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Once upon a time in a land filled with white emptiness walked a very sad and tired paint brush. It had been a long walk and at times especially recently a hard journey. All through her adult life she had family and friends around her. People who loved her, yet for some reason there was something about this latest journey that made her feel alone. It wasn't that she still did not have her family and friends she just has reached a hard part of the her journey leaving her feel at time as though all the colour had gone out of her. At moments she could not find her colours and she worried that if she did not find them she would she remember or know what to do with them. Colour was so important to her. She remembered times when the colours flowed on the canvas she was painting. Reds and whites, black and green, purple and orange, blue and yellow all the colours of the rainbow. But, at this moment everything looked like a drawing that had yet to be painted. Her life felt like a huge canvas with black lines surrounding large white areas. Yet no matter how she felt he little paint brush kept walking for she was strong, kind, spiritual and wise. She knew if she kept walking she would find what she was looking for and she could bring the colours back into her life. Finally she decided to sit down and ponder her situation. She sat down on a rock and looked around; all she could see was the black and white and all she could feel was the sadness. A sadness that made her feel like she had lost a part of herself; lost her hope. Where were her colours? How could she live in a world with no colours? A paint brush with no colours. As she pondered the question and felt these new feelings a butterfly landed on the branch of a tree beside her rock; a black and white butterfly on a black and white tree. "You lost?" asked the butterfly. "I can't find my colours.", replied the little paint brush. "If you go inside you will find them", the butterfly said as it flew off. "Go inside where?" shouted the little paint brush as she watched the butterfly fly away. "Go inside where?" The little paint brush got up and walked in the direction the butterfly was flying. "Go inside where?" She lot sight of the butterfly, looking around she noticed the black and white spaces and lines looked different. The white areas were not so large, though they still lacked colour. I wonder what the butterfly meant she pondered. What was she trying to tell me? She seemed so sure that a part of me would know what it meant. As if a part of me knew, knew what I do not seem to know. Just them another butterfly landed on the bush right in front of her. "What are you searching for?" asked the butterfly. "What am I searching for?' repeated the paint brush. My colours, my colours, the light that fills me up, colours my world, paints my way and Gives me substance." I am searching for………many things. What am I searching for? "Go inside there." sang the butterfly as it took off. Go inside where replied the little paint brush as it took off after the butterfly. "Go inside where?"
The little paint brush sat down and looked around again. Everything looked different. Again the white areas were not so large and the black looked like lines. Things are changing she thought. My world looks different from when I started. Where are my colours? ………. "They are right there."……. came a voice from behind the little paint brush. She turned around to see an old tattered well uses splattered paint brush slowly making its way towards her. "They are right there." Repeated the old tattered brush as his warn out bristles pointed to the little brush. "Deep within you are all the colours, colours you know about and colours you can only imagine. My life is filled with infinite colour. Each word has a colour, each feeling has a colour even the feelings I don't understand, they are all filled with colour. Deep inside me is a place of wisdom and colour and when I take a moment I can touch that place. Some of the colours are hard to take and I don't really like them, but, when I make them go away my world misses them, so I invite them back understanding they have value, they are all a part of me. When I allow those colours to be there my world is full again. My bristles may be worn, split and caked with paint in places but I can still paint beautiful colours. In fact my worn and tattered bristles allow me to shade the colours on my canvas with a depth and skill that comes from going to the deepest places of my colours and trusting what I know……….trusting………well all our journeys are different. "Is there something that you trust?" the old paint brush asked.

"I trust me. I trust this journey I am on. I trust the love in my life. I trust…….. I trust that part of me that knows all." The little paint brush smiled. Wow did I really say that? She looked down to see a pale pink colour emerging at her heart as the butterfly flew around her head. Not the black and white butterfly but the most beautiful butterfly she had ever seen. The colour of her wings glistened in the sunlight. Suddenly the little paint brush knew where her colours were. Knew she had not lost them and knew she remembered how to use them. She felt alive again. As she looked around she realized her whole world was a canvas and she had the colours to paint it. Trees and flowers she had the colours. Fields of grass she had the colours. The midnight sky filled with stars she had the colours. Joy and pain, love and hate, anger and laughter she had the colours and she proceeded to fill her black and white world with colour and finally she understood. Finally she understood. She looked around to thank the tattered old brush for his wisdom when she heard a voice deep within say: "You are welcome". Thank yourself for I am you and you are me. We are one. 

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Working with clients really is a humbling experience. Below you will find some of my pondering on the subject. Because I love stories, it is often the first place my unconscious goes. I really feel my clients are teaching me to listen more deeply and move from my heart more than my head.  Of course I would like to say that is something I do all the time, it would be more honest to say it is a deep practice journey I am on. Moving back to my heart which has a direct connection to my unconscious and above – the place where the stories are generated. I hope you enjoy my pondering and my fun yet useful story.

Stories and Metaphors, the language the unconscious mind understands and resonates with. So how does one create a story from a session with a client? Where does the inspiration come from? Questions these are the tools for mining the gold. What do you know about your client? What are they bringing to the session/s? What are they telling you with every gesture, everything they notice in your office? Do they talk about movies, books and or interests? How interested are you in your client? I know there are a lot of questions here. Yet… this is how you create stories, create the framework for the trance session.

Two people come together, one is trained to listen, listen with every part of her being. To hear the tone behind the words, to listen on multiple levels. Each session bringing a new person to the session. New from the perspective of a deepening rapport.  New pieces of information being offered from the client, filling in the pieces of the puzzle if I can listen and hear. Sometimes filing away and sometimes checking out with the client: have I heard correctly? The conscious mind taking it in and my unconscious mind waiting, relishing the opportunity to create the space through words, ideas, concepts and suggestions for her unconscious to use, play in and work on that which it has been working on for a long time. That is how I see the incredible dance of being in relationship with another for a therapeutic reason. What an honour! What a joy? Even in the moments when …. Actually especially in the moments when the words don’t come and I have to listen even more deeply.

Suddenly she came upon him sitting on the ledge quiet, hunched over looking more like a colourful piece of jasper than a man.  He heard her and looked up. Such sadness on his face. Strength and sadness, she was struck by the contrast. His sadness touched her heart deeply and she remembered her journey up this mountain. She had come to walk and create some space from all the thoughts running around in her head. All the should and should not’s, all the no’s and yes’s as well. She suddenly felt weighed down by her internal backpack and had to sit. She sat near him and they both sat in silence. She really needed a place where she did not have to be someone she did not feel like in the moment…. A place where all of what she was feeling could be present…. Could be felt ….. She sat for the longest time and suddenly heard herself sharing…. Not really knowing where the words were coming from….. I have been carrying this for so long…. I have come up here to leave it behind….. I need to live the life I have always wanted to live….. to live joyously…. And freely…. I thought it would mean giving up everything and running to a tropical island to paint…. And sitting here on this mountain beside you I realized what I needed to leave here were certain beliefs that no longer serve me.  The belief that I can’t feel joy helping my family…. that it is a burden and will always be a burden.  The belief that there was no time for the things I loved…. I was always to tired… or busy…. Somehow I was not entitled to be happy or love what I do and find the time to do it…. Sitting here …. watching your face… listening to you slowly breathe … helped me understand ….. helped me find a way …. One sees things differently sitting on the top of the world …. Knowing you are not alone …. Someone else might just understand what you are feeling…. Helped me see …. Helped me find my heart again… she reached out for his hand and felt the gentle strength …. It really is part of being human…. These feelings are part of being human on this vast planet…. I understand …. And you are accompanied you know …. I am here…. And you have helped me see what I need to see… understand what I need to understand ….. so good to let myself feel …. You really can let yourself feel can you not….. you really can …. They softly smiled at each other realizations dawning in their heart and mind …. He slowly stood up…. Gently helping her stand as well … felt good to stand in this new perspective …. Would you like me to take you down he asked …. Well she thought as she smiled yes…. Life really can surprise me when I open myself to the mystery …. Listen to my guidance and say yes….. his cape flapped in the wind and she slowly and gently allowed herself to be guided back to earth…. My goodness she thought my unconscious really does know the very best way …..

Diane is an instructor at The Orca Institute.
Diane Auld H.T., R.P.C., M.P.C.P.
www.dianeauld.ca 604-218-9341 Email: [email protected]

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It’s late September and my wife, Lisa, and I are sitting in a little community ( pop. 600) along the east coast of Hudson Bay, five hours flight north of Montreal. We’re offering a week on “Self-care for Helpers”. I’ve been to this little northern village before, offering a total of six weeks of “training” to “frontline workers” who are coping with frequent crises, and who are providing on-going support for trauma survivours. Think of some of the most challenging conditions you have heard about or witnessed in First Nation’s communities across Canada. In many ways these conditions are more severe. The social ills of poverty, illiteracy, inadequate housing, inaccessible health care, minimal education, unemployment, rampant addictions, frequent accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides are sometimes muted before the backdrop of the harsh Arctic environment and weather. Layer over this scene the palpable prejudices and systemic discrimination that the Inuit face when having to deal with, on an almost daily basis, government agencies and workers, and you can only marvel at how these people have managed to not only survive, but are beginning to thrive in many ways.

Over the past four years I have made almost monthly trips up here, providing training in a dozen different communities in Nunavik. The experience has been mostly humbling, as I encounter my own deep-seated personal and professional prejudices, my inadequacy in making the ideas and skills that are important to me, somehow important and relevant to them, while many of my “trainees” are in the trenches every day, coping with crises far beyond the magnitude that I’ve had to face in my life or work. It’s been a regular encounter with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger, sadness, and nagging concerns about whether or not I’m doing “any good” up here.

When I’ve been tempted to quit, one of my colleagues up here reminds me that I’m in training in understanding the ways of Aboriginal People, and that these experiences can only make me a better teacher, and a better person. I can only hope this is true, as more of my work each year is among these people.

For now, let me try to explain some of the professional challenges I have faced, saving for a later time the stories of a more personal nature.

First, it’s important to say who my “trainees” are. For the most part they are the communities natural helpers. Women (mostly) and men who have little or no formal training in any helping field, but have been selected for paid positions called counsellor, social worker, victims assistant, justice worker, school counsellor, addictions counsellor, etc. A variety of factors including the lack of training, little or no organizational support (sometimes no organization at all), no supervision, inadequate funds, rapidly shifting community and government priorities, regular crises, professional burnout, all contribute to the short terms of employment and frequent staff turnover. In short, they tolerate conditions that would never be permitted by professionals “down South”. It’s quite rare to find someone who identifies as having a “career” in a particular helping field- a health aide yesterday, an addictions counsellor today, a child development worker tomorrow, and who knows what next month, perhaps unemployed. Picture offering a training program in weekly segments over the course of several months, during which time the faces of the participants change, and the ones who remain constant now have different jobs then they held when the program began. Picture having to keep your “training” flexible each day because of unexpected blizzards with whiteout conditions, a funeral for an Elder, a suicide of a youth, the need for all men to join a rescue team to search for a hunter who hasn’t returned as planned, an accidental drowning of a young child, the death of a family member of one of the participants, a call to the harbour to help unload the last cargo ship before the freeze up, the surprise beaching of a walrus to be killed, butchered and distributed, unexpected arrival of a caribou heard, delayed and cancelled flights, and you begin to get some idea of the teaching environment.

I don’t know where to begin explaining the challenges to making the standard theories of counseling “culturally appropriate”, largely because it’s taken me most of these years to realize how inappropriate some of these most treasured professional beliefs and approaches really are for Aboriginal People. Perhaps one of the biggest gaps between the Aboriginal perspective and that of non-Aboriginals centers around the focus on the individual and the importance of self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and personal growth that are the hallmarks of Western understanding. While this is a common observation when discussing or reading about “cross cultural” or “culturally sensitive” approaches, the realities of this need to “modify”, I believe, require us to alter the very foundations of many of our approaches to counseling with Aboriginal People, who exist, not in an individual reality but rather in complex and dynamic relationships to all people and nature around them.

Let me give one small example of how this collective orientation differs from mine. In using the tool “Creating a Safe Place”, whether in imagery or through a combination of imagery and art work, I offer that, among it’s other characteristics, this place does not have any other people there…just for you…a place where you can be alone…feeling perfectly safe and free from any harm….etc. My Aboriginal trainees rightfully ignore this suggestion and invariably create places that are filled with people interacting with them in some way. The notion of being alone anywhere, and separate from family and friends, is what makes them feel unsafe! Even when some of these other people have been abusive to them! So, “no big deal Joe”, you say. Clients will routinely dismiss any suggestions that are not right for them, and replace them accordingly. True enough. But what’s interesting to me is my rigid adherence to these standard instructions! What keeps me from altering them to something like…”gather all of your friends and family…. see them in your safe place…. doing whatever it is that makes you all feel safe together”… or something like that? I submit that it’s my difficulty in maintaining a “culturally appropriate” perspective, giving only lip service to the principles of “cross cultural counselling”, and stubbornly holding onto the notion that our way is somehow “better”, and they’ll catch on to this eventually if they would just give it a try.

This leads me to the challenges of exploring the notion of “boundaries”, personal or professional, with Aboriginal People. The idea that we need to set boundaries in our personal relationships, and must adhere to appropriate boundaries in our professional relationships with clients, and that this ensures healthy interactions, often mystifies my Aboriginal trainees. They exist in a world where “co-dependency” is not a disease, but rather a state of relationship to be aspired toward. Our notion of boundaries and empathy often sound like uncaring, arms-length ways of distancing from “the other”. For a counsellor to not reveal as much about him/herself as the client is willing to do, for example, would interfere with the development of a trusting relationship. The client would stop sharing, and probably stop coming.

Another example is the ethical caution against “dual relationships”. This is an impossible ethical stance to maintain in a community where you have multiple relationships with almost every other member of the community. I was supervising a counsellor whose client was the man who had previously murdered the counsellor’s sister! Believe it or not, he was doing an excellent job!

Yet another challenge surrounds the fact that confidentiality is never assumed, as it is almost non-existent in all relationships. Everyone knows everything about everyone else, and, in many ways, their very survival depends on this. So how do we revise our discussions around ethical principles that we have taken as “givens”, but they see as unsuitable, undesirable, and unworkable in their world?

Further, our understandings of health, balance, and change are so individual-focused that they stand the risk of being rejected outright as not being consistent with the time- honoured values of these people. This comes back at me almost every day in my work here as I naturally assume a more Eurocentric (read “White Man”) stance. Their profoundly collective orientation that places relationship first, for example, explains in part how someone is selected for a job in the community. Let’s say a job is posted for an Early Childhood Worker at the daycare centre. In our world we would assume that this position would be filled by someone with some background, and at least some training in the field, perhaps a certificate or even a degree. Here the job is more likely to be offered to a close relative of the person in charge of hiring, and under the guidance of a family Elder or community leader. The person chosen may not have ever thought of doing work such as this, but the opportunity to work is now being made available, and it’s not to be turned down lightly. The person is selected because he/she needs the job, rather than the job needs them. While we may hire based on the principle of “the best person for the job”, up here the strategy would be to find the best job for this person. (I recently met an “addictions counsellor” who was the community radio announcer previously struggling with his own addictions. He improved greatly over time.) Sometimes the decision is based on sheer economic considerations. The person needs a job to support a family. But more often it’s because this job will be good for this person in some way. It’s assumed that training and competencies will be acquired along the way, or someone else will be assigned. The responsibility to do well in this position is far greater than merely achieving some personal goals, but rather to fulfill the family’s plan, and to be a productive member of the family and the community. Now before you scream “nepotism”, let me assure you that this system often works. The individual chosen is likely to work really hard, to take their job very seriously, perhaps even give up some prior addictions, to make this job work. Given that, it’s especially sad to see them struggle with so little support, and minimal resources.

And yet to be among these caring, hard-working, unaffected, generous, light-hearted people is an honour, and a truly uplifting experience. They have so much to teach us if we can take off our cultural filters for a time, and rather than judging them, make an effort to see the wisdom in their ways. So I keep going back.

Counselling on Mars - Part Two
September 23, 2009

It’s near the end of September and the beginning of new contract, this time in Labrador. I’m embarking on a 10-month training with members of the local Inuit government (Nunatsiavut) mental health and addictions counselors. We’ve designed it such that they will shadow me as I travel to the various coastal communities offering workshops on trauma and addictions to the local frontline service providers. The goal is to offer mentoring and supervision to this team so that they will be able to continue this work into the future.

I’m also approaching my 68th birthday and reflecting on what keeps me going. When I was in my 50’s I was already tired and longing for “retirement”. Back then I was slowly burning-out, partly from vicarious trauma, partly from personal factors, and largely from a growing questioning of the value of my work. …. I was becoming dis-spirited.

I’m sitting in the kitchen of a small mental health building in Nain, Labrador. The participants and my training team are all new to me, and yet I know them well. They are very much like the people of Nunavik with whom I’ve worked in recent years, and very much like the First Nations people I’ve met across Canada. Being in their presence is what keeps me going.

The history of these people is scarred by the traumas wrought by the forces of colonization. And while trauma is in their stories, survival is in their genes. These remarkable people have endured direct and indirect attempts to annihilate them. The government and the churches have tried for generations to wipe out their culture, remove them from their land, appropriate their resources, and marginalize them in every way possible. And it nearly succeeded. A generation ago, stripped of their self-worth, torn from their spiritual centre, relocated from their traditional lands, numbed by alcohol, they were “dying off”.

Yet today, I sit among these people and see them as role models for my own life and work. In recovery, reclaiming their traditions, standing firmly on their land, feeling empowered enough they are resisting the ongoing efforts to assimilate and annihilate them. Most of us would be quickly overwhelmed by their lives, and by their workloads, by their continuing family crises, and by the 24-7 on-call nature of their roles as community helpers. When they introduce themselves and tell you of their work, for example, one person might say, “I’m the youth addictions counsellor, lead the crisis response team, work part-time in the school as community liaison, coordinate the addictions self-help programs, direct the summer youth camps, and serve as grief counsellor for my church group.” This person is often a single parent and raising his/her own kids, as well as fostering some children from other family members who have died or are otherwise unable to provide care for their children. In a typical day they see up to a dozen clients, over the course of a week probably 50 or more, many of them related to them in some way. And yet they find time to show up for every important family and community event, usually organizing and cooking for these.

“What is it”, I ask myself that accounts for their survival and for the fact that they are thriving against all odds. The answers are complex. The best I can relate to it is to describe their lives as living and working in a “therapeutic community”. I remember attendance at intensive training programs where everyone came ready to “do their work”. Where guidance and support came not only from the top but also from your peers. Where stories were told, tears were shed, hands were held, hugs were frequent. Where blame and judgment had no place, and acknowledgement and validation prevailed. In these settings people were “real”. They left pretense at the door, spoke about themselves with openness and humility, committed to on-going growth, and, as the saying goes, not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. This is what I find in these small villages. Growing numbers of healthy individuals, banding together to create healthier families, and healthier communities.

Our days begin and end with a prayer, usually recited spontaneously by a respected Elder. With bowed heads we are asked to thank the Creator for another beautiful day (no matter what the weather), express gratitude for the opportunity to be together to do this work, pray for the strength to face the hard choices that it will take to remain in balance, and to ask for special blessings for those who are still in the grip of addictions, suffering from past trauma, not yet ready to walk on the road to healing. We express appreciation and ask for the continued understanding of our mates, children and others who sometimes share the burden of our work. We pray for the instructor, that his teachings will come from his heart, that we will be open to new learning for the good of the people, and especially for the welfare of the children and grandchildren. We are reminded that all healing comes from the Creator, and that we are simply imperfect messengers who have been chosen to do this work. We express gratitude for the support that we give one another.

During our time together they share stories in the first person always owning their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They speak of great harm done to them and by them, and they ask for the strength to find forgiveness. They thank each other for listening and not judging them.

When they ask a question they reveal its personal significance in their own lives and they shine brightly when they find self-understanding in the material we are covering.

There’s always lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of good food. We sit together, often on the floor, sharing “country food” from common pots. There’s goose, ptarmigan, fish, moose, caribou, berries, seal, walrus, whale meat. They love their traditional foods and so meals are full of joy. These times remind me very much of my youth in my large Italian family. I’m strangely at home in this very unlikely place.

