What is Healing to Me?: Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Canada

Unknown-5Here is a summary of the findings from interviews of clients and staff of five healing programmes in Canada:

“… healing is an active, not passive, process: it is something you do, not something you think or that is done to you. In this sense, healing is work, it is ongoing and requires dedication. First and foremost, it requires commitment from the individual. No one can heal you or make you heal. Personal agency is stressed above all else.

The dominant metaphor in our research describes healing as a journey… The journey has a clear direction toward healing, yet it is a journey fraught with challenges. Falling off the path of healing is common, even expected by treatment staff. There is no shame to temporary setbacks, nor are these seen as failures; rather, the individual is welcomed back to continue on his or her journey when he or she feels ready…

Healing was rarely thought of in biomedical terms, and even conventional psychotherapeutic understandings were largely absent. Rather, what emerged is a common theme that healing is ultimately about the reparation of damaged and disordered social relations. The individual, through outwardly and self-destructive behaviours, has become disconnected from family, friends, community, and even his or her heritage.

The reason for undertaking healing is often found in the clients’ desire to make amends and to be accepted back into the web of relationships. Healing, then, speaks to a form of Aboriginal sociality that reduces the degree of self-indulgence and self-pity and frames one’s problems and the solutions in broader, collective terms.

It does not deny historical processes or the legacy of the residential schools, which have created the conditions for social and psychological discontent; rather, it helps individuals understand why they have problems in a manner that allows them to simultaneously see that, while victims of oppression, they retain the necessary agency to change their lives for the better. Healing, then, is ultimately about hope for the individual, the family, the community, and the future…” Aboriginal Healing in Canada: Studies in Therapeutic Practice and Meaning

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