Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Navigating Two Worlds: Experiences of Counsellors Who Integrate Aboriginal Traditional Healing Practices/Navigant Deux Mondes : Les Expériences De Conseillers Qui Intègrent Les Pratiques Traditionnelles De Guérison Autochtone

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Navigating Two Worlds: Experiences of Counsellors Who Integrate Aboriginal Traditional Healing Practices/Navigant Deux Mondes : Les Expériences De Conseillers Qui Intègrent Les Pratiques Traditionnelles De Guérison Autochtone

Article excerpt

Tliere has been much discussion in the literature about the often inappropriate and inadequate mental health services provided to North American Aboriginal peoples (e.g., Gone, 2004; Kirmayer, Brass, & Valaskakis, 2009). Critics (e.g., McCormick, 2009; Poonwassie, 2006; Stewart, 2008; Trimble, 1981) argue that conventional psychological interventions fail to take into account the holistic understanding of health and the central place of spirituality7 that persist in indigenous1 communities. This in turn results in underutilization of services and early termination of therapy (Duran, 1990; Jim tunen & Morin, 2004). Considering the high prevalence of mental health-related problems in Aboriginal communities (e.g., Kirmayer, Tait, & Simpson, 2009), this situation poses a serious concern.

Traditional forms of healing subsist in many7 Aboriginal communities, sometimes substituting for inadequate mental healthcare and often used concurrently with mainstream services (Waldram, 1993). Traditional healing practices of the North American indigenous peoples include, among others, talking circles, sharing circles, smudging, and Medicine Wheel teachings (France, 1997; Portman & Garrett, 2006). These rituals reflect a holistic outlook on health and emphasize connectedness to the community (LaFromboise, Trimble, & Mohatt, 1990; McCormick, 1996; Poonwassie & Charter, 2005). Large survey studies (Beals et al., 2006; Gurley et al, 2001; Kim & Kwok, 1998; Novins et al, 2004; Wyrostok & Paulson, 2000) as well as interviews, focus groups, and case study accounts (Canales, 2004; Iwasaki, Bartlett, & O'Neil, 2005; McCormick, 2005; Stewart, 2008; Waldram, 1993; Wieman, 2006) suggest that there is a revival and an increased utilization of traditional healing in Aboriginal communities.

As a response to the shortcomings of mainstream mental healthcare and in light of traditional healing resurgence, scholars and clinicians have argued for increased collaboration between mental health professionals and healers, and for integrating traditional practices when counselling Aboriginal clients (Duran, 1990; Heinrich, Corbine, & Tilomas, 1990). At first sight, such integration represents a straightforward solution to the issues of service underutilization and premature termination. However, the worldview that informs Aboriginal traditional teachings differs from the one underlying Western psychological practice (France, 1997; McCabe, 2007). Therefore, the nature of this integration remains unclear. The counselling literature reflects this ambiguity.

Apart from a small number of case studies that report incorporating healing rituals into conventional counselling interventions (Heilbron & Guttman, 2000; Wilbur, Wilbur, Garrett, & Yuhas, 2001) and a few papers proposing integration of ceremonies into individual therapy (Garrett & Garrett, 2002; Robbins, 2001) and group therapy (Garrett & Crutchfield, 1 997; Garrett, Garrett, & Brotherton, 2001; Walkingstick Garrett & Osborne, 1995), general conceptualization of traditional healing integration in counselling and psychotherapy is lacking. Despite the consensus that incorporating traditional healing is fundamental to providing adequate services to Aboriginal peoples, there appears to be very7 little discussion on how mental health professionals can integrate traditional practices in their work. We believe that this gap in clinical literature represents a significant impediment to improving mental healthcare for Aboriginal communities.

However, a number of Canadian mental health professionals routinely integrate Aboriginal healing practices with counselling. Their work has received little academic attention, and their efforts have not been documented. In this study, we sought to explore the ways in which these professionals integrate Western counselling and traditional healing. By interviewing individuals who practice integration, the study aimed to (a) describe their experiences in terms ? …

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