I have had the honour and privilege of working within the First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations throughout my career as a psychotherapist. I use a predominantly relational, emotion and solution-focused approach in working with clients. Throughout my ethical courses and training, both 12 years ago in my Masters Degree, as well as subsequent conferences and workshops over the years, I have been able to create an ethical, foundational way of thinking and being as a mental health practitioner. However, the multi-cultural work I do involved learning ethics on the job and within the urban Aboriginal community. Due to the trauma I encountered extensively within this community, the ethics of working with clients that have experienced complex trauma, helped and led the ways at times, but are only a beginning. I truly believe it is necessary to create a new ethical code to practice effectively within this wonderful community.
In order to be a trusted mental health provider within the urban Aboriginal community, it is important to become a visible presence in that community. When invited I attended ceremonies, Pow Wows and traditional Teachings. This allowed Aboriginal people to see me as a presence, interact with them and observe me with other people and Elders within their community. This is an important piece as a mental health provider because Aboriginal people have every reason not to trust me, as a Caucasian person that is part of mainstream Canadian culture. There is also a different relationship with “authority” as traditional Elders and leaders live within and are a part of the community. There has also been many years of racism, oppression and subsequent intergenerational trauma, all impacting the Aboriginal relationship with “authority”, especially in mainstream, Canadian culture. When your face is seen in the community and people begin to chat with you, word of mouth spreads quickly. While I believe word of mouth endorsements are powerful among all peoples, it is especially important when working within oppressed communities.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA