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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counselling with Aboriginal street youth : an aboriginalizing narrative inquiry Brunanski, Dana Margaret


Aboriginal youth are vastly over-represented in the Canadian street youth population. This increased risk of street involvement is one of the many social and health inequalities experienced by Aboriginal people in Canada, and reflects the legacy of colonization, intergenerational effects of residential schools, and contemporary inequities in social determinants of health. Given the challenging and often dangerous circumstances experienced by street youth, it is crucial that research address effective interventions, including counselling. The scant research suggests that despite experiencing problems that could be benefited by counselling, most Aboriginal street youth do not access counselling services. This resonates with the research on street youth in general. However, for Aboriginal youth, underutilization of counselling may also reflect a cultural incongruence between Western approaches to counselling and Aboriginal worldviews and experiences. The present study aimed to explore Aboriginal street youths’ experiences with counselling, using an Aboriginalizing narrative research methodology. Beginning from the researcher’s own location and a grounding in Aboriginal worldviews, this study explored Aboriginal street youths’ narratives of counselling, contextualizing these narratives in their lives on the streets and the larger sociocultural narratives in which they live. In-depth interviews were conducted with 4 youth aged 18-24 who were transitioning off the street and had experiences with counselling. Holistic storying included multiple readings of the interviews from different perspectives, with the resulting 4 narratives consisting primarily of the youth’s own words, linked with connecting comments informed by the multiple readings. The narratives were considered for potential lessons for counsellors and other clinicians. A key lesson was the importance of cultural connection for these youth: being disconnected from their Aboriginal culture played a role in their journeys to the street, and cultural reconnection played a role in their healing and eventual exit from the street. Other key lessons include attending to the importance of the relationship and meeting youth where they are at. Given the lack of research on counselling with this marginalized youth population, this study is a starting point in understanding the experiences of street-involved Aboriginal youth with counsellors, and in creating more effective and culturally sensitive clinical interventions.

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