Substance Use Research with Indigenous Communities: Exploring and Extending Foundational Principles of Community Psychology

Dennis C. Wendt, William E. Hartmann, James Allen, Jacob A. Burack, Billy Charles, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Colleen A. Dell, Daniel L. Dickerson, Dennis M. Donovan, Joseph P. Gone, Roisin M. O'Connor, Sandra M. Radin, Stacy M. Rasmus, Kamilla L. Venner, Melissa L. Walls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Many Indigenous communities are concerned with substance use (SU) problems and eager to advance effective solutions for their prevention and treatment. Yet these communities also are concerned about the perpetuation of colonizing, disorder-focused, stigmatizing approaches to mental health, and social narratives related to SU problems. Foundational principles of community psychology—ecological perspectives, empowerment, sociocultural competence, community inclusion and partnership, and reflective practice—provide useful frameworks for informing ethical community-based research pertaining to SU problems conducted with and by Indigenous communities. These principles are explored and extended for Indigenous community contexts through themes generated from seven collaborative studies focused on understanding, preventing, and treating SU problems. These studies are generated from research teams working with Indigenous communities across the United States and Canada—inclusive of urban, rural, and reservation/reserve populations as well as adult and youth participants. Shared themes indicate that Indigenous SU research reflects community psychology principles, as an outgrowth of research agendas and processes that are increasingly guided by Indigenous communities. At the same time, this research challenges these principles in important ways pertaining to Indigenous–settler relations and Indigenous-specific considerations. We discuss these challenges and recommend greater synergy between community psychology and Indigenous research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-158
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01DA021672; R01DA039912; R01DA13580, R34DA040064; R34DA040831; UG1DA013035; UG1DA013714); U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA020299; R01AA023754; R01AA11446; R21AA0016098; R21AA015541; R34AA024818); Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Project Grants 120535, 165014, 197500, and New Investigator Award 99375); U.S. National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (R24MD001626); U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH67281); U.S. National Center of General Medical Sciences (P20RR061430); Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research (Small Grant); and Associate Professors Support Fund from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan. With the exception of the first two authors, authors are listed in alphabetical order (indicating equal contribution).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Community Research and Action


  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • Community psychology
  • First Nations
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Research ethics
  • Substance use


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