Today in the middle of an important class activity a young man, not realizing that the building was closed, knocked repeatedly on the door. When he was let in he stood before us, shaking and crying, saying, “I’ve come to get help.” He was not told that the Mental Health Office was closed for staff training, he was not told to come back tomorrow, and he was not made to feel like an intruder. He was invited in like a welcomed guest, offered a cup of tea, and gently escorted by one staff person to a back room, amidst good wishes from all. When he left sometime later he looked proud as people called out “thanks for coming”, “hope to see you again”. The staff person, who then had missed a good portion of the afternoon, was immediately asked how she was doing, and how could they help her to catch up.

This evening I was the honoured guest at a monthly dinner meeting celebrating abstinence. Seventeen members of the community arrived, all with local homemade foods to share. We had arctic char, cod, smoked salmon, caribou and vegetable soup, and delicious deserts made from the plentiful berries found in the hills. Conversations flowed, jokes were made, and teasing predominated. It’s said that Aboriginal People show that they like you if they tease you…. I must be loved. I come home full in the stomach, and full in the heart. Another remarkable day among these beautiful souls. My spirit is being filled. Retirement ?? Feels more like “refirement”.

Counselling On Mars – Part III

March, 2010.
I’m here again in a small community in northern Labrador (pop. @200). There are no trained counsellors, no hospital, one nurse (working 24/7), one child in kindergarten, and 4 in 12th grade. I look at the list of names in a directory of community members. There are six surnames shared by about 90% of the people, and only a handful of other names. The community had a long history of self-sufficiency until the cod and salmon stocks dwindled, the fishery closed, the wild game became scarce, and the bottom fell out of the sealing industry. Now there’s little work, and little to do if you don’t have money. The Elders are quickly vanishing. These voids have been filled for many by alcohol and drugs.

I’m sitting with “frontline” workers. Folks with little or no training in the helping roles they play every day. They are hearing stories of violence, depression, abuse, addictions, intergenerational trauma, suicide, grief, mental health problems, and anything else that community members may need help with. I’m thinking about how limited Western counselling principles and tools are in these circumstances. The things that we take for granted have little or no place here. I wonder for whom those counselling theories are meant, and how we have assumed their universality.

While sitting in the airport on the way up this trip I met a gentlemen who had been “sent” here by a well-meaning service organization from down south to conduct a workshop on “self-esteem”. He was a former educator, administrator, and executive HR leader. A very nice guy, actually. He had a canned program that was successfully used in many other settings. He had never been here before, and had not learned much about the people before his arrival. He made all kinds of erroneous assumptions as he described to me what he would hope to accomplish during the workshop. He clearly was here to “enlighten” the poor natives, and build their self-esteem. (Aboriginal people do not generally focus on self-esteem and self-worth in the way that others do. They do not value making choices for their own benefit, but rather for the benefit of the family and community.) I tried to give him a crash course, but he felt confident and enthusiastic. His cup was already full. He’s just one of many among the legion of folks sent here, and into many Aboriginal communities, who believe in the “rightness”, and therefore efficacy, of their points of view, and skill set. This group unfortunately includes medical personnel, mental health professionals, police, and educators; employees, and the clear beneficiaries, of what some Natives call, “the Indian Industry”. They come. They do their thing. And they bemoan the lack of responsiveness of their clients, who they often see as too “damaged” to benefit from their services.

I met this same fellow briefly on the way back home. He had a dazed look. He wasn’t as exuberant, or as talkative. I didn’t get to hear how it went. But I have some guesses.

I think, too, about our codes of ethics. We place a high value, for example, on the idea of “confidentiality”, as we should. Strangers come to our office seeking our services. We have probably never met them before, and may never see them after our service ends. Perhaps no one else knows that they are coming to see us, and they may never tell anyone. Right off, we assure them of the confidentiality of our sessions (with notable exceptions). Sometimes it’s a challenge for us, but we probably don’t know anyone in his or her life. If we do speak about them to colleagues or supervisors, we can avoid identifying information, and thus secure the confidence. We have a certain freedom to discuss them anonymously when necessary, and they have a certain freedom to tell us anything they choose. This practice builds trust in our clients and our relationship develops strength and resilience allowing them to go as deep as they need.

We also think carefully about boundaries and avoiding dual relationships. We understand how this protects the clients, but also keeps us in ethical balance with those we counsel. We can discuss this with clients as we need to, and we can be flexible as the situation dictates.

These valuable principles are part of the time-honoured behaviours we counsellors have evolved in order to ensure our neutrality, the effectiveness of our work, and the safety of the client. And they are very important….. in our world.

But here, the world of the client and the helper is different. The clear-cut principles of confidentiality and dual relationships are impossible to adhere to. Consider these factors:

If someone chooses to seek counselling they will most likely come to a building that is a multifunctional facility. Their child may be in daycare in the next room, the nurse treating a relative is down the hall, and the patients are in a common waiting area. It may also be the one day that that the dentist or the eye doctor is also there. There are administrative offices, clerical, custodial, and maintenance staff housed here as well. In other words, your client’s presence and purpose are immediately obvious to all, and will surely be announced in conversations throughout the day. But it doesn’t really matter because everyone in the community already knows about his problems!! No surprise that he’s here to visit with the addictions counsellor, or the child protection worker, or the stop the violence coordinator. What does the counsellor say to assure confidentiality? Perhaps, “Whatever is said here won’t be repeated by me. Even when:

  • your spouse calls me tonight to ask about you, or
  • when I go sealing with your mother tomorrow and she asks how you are doing, and
  • our uncle knocks on my door to tell me about his worries concerning you, and
  • my employer, who is also your employer, asks if you are fit to work, and
  • when your brother and I go fishing, and
  • when we meet outside these sessions and I see you in the community or hear about you from others, I will maintain my silence even though I will not be in my counsellor role

Everyone knows everything about everyone. Facebook and Twitter can’t possibly compete with the fine-tuned community gossip network functioning in these communities. Generations before them depended on the principle of total knowledge of the details of every member’s life. Survival depended on having this knowledge as it helped to maintain balanced community living. “Gossip” was a social tool to help remind one another of the rules of proper behaviour, and served as a shaming sanction against violations. Gossip is in their blood. It’s hard for many to understand the value of keeping “secrets” from the larger community. Counsellors find themselves struggling daily to uphold confidentiality, as they have been told they must, to explain its value over and over, and to deal with the anxiety and suspicion that it may cause. The more they espouse these beliefs, the more they may be viewed as “outsiders”.

On the flip side, consider the potential benefits. Have you ever worked with a client whom you suspected wasn’t being fully truthful about how he/she was doing outside your sessions? Well, here it’s very hard to keep information from the ears of the counsellor. He or she will know about a relapse, a fight with a spouse, or re-offending, and even the client’s opinions about the counsellor, almost immediately.

And consider this. How does a counsellor self-disclose (a high value in traditional healing) when it would be helpful to the client? Aboriginal clients will not easily trust a helper who doesn’t also deeply disclose. And they learn best when hearing the details of another’s efforts toward wellness. The client can’t be expected to maintain confidentiality, however. Counsellors find that their personal life stories, over the course of time, become part of the “public record”. Your life is an open book, every eye in the community scrutinizes your behaviours, and you never know when you might say or do something in your private life that may jeopardize your employment.

It seems there’s a need for a drastically modified code of ethics for counsellors in Aboriginal Communities. Right now the discrepancy between what they are presented and the realities of their work leave them without guidance, often doubting their instincts about how to perform their jobs. Perhaps that partly accounts for the incredibly high turnover rate in these roles, as well as the high job vacancy rates. Some communities have been waiting for a mental health counsellor for years. Want a job?

Don’t get the wrong idea! I love working in these settings. The challenges are enormous, but the hearts and spirits of these folks are also enormous. My team is growing in number and capacity. They are creating amazing programs and services in almost every community. They are committed to articulating the teachings of their ancestors and using these to guide their work as helpers. They are working hard to de-colonize themselves and others. And I have no doubt that they will be successful. I remind them that trauma may indeed be in their history, but survival and success are in their genes.

JOE SOLANTO, PH.D.

Before coming to B.C. in the early 90's Joe Solanto served as a School Psychologist in the public schools of New York for eighteen years. He then completed a doctorate in psychology, and for seven years was the Director of a multi-disciplinary outpatient treatment centre for addictions and trauma that utilized the services of over 20 professionals, treating the full range of mental health related problems.

Since coming to Canada, Joe has been teaching a wide variety of courses at the Justice Institute of B.C. focusing on trauma counselling, assessment and treatment utilizing the DSM system, restorative justice, and adventure-based learning, as well as offering training in counselling-related topics at other post-secondary institutes. He has also served as a consultant for the Federal Department of Justice as well as for Corrections Services Canada. In the past few years he has been working in First Nations communities in B.C., the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, as well as with the Inuit of Northern Quebec, and Labrador, assisting with the healing from residential school trauma, and training front-line staff to respond to the high incidence of violence, suicidal, addictive, and other self-harming behaviours within their communities. His work is featured in the DVD, A Healing River, available from Simon Fraser University’s Department of Criminology, as well as his presentation on Intergenerational Trauma available through Heartspeak Productions’ web page.

Joe is also known for his work in the mid-90’s as the Director and Expedition Leader for the Vancouver Ocean Challenge Society, which provided groups of at-risk youth challenging marine and wilderness adventures in a therapeutic milieu. This program was nominated for the 1997 Violence Prevention Award.

In November 2007 and 2008, Joe was a Keynote speaker and youth-focused workshop presenter at the Western Canadian Conference on Addictions and Mental Health. His topic was Trauma and Addictions. Again, in June 2008 he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in Vancouver. His topic was Intergenerational Trauma and Healing. In March 2009, he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Strategy Conference sponsored by the Department of Justice. In 2010 he presented a training workshop to IRS frontline workers sponsored by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat on Intergenerational Trauma and Community Healing.

In 2009, Joe was the recipient of the Instructor of the Year Award at the Justice Institute of B.C.

He currently provides consultation and training to a variety of organizations throughout Canada. 

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by Serge Kahili King


 
My younger brother died of cancer in his early thirties, and my mother died of complications involving cancer when she was in her eighties. And I have had the opportunity to work with many people suffering from that disease. In every case I am familiar with, and according to many medical experts, cancer has both physical and emotional aspects. The strength of each of these can amplify the other, and the healing of either of these can help to heal the other.

