Tag Archives: cultural diversity

Indigenous History – Towards Honouring and Healing

Posted by: Gloria Pynn BA, BEd, MEd, CCC, RPsych on August 13, 2019 11:42 am

In recent times, we see more and more reflection on culture, diversity and our history in Canada. I think we all talk a lot about cultural celebration and respecting all religions and cultures, but how do we translate talk into action? How can we not just “talk diversity” but move to true “inclusiveness”? Diversity focuses on differences whereas, inclusiveness intentionally welcomes  and celebrates diversity. Canada is diverse but we need to really focus on inclusiveness to thrive as a community.  In very simple terms, diversity is who we are whereas inclusiveness is what we do.

In my opinion, cultural appreciation has to start by acknowledging our collective Canadian history and the experiences (good and bad) of all our people, children and families. In saying that, we must honor our Indigenous history and the lived experiences that have created much inherent fallout for mental health as well. This is the first step in any commitment to moving forward toward reconciliation and true support.

So how do we do this? Again, the psychologist and thinker in me, sees the first step as being to feel and immerse ourselves as much as possible by listening, reading, watching and discussing those experiences with those who “hold that history”. That has been one of my goals over the last year: to take time and reflect, participate and hopefully, understand a little better the rich culture but also the many shameful parts of our history. We all own a part in these stories of Indigenous children and families and of all Canadians who allowed this narrative to occur.

The following are just a few of the amazing connections I have made over the last year to better feel and understand these issues. As often is the case, music touched me. The artistry of the seven young women of Eastern Owl in the song “Baby” transports you to the days of Residential Schools. Give it, and their full album Qama’si – “a call to action” a listen by click the image below.

“Baby” by Eastern Owl is a tribute to survivors of the Canadian Residential School System, and their families. It features the word “baby” in the three Indigenous languages of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As indicated in the YouTube description, “for more information on residential schools and their devastating impact on generations of people, please speak to Indigenous people in your community, or contact the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada at http://www.trc.ca/resources.html

I then decided to get out there and attend various events, like the Sunrise Ceremony in Bannerman Park, St. John’s NL to celebrate the Summer Solstice with prayers, drumming, singing, a “smudging” ceremony as well as the prayers, giving and laying of tobacco on a monument to Shanawdithit, the last Beothuk in NL to mark her death in 1829. The prayers, songs and “smudging” ceremonies themselves were open, inviting, family oriented but also very somber and respectful of hurt that accompanies such history. In the “smudging” ceremonies, healing is offered to all those needing it, in any way. It was very moving, beautiful, and absolutely inclusive.

It is vital to speak and listen to those who have experienced these unique stories such as life in residential schools. To listen to Inuk Elder Emma Reelis speaking and giving prayers at events such as ceremonies that honour Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women is truly amazing. Personally, having a first cousin murdered, these words are heartbreaking but it is reality and these are stories that have to be told and stories that must be truly heard.

Also, the integration of such elders in programming for Social Workers is invaluable for insight and understanding as well: https://gazette.mun.ca/campus-and-community/visiting-aboriginal-elders/

While honouring and connecting with the atrocities in our history, we must also acknowledge and absolutely celebrate the success and resiliency of Indigenous peoples such as Eastern Owl, Elder Emma Reelis, and Brian Pottle Engineer and his wife Megan Pottle, both amazing advocates in Newfoundland and Labrador. The following is Brian Pottle’s CBC interview, as a powerful Indigenous role model in NL and his need to give back. He is one of numerous talented Indigenous peoples and amazing children that can heal, and will grow to develop and shine bright.

There is also great honoring in creating more opportunities for awareness, learning and understanding like Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Indigenous Bachelor of Education with its first graduates in 2019.  The following article looks at this innovative, although time limited program.

These are just a few humble personal reflections I make as a psychologist, counsellor and a fellow Canadian and human being to help the healing process. I truly believe there are concrete ways that we can all build true empathy to honour and “hold our history” together to move forward and create a new narrative for our national story.

A saying I have always strongly disliked (because I hold no hate for nothing or no person) was “On a go forward basis…” My experience is that we must honour and “feel” our collective past to build any different future. The past and all stories must be shared, heard, held and honoured. Only then, can we begin to write a new narrative that is fully informed, inclusive and Canadian.

Think, talk, and always take care,

Gloria Pynn
B.A., B.Ed., Diploma in Behaviour Therapy, M. Ed Registered Psychologist C.C.C.

