Unity of minds, hearts and culture helps
Indigenous people heal from complex trauma
Over 100 people have taken the FNHA's Healing Complex Trauma 1 programs in BC and now the unique curriculum of the three-week intensive Healing Complex Training 1 (HCT1) course is gaining worldwide attention.
The FNHA's Dr. Patricia Vickers, Director, Mental Wellness Clinical Services and Ryan Moyer, Program Consultant, Mental Health, won the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Inaugural Maggie Hodgson award for an article they wrote about the training program.
The article, “Complex Trauma 1: A Unity of Minds, Hearts and Culture Healing", will be published in The Journal of Indigenous Wellness. It reports on the dynamic work they have been doing around healing for Indigenous peoples. Dr. Vickers presented on HCT1 at the 2019 Healing Our Spirit Worldwide conference in Sydney, Australia with co-facilitators for the program, Dave Belleau and Freddie Johnson, before receiving the award. The article won because of the applicability of its content across Indigenous populations as well as its academic rigour.
HCT1 weaves together lectures and dialogue on the neurobiology of trauma with a somatic therapeutic approach, and is based on the values of Indigenous culture. This approach offers a holistic way of learning about trauma and addiction—through personal experience and science. This also provides a unique path to healing and reducing stigma around mental health and wellness.
“It's great to have people from all over the world recognize what we are doing and understand what it is we are working towards," says Dr. Vickers, who created the curriculum for both HCT1 and Brief Trauma Training (a three-day overview of trauma) in consultation with renowned professionals.
The program is designed for healthcare professionals—such as addictions counsellors and health directors—who often share a similar history of Indian Residential School and the Sixties Scoop with their clients. The healing work is rooted in reclamation: remembering our authentic selves and our ancestral protocols, which are often distorted through oppression and unjust domination, such as colonialism.
Culture and gentleness flow through the program. Dr. Vickers explains culture as a “living energy force" that people can feel in their nervous system. “Culture is always there and you are either connected to it or not," says Dr. Vickers. “I see people come into the training disconnected from culture and leave connected. That is really powerful."
Each day opens and closes with traditional song and prayer. Ceremonies, such as a sweat, close out each week. “I feel blessed that the greater power made me attend. The teaching and being able to connect with culture was quite different and made learning easier, looking at learning from different aspects," says a participant quoted in the award-winning article.
Dr. Vickers is also one of the program facilitators and explains that one of the unique aspects of HCT1 is that the facilitators are also on their own healing journeys. “What we [facilitators] present is that we are equal. We are all working on our healing journeys, and we do have something to offer. I have experience and knowledge that comes from applying it in a personal way."
She credits this relatable equality with evoking profound changes. Participants often begin the training with a defensive mindset but quickly shift into a leadership role where they show up with openness and kindness. “By week two they are recognizing their traumas, expressing emotion, and they see they are not cracking into itty bitty pieces. They are good and they realize that," says Dr. Vickers.
The value of the program is not only recognized internationally but it is felt back in BC as well. After the First Nations Health Directors Association (FNHDA) Board of Directors participated in the HCT1 training, they voted unanimously that all 150 Health Directors in the Association receive this training as well. A clear sign that this unity of mind, heart and culture is helping Indigenous peoples understand and heal from complex trauma.
Congratulations to Dr. Vickers and Ryan Moyer.
*The article is currently in press and will be available online soon.