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Incorporating diversity and indigenous culture in CYC practice

2015

Hi folks,

I am an undergraduate student at University of Victoria, in BC, Canada. My peers and I are very interested in learning more about how practitioners incorporate Indigenous culture and traditional healing into their practice (within North America, and/or globally).

We are also wondering about different perspectives on how practitioners demonstrate cultural sensitivity within their practice. How does one navigate cultural differences and tensions that may arise?

We look forward to reading your responses!

Melissa Boulet
...

Hi Melissa,

So to respond to your first question about incorporating indigenous culture and traditional healing, I incorporate them in an unstructured learning setting. Personally, I work with young people who have been diagnosed with ASD and work with them in both a home setting and the community. Our activities usually consist of "unstructured/child led" activities and "structured/adult directed" activities. A great aspect of indigenous culture is that much of it is orally based (i.e. songs, dances, stories). This means that when working with a client you can weave traditional, culturally relevant activities into an otherwise "westernized" session plan. For example, a client of mine is Aboriginal and the parents expressed an interest in including cultural elements into our program plan. What we did was maintain our structured activities but substituted traditional songs and stories into the unstructured element (i.e. instead of singing "Twinkle twinkle little star" the mother led us in a song from her culture). The combination of structured and unstructured really lends well to the idea of incorporating culture.

In response to your question about demonstrating cultural sensitivity I would say be an observer and a student! By this I mean don't try and educate yourself on a culture by Googling it before a session with a client of another culture or asking a friend who is the same culture as the client. My reasoning is that cultural identity can be viewed on a continuum. Some people are very traditional whereas others only identify and practice certain aspect of their culture. To lump an entire culture into one set of practices and beliefs would be ignorant. When I get a client who is of another culture, I make observations when I enter the household such as are they wearing shoes inside or are they taken off by the door, do members of the family give each other eye contact, are they physically affectionate? All of these aspects can give you a glimpse into their lives. Also, an important thing to remember is to not be the expert. The family will probably already realize that you are not familiar in their culture so just ask questions (that are respectful and relevant to why you are there) and most families I have experienced are more than happy to share information with you. This can also be a great tool to build a relationship with the child, by asking age and stage appropriate questions about their culture and traditions.

Good luck with your studies!

Bethany Mitchell
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