Gloria is a School Psychologist in St. John’s NL and owns a private counselling and consulting practice called PAX Psychological Services Inc. It is Gloria’s belief that we all need to support one another in life, wherever and however we can, to find happiness and peace. PAX is a place where she hopes to help others on that journey. We are all only “passengers” in this life, looking to find our own “peace”.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Looking Inside My Cultural Fabric

Posted by: Priya Senroy on June 15, 2015 8:17 am

I consider myself to be a global citizen…meaning plant me anywhere, I will assimilate and survive, I will grow my own roots, embrace the culture and thrive as a counsellor….I thought that all clients will seek my professional services and no one will discriminate me because of my accent, my skin color, my ethnicity , my age or how I dress myself in ethic wear…Well….on the contrary, I find myself targeted….by clients who want to come and see me only just because we look the same, we speak the same language and we know where we are coming from. It does not matter to them globe-673005_640that I am not an expert in what they are looking for….it’s my accent that comforts them, that assures them that they will be heard and not be marginalized. It’s a sense of belonging which is creating therapeutic space, a therapeutic relationship and ultimately helping the clients to deal with their concerns. So many times I am hearing in a diverse work culture, that what matters is your competency but that’s not the case, it’s about the cultural competence, it’s the connection. Even I see when I burst into the common mother tongue and explain the confidentiality or complex process. It s such an interesting time in my head, when I have to think in English and translate the essence in another language. For me being culturally diverse in my practice is more than just understanding the commonality, it’s about conveying the appropriate message within the context – sometimes translating emotional languages and words which do not exist in my clients. It’s also about recognizing and embracing my own (and sometimes inviting clients) into my cultural diaspora to make that connection.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

When Family Ties Are Too Tight

Posted by: Farah Lodi on March 13, 2015 8:23 am

These days I’m working with several clients from collectivist family -oriented cultures. For them, the importance of family values translates into extended family having the same power, influence, rights and responsibilities as nuclear family. When family ties are harmonious then kinship is an excellent source of support and security. But when there’s conflict in the clan, then inter-personal relationships can be harder to navigate because of demanding relatives. Usually these are enmeshed relationships in a very large family unit. It’s like there’s a fire burning in your living room, where everyone congregates. You can’t escape it, you are trapped, and you feel the heat no matter what.

puzzle-210786_640For clients with this world view, a family feud centered around a distant uncle can have the same distressing effect as conflict with a spouse or brother. These clients may rely on external validation from family, have weak personal boundary strength, and easily “catch” emotions from others. The rights that one accords to parents, spouse and siblings are linked to a much wider circle of people. Stressful situations with an aunt, sister-in-law or even cousin who culturally qualify as near and dear- can lead to psychological issues for whoever is at the receiving end of demands, criticism or complaints. Hyper- arousal and elevated cortisol levels can be as easily triggered by distant relatives, as by immediate family. This can activate automatic negative thoughts of “I’m not good enough” with core beliefs emphasizing that “family should come first”. When there’s a lot of trouble the realization that “my family is not happy or normal” can result in unhealthy comparisons, feelings of helplessness and insecurity. In many cultures, when there’s strife in the family, this is a source of shame. These clients then have to deal with guilt and self-worth issues.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Counselling Obtsacles for the Immigrant

Posted by: Hailing Huang on August 30, 2013 2:41 pm

The obstacles of receiving counselling service that many people are facing today such as high cost, long waiting list, and distant location are also the obstacles for immigrant population.  As for the immigrant population, there is another obstacle that they have to face is that  they lack of the knowledge about counselling. Most of immigrant do not receive or heard of this kind of services in the countries that they came from; counselling services are an unfamiliar term for them to grab.

During the past 30 years, counselling topics have branched out to many areas of life issues such as: parenting, communication skills, self-esteem and others. Counselling services no longer focuses on pathological issues, dysfunctional patterns, personality disorders or mood disorders, depression and anxieties. At the same time, the immigrant population does not have the same lever of understanding about counselling as North American’s populations have. 

In order to invite immigrants to receive counselling, immigrants have to be educated first.  Education also means focusing on prevention instead of intervention, with the knowledge of self care, they could integrate into local culture more smoothly with fewer struggles and become more efficient in the workforce for society.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Report Cards – To Praise or Not to Praise?

Posted by: Hailing Huang on July 9, 2013 4:05 pm

The end of June has arrived, and with it is the end of another school year; kids bring home their report cards with joy or with sorrow. Chinese parents, whether they are in China or in Canada, always seem attentive to their children’s report card.

