Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Michael Schock, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Tony Bibus III, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Joyce Kaplan, MSW


Approximately three million Cambodian (Khmer) people were victims of political genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 inside Cambodia. A significant number of survivors of this holocaust immigrated to Minnesota. The psychological trauma of living through the genocide by the Khmer Rouge has caused many Khmer immigrants to seek mental health services. Many of these seeking mental health services have been diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Two groups of Khmer healers currently live in Minnesota: the Buddhist monk and Kru healer. Traditional Khmer immigrants suffering from PTSD symptoms may be inclined to seek help from the Buddhist monk and/or the Kru healer. Khmer people are also being treated by mental health professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers.

This thesis presents research designed to explore the healing methodology used by Khmer traditional healers in treating suicidal thoughts, memory loss, and nightmares; these are common PTSD symptoms. The purpose of this study was to more fully understand the healing process engaged in by one Buddhist monk and one Kru healer. Findings from this study will be useful for social workers, psycholog'sts, and psychiatrists in the development of culturally competent treatments for survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide who still suffer from PTSD.

The Buddhist monk recommended that by understanding the family roles and religious beliefs of the Khmer people, social workers will be better prepared to assist the refugees in their resettlement process as well as help them deal with their past trauma and loss. In contrast, the Kru healer does not nor will not recommend that his clients seek help from Western professionals, especially the professionals in the medical field. Mutual education and respect are both therapeutic and essential to delivering appropriate service as a team. In order to help Khmer survivors more successfully, we must work together to find an approach that is acceptable to the client and does not violate traditional values and belief systems. Finally, the Western professionals must remember that cross-cultural teamwork takes time, patience, flexibility, and cultural tolerance.


SC 11.MSW.1997.Thach.C

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Social Work Commons