 
My brother had lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker and had a lot of stress in his life. In addition, he fit the personality profile observed in almost 1000 lung cancer patients by Dr. David Kissen of Southern General Hospital in Glasgow: before he was fifteen one of his parents died (our father); there were marital difficulties; and there were professional frustrations. Naturally, a very large number of people may have these particular experiences, but what Dr. Kissen considered significant was how many of the cancer patients reacted to them. Typically, they held in emotional expression and denied conflicts. This certainly described my brother.


 
My mother had lung cancer. She also lost her father before the age of fifteen, and had her share of marital difficulties and professional frustrations, too. And, she held in emotional expression and denied conflicts as well.

 
Similar relationships between emotions, experiences of loss or frustration, and all forms of cancer have been noted in many medical studies (two good sources for this kind of information, if they are still available, are Psychosomatics, by Howard R. and Martha E. Lewis [Pinnacle Books, 1975} and Who Gets Sick, by Blair Justice, Ph.D. [Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1988]).


 
The common thread of emotional response in all forms of cancer (and, I suspect, in all disease), is a frustrated desire to control experience in some way. There is a wide variation in what people are trying to control. Some are trying to control their own behavior; some are trying to control the behavior of others; some are trying to control past, present, or future events; some are trying to control it all. It is not surprising that cancer is often associated with symptoms of depression, but it not always clear whether the depression is associated with the cancer, or with something else that the person cannot control.


 
In my own experience with and observation of people with cancer, I have noted that the most successful recoveries seem to be strongly associated with major mental, emotional, or physical behavioral changes among the people with the illness. What is major for one person, of course, may not be the same for another. Some people get results from radically changing their whole lifestyle, while others get results from forgiving a longtime resentment. I know of one success where a woman left her family, took up a different religion, changed her clothing and diet, and moved to a different country. Maybe she needed all of those changes and maybe not, but overall it worked for her. I know of another person, a man, who simply stopped trying to outdo his father, and that worked for him.


 
My brother, however, didn't change his reactions or his life. And my mother, right to the very end, refused to give up grudges she had held for many years against many people. If you want to change something, you have to change something.

 
Whenever we try to control something by mental, emotional, or physical means, and whenever we fail to control it to the degree that we want, we increase the tension in our body. The more often we try and fail, the greater the increase of tension. Not everyone gets cancer because of this since the specific outcome of excess tension depends on so many different genetic, environmental, and mental factors, but I believe that healing the control issues can be of tremendous benefit in helping to heal cancer and, probably, everything else that needs healing.

 
The need for control is based on fear, and fear itself generates tension. Control, then, is merely a technique for trying not to feel afraid. Maybe a good place to start the healing process would be to stop trying to control fear, and do something to change the fear reaction, instead.

 
It is an experiential fact that you cannot feel fear if your body is totally relaxed. However, even though there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to relax, such as massage, meditation, play, laughter, herbs, drugs, etc., that does not always solve the problem. The real problem lies behind the tension, and behind the fear. The real problem is not even the idea that something is fearful. The real problem is that you feel helpless. When this problem is solved the fear disappears (not the common sense, just the helpless fear), the need for control disappears, and a huge amount of tension disappears.

 
Fundamentally, what I'm really talking about is confidence, a kind of core confidence not related to a specific talent, or skill, or behavior, or experience, or piece of knowledge. Lots of teachers and lots of merchants offer ways to get this kind of confidence, and my own works contain many ideas about it, so rather than limit your possibilities by suggesting a particular technique, I'm only going to share a couple of Hawaiian words for confidence whose root meanings may point you in the right direction:


Paulele - "stop jumping around"

Kanaloa - "extended calm"

 
There is no quick and easy fix I know of that will produce this kind of confidence. It takes internal awareness and one or more internal decisions, but even that will only work if it results in a different way of responding to life.


Learn more about Huna at http://www.huna.org 

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what is the second level of control Serge....learned in the first 21 months of life ?

'Acceptance'.
You must be fully able to accept life before 'manipulation'...the 3rd and active level becomes comprehensible. Until that time you are subject to all the 'externals and internals'.

The meaning commonly associated with control is "sagacity"...and for most it is a lifetime.

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There are many forms of psychological therapy but Hypnotherapy is distinctive in that it attempts to address the client’s subconscious mind. It works on the assumption that it is only by influencing the unconscious mind that we can bring about in-depth, genuine and long-lasting change.

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There is another aspect of fear which I feel is a major contributor...and so probably you are aware. It is the level of adrenaline pumped through the system.....not specified to a particular situation nescessarily....but moreover on a constant and consistent basis. I am no scientist by a long shot...yet...if the neuropetides monitor and react to even the slightest psychosomatic impulses 24/7..which they must.... then someone carrying attitudinizing postures of self-hate at levels wholly unrecognizeable will be constantly in a state of chemical imbalance. Adrenals and all associated chemistry would force the body into a constant sort of "chemical terrorism' would be my logic.

I once had a close friend who I'd instructed on certain visualization exercises regarding a spot on a lung return to me after an examination which left her uncertain and afraid. She had been informed by her doctor the spot was larger and they had scheduled a look via some device into her lung. She was scared. We discussed the visualization she'd been doing and I noticed she had not concentrated on releasing the fear so I brought the matter to her attention. She argued based on her 4 months in a coma as evidence she was not afraid of death. I asked her if she could remember the task set before her from the "other side". She paused and said she remembered nothing so I asked her if her 'spirit' had died...she said." of course not" so I simply said, "Well ??" rather expectantly. She said, "do you think I'm afraid at some level then...?" I said, "possibly". She asked me what I would advise and I told her to go home and reset her visualization exercise to not reduce the spot but to just look at it with a smile on her face until it made her start laughing. @4 hours later she called me and said she'd been laughing most of the night. The spot spontaneously move from her lung to a place in the center of her forehead and turned into a 'bindi-dot'. In the next three weeks she went through the lung scope thing and an MRI....the spot had completely disappeared. Her doctors were amazed but had no reasons to offer.

I believe the art of loving everything we encounter is the key to our best chemistry and healing.....and death is the greatest healer of all for it can change everything.

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Many prospective students looking for hypnotherapy training might not realize that hypnosis is a fairly broad term.  There are a number of approaches in using hypnotherapy, but generally, there are two schools of thought, the Direct  approach and the Indirect approach.  Most people are familiar with the direct approach.  It typically entails a hypnotherapist giving a subject or client, a series of suggestions.  For example, close your eyes and breathe deeply. An indirect approach however is meant to be much more subtle.


Using an "indirect approach", a therapist might comment, "isn't it nice to know how deeply relaxed one can feel simply by taking it deep breath and letting go." From this phrase and similar phrases we begin to discover a new language, for the subconscious. One may ask what the intent is in using this approach. Why not just tell the client to relax deeply? There are clients who prefer this direct type of approach more than the indirect method, but there are many who do not for a wide variety of reasons. The most popular reason people tend to give for not preferring the direct approach is that they feel like they are being, albeit nicely, ordered to do something or to respond in a specific way. In fact, not all, but many people prefer to feel autonomous and choose their own experience which the indirect approach allows them to do.

As one might guess, because of its subtlety, the indirect approach is more difficult to learn, but once mastered can be very rewarding. We have Dr. Milton Erickson to thank for this approach in the field of hypnotherapy though there are many cultures historically which used variations of this method. In fact, one can make the argument that any culture or society which uses stories to teach and disseminate information is using this approach. From this perspective it doesn't seem so new. We begin to realize that most if not all, have used indirect phrasing much of our lives. We are really accessing something we know instinctively but are now learning to use it through a therapeutic modality. The purpose of utilizing stories and metaphors with a client is to allow them to go on a journey of their choosing. This is why we use "open ended phrases "such as, "I wonder", "I'm not going to suggest", "isn't it nice to know", "I really don't know what your experience will be ", "what is time.....anyway" etc.  These generalized and open ended statements allow the client to expand on the implications of what is being said. However, it is not just saying phrases that elicit the client's response but just as importantly it is the way it is said. A master story teller is very much aware of this and utilizes tone, rhythm and timing to draw out from the person, verbally or non-verbally, direction on where to go next.

A good definition of these phrases, as mentioned previously, is language for the subconscious or as Erickson referred to it, the unconscious. The premise of this statement is that our subconscious responds and communicates differently than our conscious mind and therefore it needs a different language which relates to feeling and experience rather than intellect. How to put all of this together to be truly effective is one of the lessons you will learn in our training.

Sheldon Bilsker, RCC,HT is the Director and founder of The Orca Institute, BC's only Accredited Counselling Hypnotherapy School. 800-665-ORCA (6722).

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by Serge Kahili King
copyright by Serge King 1990


You may copy, share and post this document as often as you wish on condition that it not be sold. For a free copy in booklet form, email your name and postal address to [email protected]

The Aloha Spirit is a well known reference to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are so famous. However, it also refers to a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal, and also to achieve any state of mind or body that you desire.

In the Hawaiian language, aloha stands for much more than just "hello" or "goodbye" or "love." Its deeper meaning is "the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo)."

As you share this energy you become attuned to the Divine Power that the Hawaiians call mana. And the loving use of this incredible Power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success.

The way to tune into this Power and have it work for you is so simple that you might be tempted to pass it off as being too easy to be true. Please don't let yourself be fooled by appearances.

This is the most powerful technique in the world, and although it is extremely simple it may not prove easy, because you must remember to do it and you have to do it a lot. It is a secret which has been given to humanity over and over again, and here it is once more in another form. The secret is this:

Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want!

That's all there is to it. Anything that simple, however, does need some explanation.

To bless something means to give recognition or emphasis to a positive quality, characteristic or condition, with the intent that what is recognized or emphasized will increase, endure or come into being.

Blessing is effective in changing your life or getting what you want for three reasons: First of all, the positive focus of your mind stirs up the positive, creative force of the Power of the Universe. Secondly, it moves your own energy outward, allowing more of the Power to come through you. Thirdly, when you bless for the benefit of others instead of directly for yourself, you tend to bypass any subconscious fears about what you want for yourself, and also the very focus on the blessing acts to increase the same good in your life. What is so beautiful about this process is that the blessing you do for others helps them as well as you.

Blessing may be done with imagery or touch, but the most usual and easy way to do it is with words. The main kinds of verbal blessing are:

Admiration - This is the giving of compliments or praise to something good that you notice. E.g., "What a nice sunset; I like that dress; you're so much fun."

