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An exploratory study of community trauma and culturally responsive counseling with Chamorro clients

Patricia Taimanglo Pier, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Trauma is multidimensional and affects people directly as well as those of future generations. There is a profound absence in the literature of the community traumas experienced by the Chamorro people of Guam. The Chamorros are the indigenous people of Guam and have endured a history of near annihilation and subjugation by the Spanish (1521-1898), subsequent colonization by the American government (1898-present) and invasion and occupation by the Japanese military during World War II. Additional trauma has been experienced as a result of the Vietnam War. The challenge for counselors and therapists is to provide effective and culturally responsive counseling to their Chamorro clients. This qualitative study explored the impact of historic events on the Chamorro people through in-depth interviews with nine participants who have had extensive experience working with Chamorro clients. It also explored culturally responsive treatment strategies that may be helpful for those unfamiliar with this population. The findings highlighted cultural strengths as well as cultural barriers to treatment. Therefore, services provided to this population may be facilitated by an understanding of the history, culture, values, and beliefs of the Chamorro people of Guam. The study identifies a paradox of cultural adaptability. On the one hand, the culture's richness and vitality has enabled many of the people not only to survive but to thrive, in spite of a long history of traumatic experiences. On the other hand, it also presents a population in need of mental health services due to the stressors of cultural adjustment (e.g. loss of land and way of life, loss of language, identity confusion and substance abuse) and some of the same institutions and traditions that also serve as a source of strength. This study has implications for the training, research, and practice in the helping field. It includes suggestions for the treatment of trauma, community trauma, and intergenerational transmission of community trauma as well as assessment issues.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|History|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Pier, Patricia Taimanglo, "An exploratory study of community trauma and culturally responsive counseling with Chamorro clients" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841910.