Indigenous Approaches to Wellness & Psychotherapy as a Response to the COVID‑19 Mental Health Crisis in Indigenous Communities

Fellner, Karlee | $250,000

Alberta The University of Calgary 2022 CIHR Operating Grant

The COVID‑19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in rates of mental health issues, overdose, suicide, and violence in Indigenous communities in Canada. Existing mental health services are inadequate in addressing this mental health crisis, particularly given the general ineffectiveness of mainstream approaches to mental health in Indigenous communities. Numerous studies and reports are calling for community-driven approaches to wellness and psychotherapy that support Indigenous communities in culturally relevant ways, yet many communities do not have the resources to support such approaches. In response to this literature and the immediate needs of communities in central Alberta, community stakeholders from the Rocky Mountain House region of Alberta are requesting support bringing in Indigenous psychotherapy alongside traditional wellness practices. The current study will explore community members’ experiences of Indigenous Focusing-Oriented Therapy as they complete the program, and will further explore the development, implementation, and impact of community-driven cultural wellness programs in addressing the COVID‑19 mental health crisis in the Rocky Mountain House region. Research conversations and focus groups will explore the impact of IFOT and cultural wellness programs on the COVID‑19 mental health crisis in these communities. Findings will inform development of community-based wellness responses to the COVID‑19 mental health crisis that incorporate both traditional approaches to wellness and Indigenous psychotherapy. Themes will be used to develop a framework that other Indigenous communities may draw on in creating effective community-based health initiatives. This research directly supports community-based capacity to respond to mental health crises, and will provide a foundation for further research to investigate the effectiveness of IFOT and cultural programs in addressing the mental health needs of Indigenous communities.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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