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Quick Chat: Finding Isîhcikêwin in mental health practices

October 07,2016

Werklund prof uses Cree model to guide research into services for Indigenous peoples

In this Quick Chat, Fellner explains the concept—and her research—in depth, as she addressed her research question:  How can mental health services be shaped to better serve Indigenous peoples living in urban spaces?

Mental health practitioners continually work to ensure that they practice with greater cultural sensitivity when working with clients from a wide range of backgrounds.  Yet research, education, and practice in this area tends to remain grounded in western, Eurocentric principles. 

That’s to say that while mainstream programs and initiatives might be well-meaning, they don’t really address the ethics and protocols necessary to develop effective programs, particularly for Indigenous peoples.

That’s where the concept of Isîhcikêwin came in for Karlee Fellner.

The assistant professor in the Werklund School of Education recently completed her PhD thesis which centered on her research into Indigenous counselling in urban environments. 

Using her own personal understanding of the Cree principles of Isîhcikêwin—the idea that there is a way that things should be done with respect to culture, ceremony, and in consideration of the ethics and protocols of the Cree Metis people—Fellner developed her research, with these principles in mind.   

Fellner, who herself is Cree Metis, in two ways--used Isîhcikêwin to drive her research and also to bring counselling services and programs to Indigenous peoples in an urban setting—in this case, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.