By Angela Kennedy

Senior Staff Writer, Counseling Today

American Counseling Association

First appeared in Counseling Today, Feb. 2006, Volume 48/Issue 8.

Catherine Swan Reimer has worked with Native Americans for more than 25 years, constantly taking notes on what has succeeded and what has failed in her dealings with this culturally rich population.

Through the decades, Reimer has served as an independent consultant for businesses, universities, schools and mental health agencies. She has worked as a counselor in all grade levels and has taught and counseled graduate university students. She also has her own practice and was a clinical supervisor for two treatment centers. In addition, she authored the book Counseling the Inupiat Eskimo, which is used by the University of Alaska. Now Reimer is drawing on all her experiences counseling Native Americans and pouring that knowledge into Swancircle Inc., an innovative counseling training program for those who work with American Indians and Alaska Natives. … read more.






With grateful acknowledgement to Mrs. Vernita Vestal who accompanied and served as an interpreter for this research and all the Inupiat participants from the villages of Village #1, Village #2, Village #3, and village #4.A special tribute to a female elder , one of the participants, who passed away in the Spring of 2002.

 May 15, 2002


For the Inupiat people from Northern Alaska, spirituality is inseparably inter-twined with the concept of Personal Well Being (PWB) (Reimer, 1996, 1999). An important aspect of PWB for an Inupiat person is to be well grounded in their spirituality, which includes a strong belief in a personal God, and to be in harmony with their surroundings, their community, and their environment. This, they believe, protects them from illness, and negative spiritual forces (Reimer, 2000). The purpose of this study is twofold: (1) to investigate the relationship between suicide, alcohol abuse and spirituality, as understood by the Inupiat when they speak of PWB translated as happiness or aarigaa, both as an explanatory model of illness (Kleinman, 1991), and as part of an Inupiat person’s worldview; and (2) to investigate the protection and nurturing factor of aarigaa which includes community involvement and spirituality (Reimer 1996; 1999) in relation to alcohol abuse. This study was funded through a minority grant from NIAAA and sponsored by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ People Awakening Project.  ….read more.

The Circle of Swans:  

Journey of a Native American Counselor

Catherine Swan Reimer, Ed.D.

Listed in the following Category/SubCategory:

Native American / Culture

Self-Improvement / Addiction & Recovery

Biography & Memoirs / Scholars & Specialists

ENDORSEMENTS BELOW: Three respected professors and researchers.

Endorsement by Dr. Joseph Trimble:

The Circle of Swans:

Journey of a Native American Counselor


Catherine Swan Reimer

Wonderfully organized and thoughtfully constructed this comprehensive engaging book will be a major source for understanding the complexities associated with providing mental health services for counseling American Indians and Alaska Natives for years to come. Catherine Swan Reimer’s vast counseling experience and her intimate knowledge contribute to provide an incisive narrative account of her journey into the multicultural counseling field with an emphasis on working competently and effectively with Indian and Native clients. At the end of the insightful book one feels a deeper appreciation of what may be gained in working and collaborating with indigenous clients in counseling settings. To accomplish her ambitious goals she asks the reader to rethink the conventional counseling process through use of stories and touching examples; at times she takes the reader on strange journeys that result in insights that often open new revelations about the healing process. Indeed the author encourages the reader to think deeply about the realities of the indigenous groups that people write about and how mental health services and research can be effectively and sensitively provided and conducted.

With a wealth of interesting material and a clear accommodating writing style anyone who delves deeply into the chapters will emerge as a more informed student and practitioner. The author’s chapters are written with authority and confidence as they pull together the rich story of the deep meaning of culture and it’s relationship to mental health. With a wealth of interesting material and a clear accommodating yet sufficiently rigorous framework anyone who has studied these pages will come out a richer person. The written voice is confident and authoritative. The text is clear and convincing.  Anyone who has worked closely with indigenous populations will be most impressed with the completeness and thoroughness and ease of reading of this resource. The strength of this book rests on the author’s experience and sharing of practical advice to readers. Most important, the book is an excellent reference for introducing practitioners and students to multicultural counseling field as it is loaded with useful tools for multicultural mental health treatment. Anyone who is curious about the depth and scope of providing counseling services to indigenous populations should keep this book close by, as it will prove to be a valuable resource.

Joseph E. Trimble, PhD

Distinguished University Professor

Professor of Psychology-Western Washington University

The Circle of Swans

An Endorsement

This book reports the professional journey of a Native American counselor, who, although educated in mainstream American universities, found herself, once on the job, lacking in skills necessary to be therapeutic for her cultural peers. The description of her search for cross-cultural understandings and techniques is a fascinating read. Her discussion of how American Indian clients relate to the natural, social, personal, and spiritual environments is extremely beneficial. Dr. Catherine S. Reimer contributes significantly to the large literature on cross-cultural therapy. Her insight on how to integrate nature and spirituality should be especially helpful to counselors, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, and related professionals who may sometime feel that they are being educated in a “spirit free” zone.