Affirmation - This is a specific statement of blessing for increase or endurance. E.g., "I bless the beauty of this tree; blessed be the health of your body."

Appreciation - This is an expression of gratitude that something good exists or has happened. E.g., "Thank you, God, for helping me; I give thanks to the rain for nourishing the land."

Anticipation - This is blessing for the future. E.g., "We're going to have a great picnic; I bless your increased income; Thank you for my perfect mate; I wish you a happy journey; May the wind be always at your back."In order to gain the most benefit from blessing, you will have to give up or cut way down on the one thing that negates it: cursing. This doesn't mean swearing or saying "bad" words. It refers to the opposite of blessing, namely criticizing instead of admiring; doubting instead of affirming; blaming instead of appreciating; and worrying instead of anticipating with trust. Whenever any of these are done they tend to cancel out some of the effects of blessing. So the more you curse the harder it will be and the longer it will take to get the good from a blessing. On the other hand, the more you bless the less harm any cursing will do.

Here, then, are some ideas for blessing various needs and desires:

Health - Bless healthy people, animals, and even plants; everything which is well made or well constructed; and everything that expresses abundant energy.

Happiness - Bless all that is good, or the good that is in all people and all things; all the signs of happiness that you see, hear or feel in people or animals; and all potentials for happiness that you notice around you.

Prosperity - Bless all the signs of prosperity in your environment, including everything that money helped to make or do; all the money that you have in any form; and all the money that circulates in the world.

Success - Bless all signs of achievement and completion (such as buildings, bridges, and sports events); all arrivals at destinations (of ships, planes, trains, cars and people); all signs of forward movement or persistence; and all signs of enjoyment or fun.

Confidence - Bless all signs of confidence in people and animals; all signs of strength in people, animals and objects (including steel and concrete); all signs of stability (like mountains and tall trees); and all signs of purposeful power (including big machines, power lines).

Love and Friendship - Bless all signs of caring and nurturing, compassion and support; all harmonious relationships in nature and architecture; everything that is connected to or gently touching something else; all signs of cooperation, as in games or work; and all signs of laughter and fun.

Inner Peace - Bless all signs of quietness, calmness, tranquility, and serenity (such as quiet water or still air); all distant views (horizons, stars, the moon); all signs of beauty of sight, sound or touch; clear colors and shapes; the details of natural or made objects.

Spiritual Growth - Bless all signs of growth, development and change in Nature; the transitions of dawn and twilight; the movement of sun,moon, planets and stars; the flight of birds in the sky; and the movement of wind and sea.The previous ideas are for guidance if you are not used to blessing, but don't be limited by them. Remember that any quality, characteristic or condition can be blessed (e.g., you can bless slender poles and slim animals to encourage weight loss), whether it has existed, presently exists, or exists so far in your imagination alone.

Personally I have used the power of blessing to heal my body, increase my income, develop many skills, create a deeply loving relationship with my wife and children, and to establish a worldwide network of peacemakers working with the aloha spirit. It's because it has worked so well for me that I want to share it with you.

How to Enhance Your Power to Bless

There is a technique practiced by Hawaiian shamans which enhances your power to bless by increasing your personal energy. It is a simple way of breathing that is also used for grounding, centering, meditation and healing. It requires no special place or posture, and may be done while moving or still, busy or resting, with eyes open or closed. In Hawaiian the technique is called pikopiko because piko means both the crown of the head and the navel.

The Technique
1. Become aware of your natural breathing (it might change on its own just because of your awareness, but that's okay).

2. Locate the crown of your head and your navel by awareness and/or touch.

3. Now, as you inhale put your attention on the crown of your head; and as you exhale put your attention on your navel. Keep breathing this way for as long as you like.

4. When you feel relaxed, centered, and/or energized, begin imagining that you are surrounded with an invisible cloud of light or an electro-magnetic field, and that your breathing increases the energy of this cloud or field.

5. As you bless, imagine that the object of your blessing is surrounded with some of the same energy that surrounds you.

Variations
a. Instead of crown and navel, shift attention from shoulder to shoulder or sky to earth.

b. To help focus the energy field, imagine it in color, as a tone or chord, or as a tingle.

Sege King, Ph.D
www.huna.org

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In 1983 I was diagnosed as having Melanoma Carcinoma, a potentially lethal form of skin cancer. Needless to say it came as a shock. It was more the word though. The word seemed to have so much power, “Cancer”. My immediate response was that Cancer was something which happened to other people. Not me. However, it was a surprisingly short amount of time until I began to accept that it was I who had Cancer.
In retrospect, at the time, I had a complete belief in my own ability to heal myself. I still hold that belief, but admittedly it has become a bit tainted over the years. It is not the pure unadulterated belief which I had back then. Sometimes I wonder if what I did would be as effective if I was in the same situation now. I don’t know. In my two years (of a 30 year practice) of working with clients who had Cancer I have witnessed many healings which I believe were due to, or enhanced through belief in our own power (or a “higher power”). I also found that sometimes my clients would “heal into death”. That might seem like an odd thing to say but I have witnessed incredible healing as some of my clients were preparing to die. I have seen very few examples of the type of peaceful state exhibited clients as they were dying. A cynic might argue that it was the drugs but I saw and felt something far beyond the drug response in my opinion. I believe there is much we can learn from moments like these. As Ram Das has said, “if nothing happens after you die, then why do so many people do so much growing when they are dying?”. I don’t know the answer to that one either. The one thing I do know is that everyone is different and responds differently to treatment, whatever the type of treatment. When I work with someone I always encourage them to create a method that they feel would work most effectively for their individual situation. Sometimes my clients would look at me incredulously as if to say “this is what I’m paying you for, so you can tell me I should do this myself?” My answer, verbally or non-verbally was always “Yes I’m here to support you, not do it for you”. I can’t do it for you. I do not have that power”.  What follows is my personal experience with Cancer.
 
I had just moved from Montréal to Vancouver but in that short time I had taken courses in a variety of alternative and/or complementary fields. I had studied hypnotherapy in Montréal and had a small client base there so I was I was eager to get started with my practice in Vancouver. Then I got Cancer. The realization came that everything else I was doing in my daily life had to be put on hold. Within eight days of seeing the oncologist I was in the hospital. The Melanoma was almost directly over my heart and there was a concern that it would spread quickly. Afterward I learned that another month and I probably would have been dead. It was decided that surgery was needed as soon as possible. My surgeon was great. She explained to me in great detail what would happen in the procedure as well as post-surgery. Although I wasn’t thrilled that at least two lymph nodes would be removed at least I wouldn’t be losing any muscle. In deciding to have the operation I also chose to do everything possible to stimulate my body's own immune system. Since there was some question of the cancer spreading, using hypnosis I started visualizing my healthy cells being protected. I breathed in deeply while imagining a white light surrounding all of my healthy cells. I mobilized an army of PAC men (1983 reference) seeing them devouring all unhealthy cells moving them swiftly out of my body. After that I breathed in Pink energy to enhance healing. I began seeing the upcoming operation as totally successful. That night after the operation I had a very vivid dream. I have heard that this is common after an operation but what amazed me is not just the vividness but the effect. After the dream I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cancer did not spread and I was fine. I hadn’t talked to anyone but I knew.
 
The next morning I awoke and although experiencing some pain as a result of the skin graft for the sites on my chest, I was secure in the knowledge that all was well. The situation I was in became a challenge for me. The skin graft from my thigh to my chest was left partially open to drain. The pain and discomfort was getting worse, so using hypnosis I visualized an orange color surrounding and penetrating the afflicted area. Although not disappearing, the pain or rather my perception of the pain had definitely subsided. That night the nurse arrived with some morphine. She proceeded to get very flustered when I refused the shot. Over the course of the following few days’ pain killers of various sorts that had been reserved for me were piling up and I became the center of great controversy among the staff, especially when it was discovered that I was using hypnosis. I started getting visits from Doctors, nurses and social workers, all of whom expressed a healthy curiosity about what it was I was actually doing. My favorite person in this group was probably the Social Worker who in no uncertain terms let me know that “hypnosis was the work of the Devil”.  She seemed to have a genuine interest in saving me but I guess I just wasn’t ready for that at that time. Being in a shared room and getting a bit bored I began to teach two other patients self-hypnosis. One of them even refused a pain killer or two. He told the nurse he was using self-hypnosis for the pain. I kept practicing self hypnosis and visualizing myself getting healthier.
 
Shortly after my stay at the hospital it was recommended that I see a physiotherapist. I could only lift my extended arm about 1 inch above my waist. The graft would have to stretch. The physiotherapist said it would take six months of therapy before I had full movement in the arm. I told her it wouldn’t. In six months tennis season would be over, at least outdoors. Three weeks later I had 100% movement in my arm. Using hypnosis and visualization I imagined my arm going higher than it actually was each time. On the other hand maybe my arm was going as high as I was imagining it but just not in this reality. I’ll leave that for another article. If I had believed the physiotherapist it would've taken six months (possibly exactly six months). A Harvard University study was conducted in which they chose 10 cancer patients and taught them self-hypnosis hypnosis. After recording their white blood cell count the researchers had their patients use their self hypnosis and visualize their white blood cell count increasing. This method was practiced every day for five days. Each day the patient's white blood cell count increased significantly. Medically, this was considered impossible. Although it was a small study the possible implications are interesting. Many people know, or at least have heard of someone who has overcome what seemed like insurmountable odds to achieve success. Hypnosis is an ability we all have which is just as natural as sleep, although it isn’t a sleep state.  It can be very a very effective tool in opening the doors to the power within each of us.
 
Sheldon Bilsker,HT,RCC is the director of The Orca Institute BC's only Accredited Hypnotherapy School.

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In Generative Trance, we are primarily interested in helping others develop self-empowerment. This involves teaching self awareness skills and methods to hold inner discussions on creative solutions within trance states.

In contrast, traditional Hypnosis is more uni-directional. The old-school hypnotist directs the client in what to think and do. While this at first seems to be a convenient solution, the challenge is that the client becomes reliant on the hypnotist and worse yet, may even embark on paths that are not aligned with their real needs. A traditional hypnotist is easily caught up in the need to empress the client. Entertaining at best, this can only result in wasted time and money.

The real work is done during gentle, conversations where the clients wisdom is incorporated into the solution. Generative Trance, as Dr. Stephen Gilligan calls it, utilizes the very behaviours that seem to be defined within the problem. Ironically, the presenting problem is often revealed as a key feature that enables healing, progress and deeper self-realization.

