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Collection: Sitting with Aboriginal Clients: Best Practices and Cultural Insights

This collection of 20 hours (9 courses) examines primary research data, theoretical material, case studies, and lived experience to explore aspects that mainstream mental health therapists should be aware of when working with Aboriginal clients.

About this collection

Many mental health therapists have expressed both interest and anxiety at the thought of counselling Aboriginal clients.  Coming from mainstream cultures themselves, such mental health therapists are attracted to the idea of working with a client identifying as Aboriginal – and learning about that client’s culture – but are concerned about what they don’t know that they don’t know.  This collection is comprised of both text and video courses; its authors and contributors identify as both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

 In the course, Counselling from an Indigenous worldview, Aboriginal scholar Dr Hilary Bond explains the framework from which Aboriginal peoples tend to operate.  The other four text courses in the collection begin with the title Sitting with Aboriginal clients, followed by an aspect of the topic investigated in research conducted in the Northern Territory by the non-Aboriginal MHA writing team.  For an overview course, we recommend starting this series with the Context and strategies course, which looks at the context within which counselling of Aboriginal people occurs and recommends strategies to enhance client engagement.  The Appropriate modalities course analyses how effective therapies in each of five groups of modalities are likely to be with Aboriginal clients.  In the Case studies course, three Aboriginal client cases are presented, and you are introduced to issues that arise when (white) mainstream mental health therapists work with Aboriginal clients.  The course, Hidden cultural differences, explores how mainstream cultures in Australia are seen by anthropologists to be “low context” cultures, whereas Aboriginal cultures are described as “high context”; the course explains the impact of this difference on aspects of interactions with Aboriginal peoples.

The video course lecturers all agree that the mental/emotional health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples is poor and the suicide rates are high relative to the metrics for mainstream (non-Aboriginal) cultures in Australia. These courses offer a variety of perspectives on why this is so and what needs to happen for that to change. Black humour and laughter:  The ingredients of resilience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients (by Dr. Vanessa Lee) explains the general purpose of humour and how it particularly serves to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to heal from personal and collective trauma, fighting racism and adversity. In Indigenous mental health and wellbeing, Professor Pat Dudgeon states that only a paradigm shift – one in which other cultural views are included in psychology and wellbeing – will begin to lessen the health disadvantages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people compared to the health of those in mainstream culture. Similarly, Dr. Vanessa Lee declares in Suicide prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People is not just about a mental health response that the high suicide rates will only decline if health services for Aboriginal clients are culturally safe and valid; she outlines aspects of dominant culture-Aboriginal culture interaction which negatively impact the latter’s mental health. Some initiatives have begun in this regard. Adele Cox, in the course, Understanding context and identifying needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, describes the post-incident service of NICRS which supports local communities in developing suicide prevention programs.

Duration 20 hours
Format Text & Video
Type Collection
Price Included with membership
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