Clemmont E. Vontress, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Counseling

George Washington University                           

The  Circle  of  Swans

An  Endorsement

Using  the  spectrum  of  Native  American  beliefs  to  enrich  general  

counseling  has  been  Dr..  Catherine  Reimer's  lifelong  mission.  This

perspective  leads  Dr.  Reimer  to  advise  counselors  to  ask  this  important  question, “Who  is  your  client ?” Subsidiary  questions include :  What  are  the  challenges  and  problems  he/she  brings  to  the  counseling session ? Is  there  an  identifiable  pattern  in  dealing with  these  problems ?  What  is this  client's  perspective on  his/her world ?  How  may  I ,  as  a  counselor,  use  this  world  perspective  to access  the  ideas,  beliefs  and values which  each  client  inevitably  brings  to  each  counseling  session ?  Dr. Reimer moved  far  beyond this basic client  identity  and  world  view  to   “What  is  the  Native  American  world view ?”  Her  extensive study  of Native American  culture has  informed  her  distinguished  career.  She  writes beautifully  about  the role  of dreams and  interpreting  what  they  mean, about  vision quests  and  shamans, about  various  symbol systems all  of which  invite  readers  to  enter  the  Native  American  world   that  she reconstructs  for  the uninitiated.  The Native  American  context  she  provides  is  especially  poignant  when  she tells  the  story  of reverent beliefs about  Mother  Nature,  the  sun  and  moon,  their  light  and shadows,  of  the symbolic  meaning of  various animals and especially important is the  story  of  striving  to  live  in  peaceful accord with Mother Nature.

Mother  Nature  is  not  ours  to  own   or  to  abuse.  When  we  respect  its bounty  we  give  thanks  for  the  world in  which  we  are privileged  to  live.  These   are  among  the  many personal ,  social  and  cultural  ideas , beliefs and  values  {  both  conscious  and unconscious }  which comprise  the Native  American  world  view.  Dr. Reimer  suggests  that  counselors welcome  the  soul,  not  as a metaphor,  but  as  a  real  force  in  daily  life. The  spiritual  is  not  a  casual  symbol or  ceremony  invoked  now and  then.  It  is  the  ultimate meaning  of  life. This  brief  review  began  with  know  your  client.  Dr.  Reimer's lifelong  study  leads  her  to  conclude :  To  know a  Native American  client  is  to accept  and  to  honor  his/her deeply  spiritual  world  view  with   its  myriad nuances  of  meaning.

Martha  Norman  Rashid

Professor  Emerita

George  Washington  University   

Buy it Now at

Counseling the Inupiat Eskimo

(This book is out of print but you can find it  for sale by resellers online).


Multicultural counseling has been likened to a ‘‘fourth force’’ in the general field of counseling psychology, a force that is equal to the impact that such disciplines as psychoanalysis, behavioral modification, and humanistic approaches have had on the field. Multicultural counseling or cross-cultural counseling began in the early 1970s and has rapidly become a vitally important and influential perspective in the 1990s. The number of textbooks, journal articles, and monographs dealing with the topic have increased considerably; where there were a meager handful of articles and textbooks available in the 1970s and 1980s, the combined list now numbers well into the hundreds. Catherine Swan Reimer’s small book now joins the distinguished list of original works in the field and undoubtedly adds a very significant perspective to the literature—a perspective grounded in the voices and stories of the Inupiat-speaking indigenous, native people of Alaska.

Those familiar with the multicultural counseling literature know that most of the emphasis is placed on responding to cultural and ethnic differences. Many of the articles and chapters focus on lists of what and what not to do when working with a client who clearly has a cultural worldview different from that of the counselor. Other writings emphasize the importance of being sensitive to cultural differences and often provide ample justification for the assertions and recommendations. In this small but powerful work, Reimer presents information that many in the field have been recommending for some time—a native view of lifeways and thoughtways that guide and influence the meaning of psychological well-being. All societies have beliefs about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. Yet the view of the dominant culture in the Western world dominates the counseling literature. The concept of well-being ingrained in most counselor education programs, however, may not necessarily coincide with views espoused by would-be clients from aboriginal cultures; a small segment of the literature abounds with examples of counselor–client mismatches stemming from differences about the goals of the counseling process. To avoid some of these mismatches it would seem then that counselors working with clients from aboriginal communities would take the time to learn about local views of well-being and the contexts in which they occur. Reimer is to be heartily congratulated for her dedication, perseverance, and commitment to introducing the voices and stories of the Inupiat-speaking people of Alaska. She has taken the stories and voices from her small sample and cast them against the writings and views of contemporary scholars and counselors to provide a rich perspective on the balance between the two worlds. Reimer also is to be congratulated for using an ethnographic procedure for collecting her data in lieu of relying on some formal survey questionnaire. Through her interviews, she skillfully managed to capture the spirit and richness of her respondents’ stories and how they are linked to ahregah and nagooruk, two similar concepts of Inupiat psychological well-being. Through her ethnographic approach grounded in a native worldview, Reimer has set a tone for future research on the topic. There are thousands of stories waiting to be told and recorded that speak to the way aboriginal people view their well-being in the context of their community and geography. And we can hope that the stories can help us better understand ways to provide counseling and helping services that are consistent with the client’s world- and historical view. Currently the voices of the Inupiat speak to all of us as they have plenty to teach about happiness, joy, sharing, peace, relationships, and community.

Joseph E. Trimble


This book could not be a reality without the generous sharings of the Inupiat people. Thank you very much. Thank you John Reimer for encouraging me, editing, and listening to all my ideas. There are three university professors who made this book possible because of their direction, encouragement, and kindness:

Dr. Martha Rashid, Dr. Clemmont E. Vontress, and Dr. Eugene Kelly. I would like to also thank Dr. Joseph Trimble and Paul Pedersen for providing direction and for not giving up on the idea that my dissertation could become a book for counselors. To Colleen Engle, who not only edited the final version of this manuscript, but kept me on time lines so I could complete this book, thank you for your patience and persistence. I thank my fishing buddies who took me to Seward, where I first experienced the fish taking the bait and giving itself to me without a struggle. Thank you for explaining to me about the relationship of ahregah and the environment. To my God, all my other family members, children, and friends who continually support my personal well-being, thank you!


Books by Dr. Catherine Swan Reimer