Byron Miki, HT, BA is a Hypnotherapy Teacher with a provate practice in Kelowns, BC. He also Teaches at The Orca Institute.

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Even those who experience trance will need guides at times to help them understand the mind's phenomenal array of metaphor. To remove social influenced imagery and replace it with deliberate supplemental imagery and what some may view as true autonomy can never happen for we draw images based in chemistry as well as subjective experience. The mind is the manifestation of the macrocosmic infinite source in a microcosmic dimension..........and governed thus subjectively.

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The following article by Dr. Joe Solanto is a re post from 2010. The reason for the re post is that we at The Orca Institute feel that the issues brought up in this article are still very relevant. Let us know what you think.


It’s late September and my wife, Lisa, and I are sitting in a little community ( pop. 600) along the east coast of Hudson Bay, five hours flight north of Montreal. We’re offering a week on “Self-care for Helpers”. I’ve been to this little northern village before, offering a total of six weeks of “training” to “frontline workers” who are coping with frequent crises, and who are providing on-going support for trauma survivours. Think of some of the most challenging conditions you have heard about or witnessed in First Nation’s communities across Canada. In many ways these conditions are more severe. The social ills of poverty, illiteracy, inadequate housing, inaccessible health care, minimal education, unemployment, rampant addictions, frequent accidental deaths, homicides, and suicides are sometimes muted before the backdrop of the harsh Arctic environment and weather. Layer over this scene the palpable prejudices and systemic discrimination that the Inuit face when having to deal with, on an almost daily basis, government agencies and workers, and you can only marvel at how these people have managed to not only survive, but are beginning to thrive in many ways.

Over the past four years I have made almost monthly trips up here, providing training in a dozen different communities in Nunavik. The experience has been mostly humbling, as I encounter my own deep-seated personal and professional prejudices, my inadequacy in making the ideas and skills that are important to me, somehow important and relevant to them, while many of my “trainees” are in the trenches every day, coping with crises far beyond the magnitude that I’ve had to face in my life or work. It’s been a regular encounter with feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger, sadness, and nagging concerns about whether or not I’m doing “any good” up here.

When I’ve been tempted to quit, one of my colleagues up here reminds me that I’m in training in understanding the ways of Aboriginal People, and that these experiences can only make me a better teacher, and a better person. I can only hope this is true, as more of my work each year is among these people.

For now, let me try to explain some of the professional challenges I have faced, saving for a later time the stories of a more personal nature.




First, it’s important to say who my “trainees” are. For the most part they are the communities natural helpers. Women (mostly) and men who have little or no formal training in any helping field, but have been selected for paid positions called counsellor, social worker, victims assistant, justice worker, school counsellor, addictions counsellor, etc. A variety of factors including the lack of training, little or no organizational support (sometimes no organization at all), no supervision, inadequate funds, rapidly shifting community and government priorities, regular crises, professional burnout, all contribute to the short terms of employment and frequent staff turnover. In short, they tolerate conditions that would never be permitted by professionals “down South”. It’s quite rare to find someone who identifies as having a “career” in a particular helping field- a health aide yesterday, an addictions counsellor today, a child development worker tomorrow, and who knows what next month, perhaps unemployed. Picture offering a training program in weekly segments over the course of several months, during which time the faces of the participants change, and the ones who remain constant now have different jobs then they held when the program began. Picture having to keep your “training” flexible each day because of unexpected blizzards with whiteout conditions, a funeral for an Elder, a suicide of a youth, the need for all men to join a rescue team to search for a hunter who hasn’t returned as planned, an accidental drowning of a young child, the death of a family member of one of the participants, a call to the harbour to help unload the last cargo ship before the freeze up, the surprise beaching of a walrus to be killed, butchered and distributed, unexpected arrival of a caribou heard, delayed and cancelled flights, and you begin to get some idea of the teaching environment.

I don’t know where to begin explaining the challenges to making the standard theories of counseling “culturally appropriate”, largely because it’s taken me most of these years to realize how inappropriate some of these most treasured professional beliefs and approaches really are for Aboriginal People. Perhaps one of the biggest gaps between the Aboriginal perspective and that of non-Aboriginals centers around the focus on the individual and the importance of self-awareness, self-fulfillment, and personal growth that are the hallmarks of Western understanding. While this is a common observation when discussing or reading about “cross cultural” or “culturally sensitive” approaches, the realities of this need to “modify”, I believe, require us to alter the very foundations of many of our approaches to counseling with Aboriginal People, who exist, not in an individual reality but rather in complex and dynamic relationships to all people and nature around them.

Let me give one small example of how this collective orientation differs from mine. In using the tool “Creating a Safe Place”, whether in imagery or through a combination of imagery and art work, I offer that, among it’s other characteristics, this place does not have any other people there…just for you…a place where you can be alone…feeling perfectly safe and free from any harm….etc. My Aboriginal trainees rightfully ignore this suggestion and invariably create places that are filled with people interacting with them in some way. The notion of being alone anywhere, and separate from family and friends, is what makes them feel unsafe! Even when some of these other people have been abusive to them! So, “no big deal Joe”, you say. Clients will routinely dismiss any suggestions that are not right for them, and replace them accordingly. True enough. But what’s interesting to me is my rigid adherence to these standard instructions! What keeps me from altering them to something like…”gather all of your friends and family…. see them in your safe place…. doing whatever it is that makes you all feel safe together”… or something like that? I submit that it’s my difficulty in maintaining a “culturally appropriate” perspective, giving only lip service to the principles of “cross cultural counselling”, and stubbornly holding onto the notion that our way is somehow “better”, and they’ll catch on to this eventually if they would just give it a try.

This leads me to the challenges of exploring the notion of “boundaries”, personal or professional, with Aboriginal People. The idea that we need to set boundaries in our personal relationships, and must adhere to appropriate boundaries in our professional relationships with clients, and that this ensures healthy interactions, often mystifies my Aboriginal trainees. They exist in a world where “co-dependency” is not a disease, but rather a state of relationship to be aspired toward. Our notion of boundaries and empathy often sound like uncaring, arms-length ways of distancing from “the other”. For a counsellor to not reveal as much about him/herself as the client is willing to do, for example, would interfere with the development of a trusting relationship. The client would stop sharing, and probably stop coming.

Another example is the ethical caution against “dual relationships”. This is an impossible ethical stance to maintain in a community where you have multiple relationships with almost every other member of the community. I was supervising a counsellor whose client was the man who had previously murdered the counsellor’s sister! Believe it or not, he was doing an excellent job!

Yet another challenge surrounds the fact that confidentiality is never assumed, as it is almost non-existent in all relationships. Everyone knows everything about everyone else, and, in many ways, their very survival depends on this. So how do we revise our discussions around ethical principles that we have taken as “givens”, but they see as unsuitable, undesirable, and unworkable in their world?

Further, our understandings of health, balance, and change are so individual-focused that they stand the risk of being rejected outright as not being consistent with the time- honoured values of these people. This comes back at me almost every day in my work here as I naturally assume a more Eurocentric (read “White Man”) stance. Their profoundly collective orientation that places relationship first, for example, explains in part how someone is selected for a job in the community. Let’s say a job is posted for an Early Childhood Worker at the daycare centre. In our world we would assume that this position would be filled by someone with some background, and at least some training in the field, perhaps a certificate or even a degree. Here the job is more likely to be offered to a close relative of the person in charge of hiring, and under the guidance of a family Elder or community leader. The person chosen may not have ever thought of doing work such as this, but the opportunity to work is now being made available, and it’s not to be turned down lightly. The person is selected because he/she needs the job, rather than the job needs them. While we may hire based on the principle of “the best person for the job”, up here the strategy would be to find the best job for this person. (I recently met an “addictions counsellor” who was the community radio announcer previously struggling with his own addictions. He improved greatly over time.) Sometimes the decision is based on sheer economic considerations. The person needs a job to support a family. But more often it’s because this job will be good for this person in some way. It’s assumed that training and competencies will be acquired along the way, or someone else will be assigned. The responsibility to do well in this position is far greater than merely achieving some personal goals, but rather to fulfill the family’s plan, and to be a productive member of the family and the community. Now before you scream “nepotism”, let me assure you that this system often works. The individual chosen is likely to work really hard, to take their job very seriously, perhaps even give up some prior addictions, to make this job work. Given that, it’s especially sad to see them struggle with so little support, and minimal resources.

And yet to be among these caring, hard-working, unaffected, generous, light-hearted people is an honour, and a truly uplifting experience. They have so much to teach us if we can take off our cultural filters for a time, and rather than judging them, make an effort to see the wisdom in their ways. So I keep going back.

JOE SOLANTO, PH.D.

Before coming to B.C. in the early 90's Joe Solanto served as a School Psychologist in the public
schools of New York for eighteen years. He then completed a doctorate in psychology, and for
seven years was the Director of a multi-disciplinary outpatient treatment centre for addictions andtrauma that utilized the services of over 20 professionals, treating the full range of mental healthrelated problems. Since coming to Canada, Joe has been teaching a wide variety of courses at the Justice Institute of B.C. focusing on trauma counselling, assessment and treatment utilizing the DSM system, restorative justice, and adventure-based learning, as well as offering training in counselling-related topics at other post-secondary institutes. He has also served as a consultant for the Federal Department of Justice as well as for Corrections Services Canada. In the past few years he has been working in First Nations communities in B.C., the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, as well as with the Inuit of Northern Quebec, and Labrador, assisting with the healing from residential school trauma, and training front-line staff to respond to the high incidence of violence, suicidal, addictive, and other self-harming behaviours within their communities. His work is featured in the DVD, A Healing River, available from Simon Fraser University’s Department of  Criminology, as well as his presentation on Intergenerational Trauma available through Heartspeak Productions’ web page. Joe is also known for his work in the mid-90’s as the Director and Expedition Leader for the Vancouver Ocean Challenge Society, which provided groups of at-risk youth challenging marine and wilderness adventures in a therapeutic milieu. This program was nominated for the 1997 Violence Prevention Award. In November 2007 and 2008, Joe was a Keynote speaker and youth-focused workshop
presenter at the Western Canadian Conference on Addictions and Mental Health. His
topic was Trauma and Addictions. Again, in June 2008 he was the Keynote speaker
at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in Vancouver. His topic was Intergenerational Trauma
and Healing. In March 2009, he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice
Strategy Conference
 sponsored by the Department of Justice. In 2010 he presented
a training workshop to IRS frontline workers sponsored by the Atlantic Policy
Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat 
on Intergenerational Trauma and Community Healing. In 2009, Joe was the recipient of the Instructor of the Year Award at the JusticeInstitute of B.C.He currently provides consultation and training to a variety of organizations throughout Canada.
Counselling on Mars - Part Two
September 23, 2009

It’s near the end of September and the beginning of new contract, this time in Labrador. I’m embarking on a 10-month training with members of the local Inuit government (Nunatsiavut) mental health and addictions counselors. We’ve designed it such that they will shadow me as I travel to the various coastal communities offering workshops on trauma and addictions to the local frontline service providers. The goal is to offer mentoring and supervision to this team so that they will be able to continue this work into the future.

