Self-efficacy and resilience among American Indian adults: A study of successful American Indian adult survivors of life stress/trauma

Martin Michael Cutler
School of Education, University of South Dakota
August, 2006


The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1995) in American Indian trauma survivors who have achieved subsequent life success. The study examined the socially-driven process of resilience in recovery from trauma (Masten & Coatsworth, 1998). The phenomenology process emphasized the trauma survivor's unique experience of trauma resolution through a traditional American Indian healing continuum.

A phenomenological analysis model defined by Moustakas (1994) was used as a methodological basis for this study. Data were generated from ten in-depth interviews with adult American Indian trauma survivors who were identified as individuals embodying traditional values and noteworthy for distinguished service in the Armed Forces, education, community, or governmental affairs, or status and/or participation in spiritual or religious activities. Themes, textural descriptions, and structural descriptions were derived which led to the essence of their experiences and the role self-efficacy played in these transformations.

The themes revealed included: (a) the necessity of self-efficacy in the resilience narratives; (b) the unique features of resilience experiences among successful American Indian people; (c) recognition of factors influencing survival; (d) recognition of the interpersonal nature of healing; (e) the prevalence of social interest as a recursive theme among these American Indians; (f) clear movement beyond the problem-saturated narrative; (g) recognition that self-efficacy is teachable; and (h) recognition of differences across gender. Phenomenological reconstruction revealed a lifelong process of recursive movement beginning with intervention and healing, then coming full circle when these leaders recognized and utilized their own healing powers by caring for and investing in others.

The results of the study found American Indian trauma survivors' experiences of self-efficacious trauma resolution to be interpersonal, solution-focused and recursive. These findings have implications for the inclusion and integration of phenomenological meaning reconstruction theory in counselor education, counseling practice, and self-efficacy and resilience research, as well as an expansion of cultural dialogue that acknowledges the interpersonal and cultural nature of trauma resolution.