Sixteen people from various agencies in Browning participated in a five-day training called Indigenous Tools for Living (ITFL) at Blackfeet Community College. ITFL stems from more in-depth training in Indigenous Focusing-Oriented Therapy, which was developed over 25 years ago by Métis elder and knowledge holder Shirley Turcotte. This approach is based in Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing, “broaden[ing] mainstream approaches to health and well-being, providing tools, practices and approaches that are strength-based, culturally relevant and historically sensitive” (Turcotte & Schiffer, 2014).
The training was funded through the Zero Suicide initiative, and had a particular focus on suicide as well as the complex and collective trauma and other symptoms associated with it.
The workshop was facilitated by instructors and elders from the Indigenous Focusing Orientated Therapy Program, and consisted of three days of experiential training, where participants learned culturally relevant land-based skills and interventions that they could immediately apply to benefit clients, and to prevent and intervene with suicide.
This was followed by two days of training in how to facilitate workshops and apply learning more broadly, offering participants tools to further this work in the community. A variety of Indigenous treatment modalities are woven throughout, including experiential exercises, storytelling, ceremonial processes and land-based healing techniques. Together, these provide concrete tools and approaches for working with complex trauma in ways that avoid burnout and triggering while at the same time maximizing impact and achieving better outcomes.
ITFL expands current concepts and understandings of complex mental health concerns through honoring collective, historical and intergenerational influences. It reaches beyond common assumptions that we are all the same regardless of our cultural ancestry and experiences, connecting with the unique diversity of histories human beings and international oppression.
ITFL integrates Indigenous-based, anti-oppressive and culturally diverse worldviews and understandings with Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing-Oriented Therapy.