I’m also approaching my 68th birthday and reflecting on what keeps me going. When I was in my 50’s I was already tired and longing for “retirement”. Back then I was slowly burning-out, partly from vicarious trauma, partly from personal factors, and largely from a growing questioning of the value of my work. …. I was becoming dis-spirited.

I’m sitting in the kitchen of a small mental health building in Nain, Labrador. The participants and my training team are all new to me, and yet I know them well. They are very much like the people of Nunavik with whom I’ve worked in recent years, and very much like the First Nations people I’ve met across Canada. Being in their presence is what keeps me going.

The history of these people is scarred by the traumas wrought by the forces of colonization. And while trauma is in their stories, survival is in their genes. These remarkable people have endured direct and indirect attempts to annihilate them. The government and the churches have tried for generations to wipe out their culture, remove them from their land, appropriate their resources, and marginalize them in every way possible. And it nearly succeeded. A generation ago, stripped of their self-worth, torn from their spiritual centre, relocated from their traditional lands, numbed by alcohol, they were “dying off”.

Yet today, I sit among these people and see them as role models for my own life and work. In recovery, reclaiming their traditions, standing firmly on their land, feeling empowered enough they are resisting the ongoing efforts to assimilate and annihilate them. Most of us would be quickly overwhelmed by their lives, and by their workloads, by their continuing family crises, and by the 24-7 on-call nature of their roles as community helpers. When they introduce themselves and tell you of their work, for example, one person might say, “I’m the youth addictions counsellor, lead the crisis response team, work part-time in the school as community liaison, coordinate the addictions self-help programs, direct the summer youth camps, and serve as grief counsellor for my church group.” This person is often a single parent and raising his/her own kids, as well as fostering some children from other family members who have died or are otherwise unable to provide care for their children. In a typical day they see up to a dozen clients, over the course of a week probably 50 or more, many of them related to them in some way. And yet they find time to show up for every important family and community event, usually organizing and cooking for these.

“What is it”, I ask myself that accounts for their survival and for the fact that they are thriving against all odds. The answers are complex. The best I can relate to it is to describe their lives as living and working in a “therapeutic community”. I remember attendance at intensive training programs where everyone came ready to “do their work”. Where guidance and support came not only from the top but also from your peers. Where stories were told, tears were shed, hands were held, hugs were frequent. Where blame and judgment had no place, and acknowledgement and validation prevailed. In these settings people were “real”. They left pretense at the door, spoke about themselves with openness and humility, committed to on-going growth, and, as the saying goes, not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. This is what I find in these small villages. Growing numbers of healthy individuals, banding together to create healthier families, and healthier communities.

Our days begin and end with a prayer, usually recited spontaneously by a respected Elder. With bowed heads we are asked to thank the Creator for another beautiful day (no matter what the weather), express gratitude for the opportunity to be together to do this work, pray for the strength to face the hard choices that it will take to remain in balance, and to ask for special blessings for those who are still in the grip of addictions, suffering from past trauma, not yet ready to walk on the road to healing. We express appreciation and ask for the continued understanding of our mates, children and others who sometimes share the burden of our work. We pray for the instructor, that his teachings will come from his heart, that we will be open to new learning for the good of the people, and especially for the welfare of the children and grandchildren. We  are reminded that all healing comes from the Creator, and that we are simply imperfect messengers who have been chosen to do this work. We express gratitude for the support that we give one another.

During our time together they share stories in the first person always owning their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They speak of great harm done to them and by them, and they ask for the strength to find forgiveness. They thank each other for listening and not judging them.

When they ask a question they reveal its personal significance in their own lives and they shine brightly when they find self-understanding in the material we are covering.

There’s always lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of good food. We sit together, often on the floor, sharing “country food” from common pots. There’s goose, ptarmigan, fish, moose, caribou, berries, seal, walrus, whale meat. They love their traditional foods and so meals are full of joy. These times remind me very much of my youth in my large Italian family. I’m strangely at home in this very unlikely place.

Today in the middle of an important class activity a young man, not realizing that the building was closed, knocked repeatedly on the door. When he was let in he stood before us, shaking and crying, saying, “I’ve come to get help.” He was not told that the Mental Health Office was closed for staff training, he was not told to come back tomorrow, and he was not made to feel like an intruder. He was invited in like a welcomed guest, offered a cup of tea, and gently escorted by one staff person to a back room, amidst good wishes from all. When he left sometime later he looked proud as people called out “thanks for coming”, “hope to see you again”. The staff person, who then had missed a good portion of the afternoon, was immediately asked how she was doing, and how could they help her to catch up.

This evening I was the honoured guest at a monthly dinner meeting celebrating abstinence. Seventeen members of the community arrived, all with local homemade foods to share. We had arctic char, cod, smoked salmon, caribou and vegetable soup, and delicious deserts made from the plentiful berries found in the hills. Conversations flowed, jokes were made, and teasing predominated. It’s said that Aboriginal People show that they like you if they tease you…. I must be loved. I come home full in the stomach, and full in the heart. Another remarkable day among these beautiful souls. My spirit is being filled. Retirement ?? Feels more like “refirement”.

JOE SOLANTO, PH.D.

Before coming to B.C. in the early 90's Joe Solanto served as a School Psychologist in the public schools of New York for eighteen years. He then completed a doctorate in psychology, and for seven years was the Director of a multi-disciplinary outpatient treatment centre for addictions and trauma that utilized the services of over 20 professionals, treating the full range of mental health related problems.

Since coming to Canada, Joe has been teaching a wide variety of courses at the Justice Institute of B.C. focusing on trauma counselling, assessment and treatment utilizing the DSM system, restorative justice, and adventure-based learning, as well as offering training in counselling-related topics at other post-secondary institutes. He has also served as a consultant for the Federal Department of Justice as well as for Corrections Services Canada. In the past few years he has been working in First Nations communities in B.C., the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, as well as with the Inuit of Northern Quebec, and Labrador, assisting with the healing from residential school trauma, and training front-line staff to respond to the high incidence of violence, suicidal, addictive, and other self-harming behaviours within their communities. His work is featured in the DVD, A Healing River, available from Simon Fraser University’s Department of Criminology, as well as his presentation on Intergenerational Trauma available through Heartspeak Productions’ web page.

Joe is also known for his work in the mid-90’s as the Director and Expedition Leader for the Vancouver Ocean Challenge Society, which provided groups of at-risk youth challenging marine and wilderness adventures in a therapeutic milieu. This program was nominated for the 1997 Violence Prevention Award.

In November 2007 and 2008, Joe was a Keynote speaker and youth-focused workshop presenter at the Western Canadian Conference on Addictions and Mental Health. His topic was Trauma and Addictions. Again, in June 2008 he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in Vancouver. His topic was Intergenerational Trauma and Healing. In March 2009, he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Strategy Conference sponsored by the Department of Justice. In 2010 he presented a training workshop to IRS frontline workers sponsored by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat on Intergenerational Trauma and Community Healing.

In 2009, Joe was the recipient of the Instructor of the Year Award at the Justice Institute of B.C.

He currently provides consultation and training to a variety of organizations throughout Canada.
Counselling On Mars – Part III

March, 2010.
I’m here again in a small community in northern Labrador (pop. @200). There are no trained counsellors, no hospital, one nurse (working 24/7), one child in kindergarten, and 4 in 12th grade. I look at the list of names in a directory of community members. There are six surnames shared by about 90% of the people, and only a handful of other names. The community had a long history of self-sufficiency until the cod and salmon stocks dwindled, the fishery closed, the wild game became scarce, and the bottom fell out of the sealing industry. Now there’s little work, and little to do if you don’t have money. The Elders are quickly vanishing. These voids have been filled for many by alcohol and drugs.

I’m sitting with “frontline” workers. Folks with little or no training in the helping roles they play every day. They are hearing stories of violence, depression, abuse, addictions, intergenerational trauma, suicide, grief, mental health problems, and anything else that community members may need help with. I’m thinking about how limited Western counselling principles and tools are in these circumstances. The things that we take for granted have little or no place here. I wonder for whom those counselling theories are meant, and how we have assumed their universality.

While sitting in the airport on the way up this trip I met a gentlemen who had been “sent” here by a well-meaning service organization from down south to conduct a workshop on “self-esteem”. He was a former educator, administrator, and executive HR leader. A very nice guy, actually. He had a canned program that was successfully used in many other settings. He had never been here before, and had not learned much about the people before his arrival. He made all kinds of erroneous assumptions as he described to me what he would hope to accomplish during the workshop. He clearly was here to “enlighten” the poor natives, and build their self-esteem. (Aboriginal people do not generally focus on self-esteem and self-worth in the way that others do. They do not value making choices for their own benefit, but rather for the benefit of the family and community.) I tried to give him a crash course, but he felt confident and enthusiastic. His cup was already full. He’s just one of many among the legion of folks sent here, and into many Aboriginal communities, who believe in the “rightness”, and therefore efficacy, of their points of view, and skill set. This group unfortunately includes medical personnel, mental health professionals, police, and educators; employees, and the clear beneficiaries, of what some Natives call, “the Indian Industry”. They come. They do their thing. And they bemoan the lack of responsiveness of their clients, who they often see as too “damaged” to benefit from their services.

I met this same fellow briefly on the way back home. He had a dazed look. He wasn’t as exuberant, or as talkative. I didn’t get to hear how it went. But I have some guesses.

