Ideals of counseling practice: Therapeutic insights from an Indigenous first nations-controlled treatment program

J Couns Psychol. 2023 Oct;70(5):451-463. doi: 10.1037/cou0000673. Epub 2023 May 18.


Indigenous Canadians suffer disproportionately from mental health concerns tied to histories of colonization, including exposure to Indian Residential Schools. Previous research has indicated that preferred therapies for Indigenous populations fuse traditional cultural practices with mainstream treatment. The present study comprised 32 interviews conducted with Indigenous administrators, staff, and clients at a reserve-based addiction treatment center to identify community-driven and practical therapeutic solutions for remedying histories of coercive colonial assimilation. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews revealed that counselors tailored therapy through cultural preferences, including the use of nonverbal expression, culturally appropriate guidance, and alternative delivery formats. Additionally, they augmented mainstream therapeutic activities with Indigenous practices, including the integration of Indigenous concepts, traditional practices, and ceremonial activities. Collectively, this integration of familiar counseling approaches and Indigenous cultural practices in response to community priorities resulted in an innovative instance of therapeutic fusion that may be instructive for cultural adaptation efforts in mental health treatment for Indigenous populations and beyond. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Counseling*
  • Culturally Competent Care* / ethnology
  • Culturally Competent Care* / methods
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Indigenous Canadians*
  • Mental Health* / ethnology
  • Schools

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