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Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts: Inaugural Survey of the Field

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2023
38 pages

This document informs of the history of Tribal to Healing Wellness Courts; their structure, objectives, and guidelines; their effectiveness and capacity; and reviews the current research on those courts, with suggestions for future research.


This document provides insights into challenges facing American Indian/Alaska Native individuals regarding treatment for substance use disorders, and the efforts of Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts (THWC), also known as Wellness Courts, as culturally appropriate treatment responses. The document starts with a history of THWC development, and continues on to discuss their structure, objectives, and guidelines, stating that they mirror many aspects of the original drug treatment court model. Other traditional treatment modalities in THWC programs may include restorative talking circles, peacemaking ceremonies, and/or visits with a healer/medicine man. Sanctions and incentives may also be culturally specific. The document acknowledges the lack of scholarly research examining the effectiveness of THWC programs in the United States, and describes the authors’ THWC survey, aimed at better understanding how these courts are structured, how they operate, their outcomes, challenges they face, and resources they need. The survey also had the goal of providing data on the number of individuals participating in these programs nationally, and of identifying and monitoring trends within the field. The document lays out the survey methodology and results, and discusses implications for future research and practice.

Date Published: March 1, 2023