Background: As with many Indigenous groups around the world, Aboriginal communities in Canada face significant challenges with trauma and substance use disorders (SUD). Treatment for intergenerational trauma (IGT) and SUD is challenging due to the complexity of both disorders. There is strong evidence that strengthening cultural identity, incorporating traditional healing practices, encouraging community integration, and inviting political empowerment can enhance and improve mental health and substance use disorders in Aboriginal populations.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to explore whether the blending of Indigenous traditional healing practices and the Western treatment model Seeking Safety, which is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and SUD, resulted in a reduction of IGT symptoms and SUD. Twelve Aboriginal men and 12 Aboriginal women were recruited into this study—all of whom resided in Northern Ontario and self-identified as having experienced IGT and SUD. The Indigenous Healing and Seeking Safety (IHSS) group (conducted as sharing circles) were offered twice a week over 13 weeks. Data was collected via semi-structured interviews as well as an end-of-treatment focus group. A qualitative thematic analysis was performed to depict themes.

Results: Out of the 24 Aboriginal people who entered the program, nine women and eight men completed the program. Analysis from the qualitative thematic data identified four core themes. Furthermore, the sharing circles and the presence of Elders and Aboriginal helpers increased the benefits of the blended approach.

Conclusion: Evidence from this qualitative study suggests that it could be beneficial to incorporate Indigenous traditional healing practices into Seeking Safety to enhance the health and well-being of Aboriginal people with IGT and SUD. This implementation project, if replicated, has the potential to enhance the health and well-being of Aboriginal peoples. The use of blended implementation can be an important option for clinicians and health-care professionals when working with Aboriginal populations. Only the qualitative results will be discussed in this article; quantitative results will be published separately.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.