Decolonial Psychology: Unraveling the Impact of Historical Oppression on Mental Health

Researchers exploring the effects of colonial mentality call for a decolonial approach to psychology, beyond the confines of traditional medical models.


Amidst growing calls for a more inclusive and context-aware approach to mental health, a decolonial approach to psychology is being developed that recognizes the deep-seated influence of historical oppression and discrimination on mental health, advocating for therapeutic methods that not only address individual symptoms but also confronts and challenges underlying social and historical injustices.

In a landmark chapter from the American Psychological Association’s latest book on Decolonial Psychology, researchers Hanna Rebadulla, Jonathan Guerrero, and E. J. R. Davids delve into the pervasive and often unseen influence of colonial mentality (CM) on the psychological well-being of marginalized racial and ethnic groups. This exploration marks a pivotal shift away from traditional medical models in psychology, rooting mental health issues in the broader context of historical injustices and colonial ideologies.

The authors, based at the University of Alaska Anchorage, write:

“Communities resisting their colonial status or dealing with the residual effects of colonization experience a psychological phenomenon commonly termed colonial mentality, a specific type of internalized oppression wherein colonized individuals find themselves suffering from internalized negative views, a loss of dignity, and an overall sense of inferiority towards the colonizer.”

The chapter signals a burgeoning shift in psychology that  challenges the narrow focus of conventional medical models in psychology by acknowledging the complex interplay between individual psychological processes and broader socio-historical factors.

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