Indigenizing and Decolonizing Therapeutic Responses to Trauma-Related Dissociation

  • Riel Dupuis-RossiEmail author
  • Vikki Reynolds
Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)


Trauma, as conceptualized and defined by the mainstream field of psychology, is better understood as oppression rooted in political violence. Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (known by some as “North America”) continue to be effected by historical and contemporary forms of colonial oppression which is at the root of dissociative responses to “trauma”. Dissociation is a response to colonial violence in the form of land theft and its resulting systematic confinement of Indigenous people in residential schools, foster homes, reservations, prisons, structural poverty, etc. and is widespread in Indigenous adults seeking counselling services. Dissociative responses to colonial violence are considered in our decolonizing psychotherapy as acts of resistance that preserve parts of ourselves and internal experiences in the context of ongoing systematic attacks on the integrity of one’s person. Acknowledging colonialism and its impact is the cornerstone of indigenizing and decolonizing trauma therapy.

Indigenous clients, presenting with dissociative responses to historical and ongoing colonial violence, are best served by utilizing “culturally responsive and socially just change processes” based on culture-infused counselling (CIC; Collins & Arthur, 2010a, 2010b) and the revised CIC framework outlined in Chap.  2). In fact, it is only through the process of decolonizing our “treatment” of dissociative responses to trauma and indigenizing trauma therapy, as a whole, that Indigenous clients will reconnect to a sense of agency and be empowered to heal in culturally relevant ways.


Trauma-informed care Indigenous/aboriginal/First Nations health Indigenous/aboriginal/First Nations mental health and counselling Trauma-related dissociation Indigenous ways of knowing Decolonization Indigenizing trauma therapy Decolonizing psychotherapy Indigenous cultural practices Witnessing resistance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aboriginal Wellness Program, Vancouver Coastal HealthVancouverCanada
  2. 2.VancouverCanada

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