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Q&A - CATSIHP and the Indigenous Healing Practice Training Standards

In October 2021, the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia and its College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices (CATSIHP) launched the Indigenous Healing Practices Training Standards.  

This is a ground-breaking framework to support and nurture Indigenous Healing Practice in all its variety. In this Q&A, CATSIHP Convenor Dr Carlie Atkinson shares the vision for the College and describes Indigenous Healing Practice. 

1.   What’s your vision for the CATSIHP?  

Our vision for the College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices is ultimately to support healing and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through increasing access to Indigenous Healing Practice. Our Indigenous-led College aims to foster development of collaborative dialogue and working relationships in recognition of and respect for the significance of Indigenous Healing Practice. We also aim to support the development of a culturally-integrated and trauma-informed, skilled and qualified workforce to facilitate healing from the intergenerational wounds and impacts of colonisation inflicted upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

The College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices advocates for access to, and training in, therapeutic healing practices founded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. Alongside the Indigenous Healing Practice training standards which are a living document to support the accreditation and representation of a skilled workforce in Indigenous Healing Practice, we envisage CATSIHP’s role as advocating for self-determination, culture, values and belief systems of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and promoting access to Indigenous Healing Practices. 

We are also working on the realisation of an online healing hub project to showcase trainings and scholarship opportunities in Indigenous Healing Practice, access to research and information, and links to registered Indigenous Healing Practitioners within the PACFA website.  

2.     As the Convenor of CATSIHP, can you describe Indigenous Healing Practice? What are the main features and modalities? 

Indigenous Healing practice is intended to cover a broad range of modalities and therapeutic approaches grounded in Indigenous wisdom and facilitating a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.  

We use the term Indigenous in accordance with the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous people. Indigenous Healing Practice is culturally- integrated and trauma-informed and practitioners have walked their own path of healing.  The path to healing is becoming ‘whole’, an integration of the relationship to self (mind, body, emotions, spirit), family, kinship, community, country, Elders, the ancestors and spirituality.  

Indigenous Healing practitioners sit alongside psychotherapists and counsellors in the therapeutic mental health space and have a diverse and wide range of qualifications and healing practice: from inner deep listening and quiet still awareness, ceremony, earth mindfulness, bush medicine, story-telling, music, dance, yarning and hands on healing - to modalities such as psychology, psychotherapy, social work, trauma-informed counselling, education, nutrition, animal assisted therapy, bush and nature therapy, mindfulness and art therapy.   

The foundation of Indigenous Healing practice is not so much about the qualification or modality but relates to the foundational principle of Deep Listening, along with other key features of Relationships; Connection to Country; Culture, Family and Community healing focus; Mind, body and emotions; Indigenous pedagogy and de-colonising practices; and Spirituality. Indigenous Healing Practice is a holistic approach to health and wellbeing that considers all these aspects.  

3.     The Leadership Group of CATSIHP has produced the Indigenous Healing Training Standards. Can you share something of the process of creating the standards? 

The Indigenous Healing Practice Training Standards were developed in a collaborative way by the CATSIHP leadership group and project officer with support from PACFA. The project officer was engaged by PACFA in early 2021 with joint funding from the Psyche foundation, to support the work of CATSIHP and the research and development of an online Healing Hub.  

The hub is intended as an accessible, culturally safe space showcasing trainings in contemporary and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices, scholarship opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples interested in training in this field, and to link to the PACFA/CATSIHP practitioner directory, research and resources.  

The articulation of the key features of Indigenous Healing Practice emerged as a foundational element of the project and developed from yarning and deep listening within CATSIHP leadership group meetings and smaller working group meetings via zoom and email.  This process, along with lived experience and research, led to the formation of the 8 key features of Indigenous Healing Practice and evolved into the training standards.  

4.     What do you hope they will generate? 

Our aim is to support and nurture Indigenous Healing Practice and Indigenous Healing Practitioners and ensure that there is awareness of, and access to, Indigenous Healing practice primarily for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are bearing complex and intergenerational trauma but also for the broader Australian community.  

Indigenous Healing Practice is a therapeutic and holistic approach to health that promotes healing for all Australians.  

Read CATSIHP’s aims, mission and Terms of Reference.  


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