Culturally appropriate counselling with our Indigenous Resource Consultant

September 28, 2022

Providing a range of diverse, culturally appropriate mental health supports is critical to ensuring all Manitobans get the help they need.

Within our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), our Indigenous Resource Consultant is just one part of our efforts. When someone seeks help from our EAP, requests for Indigenous support are forwarded to Mitch Bourbonniere, our Indigenous Resource Consultant.

With a master's degree in social work, Bourbonniere is an instructor at the University of Winnipeg and Urban Circle Training. A founder of the original Bear Clan Patrol, Bourbonniere's extensive work in the community has merited two Governor General of Canada awards and the Order of Manitoba, among many other recognitions.

At Manitoba Blue Cross, Bourbonniere works with Indigenous clients to ensure they get culturally relevant support.

“The relevant Indigenous cultural supports are usually folks that are known as Elders, knowledge keepers, traditional people and medicine people,” he says. “These folks have experience in supporting people who are seeking a physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual intervention.”

A diverse range of support includes counselling, teachings, plant medicine and ceremonies. Clients may attend smudges, sweat lodges, cedar baths, Sun Dances or pipe ceremonies, depending on their needs and practices.

“I enjoy meeting people from the community and get great satisfaction at linking them up to other good people,” he adds.

Bourbonniere recalls one client that was looking to speak to an Elder for help.

“I was able to set that up through the North Point Douglas Women's Centre, which has an Elder on staff who generously agreed to see this person and provide guidance,” he says.

When getting culturally relevant support, a counsellor/client fit is crucial.

“Not all people seeking intervention will have a good fit with all those providing service,” he says. “It's important to listen to your intuition if the connection to the service provider or the intervention does not feel quite right. That is usually a good time to come back to either myself or our intake people to ensure that the fit is good or whether a new connection needs to be made.

“It's also important to know that different ways of receiving help can occur all at the same time. For example, it is possible for someone to receive support and help from western techniques and medicines as well as Indigenous methods of healing, all at the same time. Of course, people have the choice to pursue either, neither or both."

Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross

If you're looking for culturally appropriate counselling and want to talk to someone, Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get support. Begin the process here.

Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.

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