The main focus of Neo-shamanic practices and spiritual techniques is that of transformation, to change or shift the mental, emotional, and physical aspects that have caused the seeker pain and move them toward, healing. Unlike the traditional shamans who performed their practices for and in the presence of the community, many neo-shaman practices and spiritual techniques are conducted in private, where one focuses on their individual needs and personal healing. While in traditional Shamanism the novice learned his or her techniques from an older shaman, Neo-shamanic novices learn their techniques and skills in a workshop setting. On some level these weekend gatherings create pseudo-communities where people of like mind can share their experiences.
The techniques and practices are more often learned from reading books such as The Way of the Shaman or Way of Shamanism, which are available at popular New Age bookstores and shops. The path of the neo-shaman is an easy path compared with the dangerous and uncertain process of the traditional shaman. For some Neo-shamanic groups there is no demand to become an apprentice, making a commitment to serve the community. Others such as the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society protect the teachings and techniques from those who are not committed to their own healing and the healing of their community. Once the techniques and skills have been taught and practiced within the workshop setting, the neo-shaman explores the trance states brought on by drumming or fasting within their own personal ritual. Psychedelic drugs are discouraged and many practices resemble meditative techniques. The focus of the trancestate is the same as with traditional Shamanism. In trance, the neo-shaman attempts to reach the world of spirits and engage in communication with the spirits in order to bring a sense of awareness and understanding to a particular concern or crisis. This awareness and understanding helps the neo-shaman, whether for themselves or others, to facilitate healing and balance. In addition, the techniques and skills that the neo-shaman learns promote their sense of personal power and self-mastery. The process of death and rebirth of the personality psyche is also pronounced in Neo-shamanism as in traditional Shamanism. The death of the ego allows the neo-shaman to reach a higher level of awareness, an awareness of one's the spiritual side.
It is believed within many Neo-shamanic groups that promoting spiritual awareness and knowledge facilitated through Neo-shamanic techniques of trance states elevates healing, increasing the person's wellness. The neo-shaman's main concern is that of healing, incorporating the healing of spiritual causes of illness and disease with more scientific and biomedical causes. In the modern world today spiritual causes of illness are not well-received within the health care field, and therefore, Neo-shamanism is often interpreted as a form of therapy.
Many of the Neo-shamanic techniques and practices resemble Native American practices such as the sweat lodge or vision quest. Many Native American people are upset about the "borrowing" of their cultural spiritual practices and actively oppose the teachings of Neo-shamanism. Neo-shamanism, while aware of the opposition, strives to portray itself as a diverse, nonreligious, and universal spiritual movement, which aims to bring healing and spirituality to the modern world.
Although Shamanic techniques have been said to exist for thousands of years in many different cultures, Neo-shamanism is still a recent phenomenon. The lines are often blurred between Shamanism and Neo-shamanism, and tensions remain between what is appropriate to borrow from a culture that one is not one's own. But in many ways Neo-shamanism is an attempt by those who feel that they have lost their cultural spirituality in this modern secular era to revitalize a fundamental human desire to communicate with the world of spirits and heal themselves and their community.