Sober(er) for October: Leading with an Open Heart



Practicing Lateral Kindn​ess on the Healing Journey

Tsay Keh Dene health staff delivered an inspirational presentation about lateral kindness at the Northern sub-regional caucus session in September 2019. ​Tsay Keh Dene's Community Physician Dr. Jeff Beselt and Leah Diana, Tsay Keh Dene's Nurse-in-Charge, spoke about traditional and land-based ways of using lateral kindness and harm reduction approaches to support people on their healing journeys.

“I've witnessed how family and community can create safe, non-stigmatizing, and compassionate spaces with the intention for healing," shares Leah Diana. “How can we do better in advocating and mobilizing wholistic supports for family and community while they heal?

Dr. Beselt points to the culture and sober camps offered by Tsay Keh Dene, These are culturally safe opportunities for people to reconnect with land and culture, which supports healing. At these camps, participants get out on the land to gather food and medicines, which helps them reconnect with their culture and start working through trauma. Unresolved trauma is often the root cause of alcohol and substance use.

Tsay Keh Dene also use lateral kindness to support healing journeys. For someone struggling with substance use, for example, they may surround the person with family, community, and loved ones – and use prayer and compassion.

In collective healing, fostering spaces and relationships built on practices of lateral kindness is critical. The fundamental principles practiced at the Tsay Keh Dene clinic include self-determination (to ensure the community member directs the pace) and care planning by the client of their own health and wellness journey. 

“A humble approach of engaging the client as a partner is used," says Dr. Jeff Beselt. “Cultural humility is the only way to get there."

To be strength-based in the approach, the starting point of care involves acknowledgement of and building u​pon the strengths of the individual.  Who are they? And where are they from? Understanding the person is the place to start.

One of the goals of the Tsay Keh Dene is to create an accessible range of health services and treatment options to people on their healing journeys. This includes drawing upon traditional healing practices, as the culture and sober camps do. Also available are family counselling programs, men's group, women's group, peer-to-peer programs, and after-care support options. 

Leah explains, “The healing journey is one that involves relationship building on multiple levels and at different points in time."

In closing, check out the music video created by the youth from Tsay Keh Dene called “Beyond the Rocks", a reflection on efforts to start a healing journey to gain their culture and language back.


We invite all Indigenous peoples across BC to join FNHA's Sober(er) for October Challenge!

Find us on social media to ask us questions, tell your stories and share your experiences Remember to use the hashtags #SobererforOctober and #FNHAwellness​

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