A few days ago, I spoke with a friend in Fuzhou China, she said: “This is the last year of my son’s elementary school, even though he performed well during the whole school year, the last exam will determine which school he will go to for junior high.” The last exam means a lot for students and their parents in China. Yesterday, a local Chinese parent, asked me: “Do you mind if your daughter get Bs?”  It seems Chinese parents are always on the alert when it comes to their children’s grades.

This phenomenon reminds me of Amy Chua, the author of ‘Tiger Mom’, when she said, that she demands excellence from her daughters; she assumes the strength rather than fragility. We may not agree with Amy Chua’s harsh discipline, but the reason behind her action may ring a bell for most Chinese mothers: the common desire of having high academic expectations for their children.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Spirited Child and Tiger Mother

Posted by: Hailing Huang on May 23, 2013 4:34 pm

Two years ago, Amy Chua author of” Battle Hymn of Tiger mother” stirred up a heated debate about the Eastern parenting vs the Western parenting

For immigrant parents this raises an important question that requires conscious reflection and deliberation: how do we parent? Some argue that we should not judge the different approaches, only the outcome counts. Yet as responsible parents, we do want to assess the potential outcomes of each approach. Parenting is not only an art , it is also a science.

‘Spirited Child’ is a label that Mary Kurcinka gives to the ‘difficult child’. Naming is the way we view our child, when we name them as difficult, they become a problem; while when we name them as ‘Spirited Child’, we see them as gifted. This is a strength based approach.

In her book, ‘Raising your Spirited Child’ Mary Kurchina illustrates the nine types of temperaments of a ‘spirited child’.  Through vivid examples and a refreshingly positive viewpoint, Mary Kurcinka offers parents strategies for handling their spirited child.  The description of spirited child reminded me of Amy Chua’s portrayal of her second daughter Lulu in ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’. Lulu exhibited many of the characteristics of a spirited child. For instance, she displays high levels of persistency, intensity, and perceptiveness… I wonder, if Amy Chua had understood her daughter’s temperaments from this viewpoint, would she have treated her second daughter differently, with less harshness.

As Mary said “identifying your child’s temperamental traits is like taking an X ray. It helps you to understand what is going on inside of your child so you can understand how he is reacting to the world around him and why. Once you understand the reasons behind his response, you can learn to work with them.”

Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”, is a mother of two daughters and a professor from Yale University. Although Amy Chua was born and raised in America, she insisted that she would apply a traditional Chinese parenting approach, a style which is rigid and strict.  She demanded excellence from her daughters. For instance; they could not attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch TV or play computer games, be in a school play or get any grade less than an A.

Many people have criticized Ms Chua’s dictatorship style of parenting. But Amy Chua says that was the way her parents raised her and her three sisters. And all of them felt grateful for what their parents had given them.  Her diligent and rigid approach only backfired with her second daughter Lulu. At the age of 13 Lulu’ rebelled against her mother’s demands. This took the form of shouting at her mother in public “I hate my life! I hate you!”  It was at this point that Ms Chua says she decided to retreat.

On the one hand we do  admire Amy Chua’s courageous  candor with disclosing her shadow  side of parenting,  and it is through her disclosure of ‘ dirty laundry” ,  that we are able to know and learn  about her approach and reflect on  our approach. On the other hand, from Amy Chua’s experience, we also learn that there is no universal way of parenting. One approach may work out well in one generation or with one child; it may not work out well for another child. As much as we want our children to be adaptable to the new environment, we, as parents need to be open minded and adjust our approach accordingly.

During the last thirty years, many valuable parenting books are available for today’s parents, such as John Gottman’s ‘ Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child,’ Dr Thomas Gordon, P.E.T (Parents Effective Training), John Gray’s Children Are From Heaven, Michael Popkin’s Active Parenting Today, and Mary Kurcinka ‘s Spirited Child, and many more.   We have gained more knowledge about the various behaviors, cognitive functioning, or their emotional needs of our children. Updated knowledge has helped us to better understand our children’s needs at each stage of development, and their temperaments. As today’s parents, no matter where we are from and where we are stay, we are able to be better equipped and   do not have to rigidly follow what our parents have handed down.

Rachel Remen has a wonderful saying about gardening, and  it can also apply to parenting:  ‘No master gardener every made a rose. When its needs are met a rose bush will make roses. Gardeners collaborate and provide conditions which favor this outcome. And as anyone who has ever pruned a rosebush knows, life flows through every rosebush in a slightly different way.’

