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Online Training Question #3: Aboriginal Communities and Abuse

Linking to the Literature Series

Question #3 - For aboriginal men who have acted abusively, how effective is the incorporation of a focus on spirituality into culturally responsive treatment models?

Kiyoshk 2003
Kiyoshk Article
This article provides a brief reflection on how the Change of Seasons treatment model developed and the reasons for its success with Aboriginal men. Parallels between Aboriginal perspectives, or worldviews, and Ken Wilber’s transpersonal psychology, Rupert Sheldrake’s fields theory, and Peter Senge’s systems thinking are also discussed. Practical rituals and ceremonies that have been successfully integrated into psycho-educational group counselling as practiced in the Change of Seasons model are explained. These musings are included to initiate further dialogue on holistic approaches to counselling and other community initiatives.

Zellerer 2003
Given the severity and extent of woman abuse, calls are being made to mandate treatment for abusive men. Attention has focused on Caucasian populations; few programs are culturally competent. This article discusses the first Aboriginal family violence program for inmates within the federal correctional system in North America. The Correctional Service of Canada funded a project operated by a community agency, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, for offenders at Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba. Numerous issues, including cultural competence, training, and evaluation, are highlighted.

Waldram 1994
Waldram Article
Canada appears to be on the verge of substantial changes in the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the justice system. Recent research in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta has demonstrated the extent to which Aboriginal peoples are disproportionately represented in the courts and the correctional system. As the movement for Aboriginal self-determination sweeps the nation, talk is emerging of the implementation of Aboriginal justice systems, including policing, courts, and traditional laws and punishments.

The area of corrections has received considerably less attention than other aspects of the justice system with respect to the integration of traditional approaches. One area of corrections which has seen some attempt to accommodate Aboriginal offenders as culturally different from other offenders, and therefore requiring other programs and services, is the provision of religious services. Known euphemistically as “Native Awareness” programs, these involve the provision of spiritual services by Aboriginal Elders to Aboriginal prisoners. However, it appears that these services have been categorized as “religious” in nature, analogous to services provided by prison chaplains. This paper will argue that the therapeutic aspect of Aboriginal spirituality is not being fully recognized in correctional programs.

Time to reflect:

Various researchers argue that there is explicit therapeutic value in Aboriginal spirituality programs as they have a significant effect on the well-being of offenders. There is general agreement, at least amongst the authors cited above, that spirituality is a more successful avenue to achieve rehabilitation because of its unique “healing” component – healing of those broken spirits, healing of the disconnectedness of their lives, healing from the loss of their identity, healing from their victimization, healing from the effects of colonialism, healing from their own violence and addictions.

  1. Can the holistic approach to facilitating change that is identified by Kiyoshk be advantageous for men of other cultural backgrounds with whom you might interact?
  2. Zellerer argues that cultural competence is essential in our multicultural society. Identify the steps toward cultural competency you have taken in your own work setting.
  3. Based on all of the readings above, consider the specific therapeutic value of incorporating spirituality into counselling services for aboriginal men.