I think, too, about our codes of ethics. We place a high value, for example, on the idea of “confidentiality”, as we should. Strangers come to our office seeking our services. We have probably never met them before, and may never see them after our service ends. Perhaps no one else knows that they are coming to see us, and they may never tell anyone. Right off, we assure them of the confidentiality of our sessions (with notable exceptions). Sometimes it’s a challenge for us, but we probably don’t know anyone in his or her life. If we do speak about them to colleagues or supervisors, we can avoid identifying information, and thus secure the confidence. We have a certain freedom to discuss them anonymously when necessary, and they have a certain freedom to tell us anything they choose. This practice builds trust in our clients and our relationship develops strength and resilience allowing them to go as deep as they need.

We also think carefully about boundaries and avoiding dual relationships. We understand how this protects the clients, but also keeps us in ethical balance with those we counsel. We can discuss this with clients as we need to, and we can be flexible as the situation dictates.

These valuable principles are part of the time-honoured behaviours we counsellors have evolved in order to ensure our neutrality, the effectiveness of our work, and the safety of the client. And they are very important….. in our world.

But here, the world of the client and the helper is different. The clear-cut principles of confidentiality and dual relationships are impossible to adhere to. Consider these factors:

If someone chooses to seek counselling they will most likely come to a building that is a multifunctional facility. Their child may be in daycare in the next room, the nurse treating a relative is down the hall, and the patients are in a common waiting area. It may also be the one day that that the dentist or the eye doctor is also there. There are administrative offices, clerical, custodial, and maintenance staff housed here as well. In other words, your client’s presence and purpose are immediately obvious to all, and will surely be announced in conversations throughout the day. But it doesn’t really matter because everyone in the community already knows about his problems!! No surprise that he’s here to visit with the addictions counsellor, or the child protection worker, or the stop the violence coordinator. What does the counsellor say to assure confidentiality? Perhaps, “Whatever is said here won’t be repeated by me. Even when:

-your spouse calls me tonight to ask about you, or

-when I go sealing with your mother tomorrow and she asks how you are doing, and

-our uncle knocks on my door to tell me about his worries concerning you, and

-my employer, who is also your employer, asks if you are fit to work, and

-when your brother and I go fishing, and

-when we meet outside these sessions and I see you in the community or hear about you from others, I will maintain my silence even though I will not be in my counsellor role……..

Everyone knows everything about everyone. Facebook and Twitter can’t possibly compete with the fine-tuned community gossip network functioning in these communities. Generations before them depended on the principle of total knowledge of the details of every member’s life. Survival depended on having this knowledge as it helped to maintain balanced community living. “Gossip” was a social tool to help remind one another of the rules of proper behaviour, and served as a shaming sanction against violations. Gossip is in their blood. It’s hard for many to understand the value of keeping “secrets” from the larger community. Counsellors find themselves struggling daily to uphold confidentiality, as they have been told they must, to explain its value over and over, and to deal with the anxiety and suspicion that it may cause. The more they espouse these beliefs, the more they may be viewed as “outsiders”.

On the flip side, consider the potential benefits. Have you ever worked with a client whom you suspected wasn’t being fully truthful about how he/she was doing outside your sessions? Well, here it’s very hard to keep information from the ears of the counsellor. He or she will know about a relapse, a fight with a spouse, or re-offending, and even the client’s opinions about the counsellor, almost immediately.

And consider this. How does a counsellor self-disclose (a high value in traditional healing) when it would be helpful to the client? Aboriginal clients will not easily trust a helper who doesn’t also deeply disclose. And they learn best when hearing the details of another’s efforts toward wellness. The client can’t be expected to maintain confidentiality, however. Counsellors find that their personal life stories, over the course of time, become part of the “public record”. Your life is an open book, every eye in the community scrutinizes your behaviours, and you never know when you might say or do something in your private life that may jeopardize your employment.

It seems there’s a need for a drastically modified code of ethics for counsellors in Aboriginal Communities. Right now the discrepancy between what they are presented and the realities of their work leave them without guidance, often doubting their instincts about how to perform their jobs. Perhaps that partly accounts  for the incredibly high turnover rate in these roles, as well as the high job vacancy rates. Some communities have been waiting for a mental health counsellor for years. Want a job?

Don’t get the wrong idea! I love working in these settings. The challenges are enormous, but the hearts and spirits of these folks are also enormous. My team is growing in number and capacity. They are creating amazing programs and services in almost every community. They are committed to articulating the teachings of their ancestors and using these to guide their work as helpers. They are working hard to de-colonize themselves and others. And I have no doubt that they will be successful. I remind them that trauma may indeed be in their history, but survival and success are in their genes.

JOE SOLANTO, PH.D.

Before coming to B.C. in the early 90's Joe Solanto served as a School Psychologist in the public schools of New York for eighteen years. He then completed a doctorate in psychology, and for seven years was the Director of a multi-disciplinary outpatient treatment centre for addictions and trauma that utilized the services of over 20 professionals, treating the full range of mental health related problems.

Since coming to Canada, Joe has been teaching a wide variety of courses at the Justice Institute of B.C. focusing on trauma counselling, assessment and treatment utilizing the DSM system, restorative justice, and adventure-based learning, as well as offering training in counselling-related topics at other post-secondary institutes. He has also served as a consultant for the Federal Department of Justice as well as for Corrections Services Canada. In the past few years he has been working in First Nations communities in B.C., the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, as well as with the Inuit of Northern Quebec, and Labrador, assisting with the healing from residential school trauma, and training front-line staff to respond to the high incidence of violence, suicidal, addictive, and other self-harming behaviours within their communities. His work is featured in the DVD, A Healing River, available from Simon Fraser University’s Department of Criminology, as well as his presentation on Intergenerational Trauma available through Heartspeak Productions’ web page.

Joe is also known for his work in the mid-90’s as the Director and Expedition Leader for the Vancouver Ocean Challenge Society, which provided groups of at-risk youth challenging marine and wilderness adventures in a therapeutic milieu. This program was nominated for the 1997 Violence Prevention Award.

In November 2007 and 2008, Joe was a Keynote speaker and youth-focused workshop presenter at the Western Canadian Conference on Addictions and Mental Health. His topic was Trauma and Addictions. Again, in June 2008 he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Forum in Vancouver. His topic was Intergenerational Trauma and Healing. In March 2009, he was the Keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Justice Strategy Conference sponsored by the Department of Justice. In 2010 he presented a training workshop to IRS frontline workers sponsored by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat on Intergenerational Trauma and Community Healing.

In 2009, Joe was the recipient of the Instructor of the Year Award at the Justice Institute of B.C.

He currently provides consultation and training to a variety of organizations throughout Canada.

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Hey Joe (and Sheldon),

Great post with some really critical questions, not just about being "helpers" in Aboriginal communities but about ethics and practices for professional helpers overall.

I was at a meeting a few days ago in a First Nations community trying to help bridge the massive gap between the "ethics"and working models of folks from social services and the Chief and the community members. There were at least four distinct world views in the room and all had a legitimate and logical foundation. (Thanks to jane Katz for teaching me that all behaviour makes sense if you see it from the other person perspective)

Personally, I'm finding that the models of understanding used in complexity science have a lot of value in this kind of work. I know it may seem like a strange bedfellow lol

Understanding complex adaptive systems helps me not only in navigating the whitewater of culture, especially culture interrupted, it offers ways of being with people and communities that has a foundation of working from the collective present.

Meg Wheatley, Dave Snowden and Peter Block's work have been particularly enlightening for me. Your article fits well with the messages from these amazing folks. Is there perhaps a book in your future?

jamie

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Wikipedia defines it as:
“Neuroplasticity (from neural - pertaining to the nerves and/or brain and plastic - mold-able or changeable in structure) refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how - and in which ways - the brain changes throughout life.

    There is a woman in Toronto who changed her brain and is teaching others to do the same and even more. Her name is Barbara Arrowsmith and her challenges growing up were quite daunting. She couldn’t understand what she read. She sometimes read a sentence many many times and still never sure she understood it. Something others take for granted like reading “take the book and place it the desk” It meant nothing to her. She was 26 before she could read a clock. The effect it had on her confidence and self esteem was tremendous.

    Her story is inspiring. Many children and adults carry shame over their hidden difficulties in learning or doing certain things that they keep hidden. Getting by with compensating for whatever it is they just can’t do. For me it is math. For the person who interviewed her it is reading maps. Maps make no sense to him, as fractions and long division are a mystery to me.

   Not being able to do these things caused her tremendous pain and cost years of frustration and tears. She has a photographic memory-visually and auditorily. She used this ability to compensate for not being able to reason in certain areas even through college.  In fact-it was in college during a science class that she decided that she needed to figure out a way to address and change how she learned directly. Without compensating for it.

   She worked hard to discover how she could change what too many neuroscientists at the time said was impossible as an adult.  She did it and she has a school in Toronto, The Arrowsmith School where she teaches others how to change their own brains. Some have struggled with learning disabilities their entire life. Others are still very young her students cover the entire human lifespan from kids to senior citizens. She said that she does it so others don’t have to go through what she did. Overcoming her deficents didn’t change her feelings of lack of confidence and self esteem overnight built up over such a long time. That healing took longer but after a while it happened for her.

    I love that she changed and healed and now guides others to change and heal themselves. I think we can heal and help others with their challenges without having first experienced those exact same issues but there is something about someone who “has been there” that gives hope and confidence a boost.

   An interesting thing to note is she doesn't only help others bring their cognitive abilities to average-she teaches her students how to bring them to as advanced a level as possible for them. To excel. That has got to be a huge huge boost to people's self esteem and confidence.

  Change your brain. Can you imagine?!  All the possibilities!

Lisa Brown is a student at the Orca Institute.

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Orca Institute just received EQA designation from the BC government.

ABOUT EQA

EQA is a quality assurance designation that identifies BC public and private post-secondary institutions that have met or exceeded provincial government recognized quality assurance standards and offer consumer protection.

EQA — BC's Brand for Quality Education

EQA provides one standard provincial seal that can be recognized globally as symbol of quality.

The EQA seal allows students to easily identify which provincial institutions the government of BC recognizes as having met quality assurance standards and that offer consumer protection to learners.

EQA is a voluntary designation available to all BC public and private post-secondary institutions.

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1202-1255 Bidwell St., Vancouver, BC 
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