Hailing Huang , MA


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Does Touch Have a Culture?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on November 14, 2012 3:44 pm

I  thought I made  an error of judgment  when I consoled a grieving, inconsolable client by touching her on her knees…..I had an urge to give her a hug —–knowing full well that I was feeling strong transference….but I caught on  when my right brain kicked in….and offered tissues   instead….Coming from a culture where it is okay to show how you feel by touching-appropriately off course, is not a taboo …..to being told by my child’s  kindergarten teacher about the policy of no touch is taking a lot of shifting of gears in my head both personally and professionally—-personally won’t my children grow up all warped and unsure about when  it is okay( and who)  and when  it is not okay to touch…….professionally , having to constantly telling myself and reminding my clients why they cannot give me a hug when they are happy or why I can’t hold their hand when they are crying, is, I think is acting as a barrier  for me from making genuine connections with the clients when it is needed….I know the boundaries and the  ethics and all in between, what’s  acceptable and what’s not…but the  conflict always remains, I always feel that something is missing, something just did not ’hit the spot’ and I am wondering if I am feeling like that what about my clients….I am sure there are many studies, articles and ethics which suggest the pros and cons of touching and having have read a number of those, I would like to recommend reading-To Touch Or Not To Touch: Exploring the Myth of Prohibition On Touch In Psychotherapy And Counseling-Clinical, Ethical & Legal Considerations By Ofer Zur, Ph.D. & Nola Nordmarken, MFT .The article can be found on http://www.zurinstitute.com/touchintherapy.html. The purpose of this blog s not to dispute why should or shouldn’t touch be used in counseling or therapy but more as a discussion question being posed to other practitioners who find themselves in similar conflict as I do and ask the question: Does Touch have a culture?

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Paradigm Shift

Posted by: Priya Senroy on October 9, 2012 1:50 pm

As a counsellor working in a vibrant multicultural environment, I have encountered many diverse cultures over the course of my career and I still rember my early experiences working with people from diverse cultures and some of the  the misunderstandings it often created. Having started my career in Toronto, I  was thrilled to be able to use my training as well as my expereince of being a ‘global citizen’…..but I  came to realize soon enough  that I was not reaching certain cultural groups in a way that felt comfortable to me and I knew that I needed to find out why. I was defining working with cultres based on race and ethnicity and did not include people with disabilities or sexual orientations or even belonging to different social economic groups as being diverse. I was encouraged by my supervisor to expand my horizons or have a ‘Paradigm Shift’ (made popular by the late Steven Covey) in my thought process. I had to make lots of changes and shift gears and understand how my counselling practice will be defined by the existing cutural diversity in Toronto. I began to read up on the literature available on how people with disabilities or the LGBTQ community perceive counselling and how it is important to respect and understand why certain clients would only want to work with a counsellor from their background….Yes, at that time, I could not understand why my experience was not good enough and why I had to belong to a certain culture to work with certain clients…… Now it is a different story, I understand the “whys” and do not doubt my copmpetency as respect when clients do not choose me once they find out who or what I am not…..and that’s okay….I think this is just one small example of how important it is to recognize and learn about the cultural diversity of clients when offering counselling without any bias or judgement.

Priya Senroy , MA CCC

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Our Creative Diversity

Posted by: Priya Senroy on June 17, 2012 10:00 am

 UNESCO Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development 

Hello Readers

I decided to share a different perspective on Cultural Diversity for this month and found this report by UNESCO offer a fresh take on what we already know.


Please visit the other links on the site as they have tons of information.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Cross-Cultural Dialogue Through the Arts

Posted by: Priya Senroy on May 27, 2011 10:55 am

This 2010 video highlights the project which was done with a partnership between the International High School at LaGuardia Community College in the US and employed theatre educators, oral historians, musicians and hip hop artists to teach and direct immigrant and refugee youth in performance and writing about their lives.

Cross-Cultural Dialogue through the Arts, developed and created collaborations between disparate communities. Conceived and directed by Judith Sloan, Cross-Cultural Dialogue Through the Arts (CCDTA) is a training and mentorship program for high school students to work under the direction of professional artists. The program offered a unique hands-on opportunity for graduate and undergraduate college students to work in teams as mentors and performance collaborators with new immigrant teenagers through a multi-media arts and theatre project at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Students from 50 different countries, speaking almost as many languages and dialects, populate the international high school.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA