Creating Spaces for Decolonization and Indigenization Among Mental Health Professionals in Higher Education

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Smith College Studies in Social Work

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As Indigenous mental health professionals, we need to articulate and differentiate between uncolonizing spaces, and moving toward decolonization and indigenization in the training of mental health professionals. While these terms are frequently used, the processes involved remain to be clearly articulated. Too often practices that are intended to be decolonizing center the settler-colonizer narrative. Representation of Indigenous peoples as active agents in their own healing matters and their knowledge systems must be included in mental health training. Three necessary elements are required to create these spaces: a) centering Indigenous epistemologies in theory, practice, and research; b) co-constructing learning spaces where Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences are heard, validated, and honored and conducted with cultural humility; and c) practicing ceremonies/rituals to create healing and connectedness within these sacred spaces. Finally, we provide a case study of the creation of a Hui (group in Hawaiian) among Indigenous practitioners, scholars, and students demonstrating transformation of pedagogy and praxis for mental health professionals in training (Barnhardt, 1992; Fellner, 2018a; hook, 2013).


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