the healing lies, too. 

Healing those issues below the surface, and in turn, healing the issue on the surface, is the shamanic specialty.

Mental illness can be healed by shamanism.

Like any practitioner, most shamans will request that you uphold your end of the bargain. No healing can be done by the doctor if the patient does not agree to take the medicine or run the course of treatment.

There is a sacred deal that is made between practitioner and client, when both parties enter into the relationship with the agreement that they’ll do everything they can to regain your health. On your end, this means that you agree to stay on the healing track, and follow the recommendations that the practitioner designed for your optimum health success.

The type and scope of illness that shamanism can heal has no limit.

If physical symptoms are identified and addressed early enough, and the patient is willing, shamanism has the potential to heal on all planes, the physical illness that you notice, and the energetic and spiritual illness that you may not.

Science has cures for some things, but not healing of the Spirit.

That’s where shamanism comes in.


With love,


PS. All of my mental illness symptoms disappeared when I started to heal long standing emotional pain and began to accept and acknowledge my past. A long journey spurred by a life changing therapist. Her name is Michele and she is an Angel.

LAST UPDATED: February 17, 2015

Healing Mental Illness with Shamanism - Is it possible? 
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