I started the PhD program in September 2011 and graduated in May 2016. During my years as a PhD student I continued to work and teach mainly in Indigenous communities and treatment centers. The purpose of my thesis study was to explore whether the blending of Aboriginal traditional healing practices and a mainstream treatment model, Seeking Safety, resulted in a reduction of intergenerational trauma symptoms and SUD. The Seeking Safety model has been proven effective in other populations, but, prior to this study, there was no evidence of its effectiveness with Indigenous peoples.

A total of 17 participants completed the study and all demonstrated improvement in the main outcome. Four core themes emerged from the qualitative data that showed a profound and positive impact on the symptoms and behaviors related to intergenerational trauma and addiction in the participants. These were clearly depicted through the voices and viewpoints of all 17 participants. Trauma symptoms, as measured by the TSC-40, with a mean decrease of 23.9 (SD=6.4, p=0.001) points, represented a 55% improvement from baseline. Evidence from this mixed-methods study indicates that blending Indigenous Healing with the Seeking Safety model was beneficial in reducing trauma symptoms. The combination of tradition and mainstream healing methods has the potential to enhance the health and well being of Aboriginal peoples.

To date, I have offered Indigenous Healing & Seeking Safety (IHSS) training in 20 different agencies and several Aboriginal communities. Currently, the IHSS program is offered in several Indigenous and non-Indigenous treatment agencies. I was also invited to offer the training program in a fly-in Aboriginal community, Eabametoong First Nations, in Fort Hope, Nipissing First Nations in North Bay, Ontario, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island and Benbowopka Treatment Centre in Blind River.

In collaboration with the North Shore Tribal Council and the Benbowopka Treatment Center, our research team and myself proposed a prospective evaluation of a blended IHSS treatment for indigenous patients with a history of trauma and SUD. Benbowopka treats approximately 90 patients per year in a residential treatment program, and the program has high quality retrospective data on their programming and outcomes.  We propose to benchmark anonymized historical program outcomes by evaluating program outcomes and subsequent health systems usage following completion, including treatment completion, substance-use status at follow-up. Further, the Knowledge user has the potential to link anonymized patient records with health systems usage records at the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES). ICES-linkage will provide further insight into hospitalizations, interaction with emergency, mental health, and primary care usage before and following the implantation of the IHSS intervention.

About Indigenous Healing and Seeking Safety (IHSS) SIX DAY TRAINING

The six days of training on IHSS program incorporate all of the elements of an integrative, Two- Eyed Seeing and blended approach. The training consist of didactic, experiential, and small-group learning. During the training the participants engage in IHSS sharing circles sessions such as, PSTD, taking back your power, setting boundaries in relationships, dealing with anger, taking good care of yourself. During the sharing circles the Elder would offer a Grandfather teaching, Indigenous spiritual and traditional sayings, smudging, and/or prayers during the sessions. The teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, also known as either the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, are a set of teachings on human conduct toward others. They include the concepts of wisdom, love, honesty, respect, bravery, humility, and truth (Benton-Benai, 1988). The first three training days include topics such as understanding trauma and becoming trauma informed, somatic experiencing trauma work, safety and stabilization during trauma work and the treatment of trauma. A day would start with didactical presentations until lunch -time and in the afternoon the participants would engage in an actual IHSS sharing circle facilitated by the first researcher and an Elder. The Elder would support and teach as well as bring the traditional teachings to life. For example, the Seeking Safety program consists of up to 25 treatment topics that aim to teach participants a variety of skills. Also see (T. N. Marsh, Cote-Meek, Toulouse, Najavits, & Young, 2015). The participants have time and opportunities to ask questions and through this in-depth discourse evolve. Day four focus on substance use disorders and exploration of information in the Seeking Safety manual. In depth discussions help participants to understand how the Seeking Safety sessions are offered as well as the integration of traditional healing practices. The last two days of training focus on vicarious traumatization, practice sessions, planning and implementation. The practice sessions offer encouragement to the facilitators to explore their strengths and weaknesses in sharing circle facilitation. For example, sometimes the content on intergenerational trauma bring up past painful experiences. All facilitators are encouraged to burn sacred medicines and to place it at the feet of the participant to offer strength. The facilitators understand and valued the ritual of burning sacred medicines as essential to this approach. Discourse on group methods, group processes, therapeutic use of self, and expectations are practiced during these sessions. Team building is incorporated throughout the 6 days. I believe that is training can help with the burnout of staff and the Opiate Crisis.