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Aboriginal Sex Offenders: Melding Spiritual Healing with Cognitive-Behavioural Treatment

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aboriginal-specific programs within correctional institutions should acknowledge the unique experiences and needs of aboriginal offenders. One of the most striking facts, is that aboriginal people are clearly over-represented in both provincial and federal correctional institutions and the numbers seem to be growing. aboriginal inmates do not constitute a homogenous group but generally speaking, aboriginal offenders do differ from non-aboriginal inmates "in terms of their attitudes, values, interests, identities and backgrounds" (Correctional Law Review, 1988).

With respect to programs within corrections, aboriginal inmates do not tend to participate in general rehabilitation programs although their participation is higher for aboriginal-specific programs (MacPhail, 1988). A paper by the Correctional Law Review states that "aboriginal offenders are an especially disadvantaged group, that aboriginal people should be more closely involved in the planning and delivery of correctional services, and that in some cases special services and programs should be established by and for aboriginal offenders" (MacPhail, 1988). These clear messages have been heard, and have been addressed in the Standards and Guidelines for the Provision of Services to Sex Offenders (1996), as well as in the programs outlined below. Although many are outlined in the 1995 Sex Offender Programs in Correctional Services Canada (CSC), each clinic has provided a description of their newly developed services for aboriginal sex offenders, and these are reproduced below verbatim.

1. La Macaza Clinic (LMC), Québec

The La Macaza Clinic (LMC) has given special attention since September 1995 to the treatment of aboriginal sex offenders, by giving them the opportunity to participate in cultural and spiritual ceremonies. This is a first phase, and other alternatives are also suggested to respond as effectively as possible to the desire of Canadian Correctional services to provide aboriginal offenders with treatment that is better adapted to their reality.

Despite similarities between the dominant culture and the aboriginal culture with respect to treatment needs, therapeutic methods and types of intervention may differ. Accordingly, suggestions have been developed both to improve the treatment currently available and to add a number of cultural components. This process is based more on intuition and understanding of the aboriginal and their therapeutic environment than on theoretical bases and empirically validated, scientifically verified factors.

Therapeutic development component

Throughout their treatment, participants follow a series of therapeutic methods. For each method, we have examined whether its application would help aboriginals or, on the contrary, constitute an irritant. Accordingly, we have made the following suggestions:

A) That therapists have awareness training on aboriginal culture, its differences and the reasons for its specific characteristics.


  • To increase understanding and awareness with respect to aboriginals.
  • To identify more effectively the intrapersonal, interpersonal and environmental conditions that may perpetuate or aggravate problems.
  • To foster understanding of social and community factors in the aboriginal community.
  • To help therapists better understand the reasons for treatment modifications.
  • To develop therapists' awareness of specific cognitive distortions of aboriginal sex offenders.
  • To lead therapists to consider socio-cultural influences, the effects of racism and cultural identity confusion in an individual's background.

B) That all aboriginal offenders who agree to take part in treatment first have access to an elder.


  • To create favourable conditions so as to reduce existing psychosocial stress factors as much as possible (mistrust of the system, therapists, aboriginal fellow participants).
  • To enable inmates to discuss their anguish and anxieties with a person of their own nation.
  • To enable inmates to find meaning in the process they are about to undertake.
  • To develop or strengthen their cultural identity with someone who will accept them unconditionally.
  • To prepare them appropriately for treatment, thus fostering greater cooperation on their part.

C) That examples of role playing, knowledge of social abilities and skills be given during therapy that are better adapted to aboriginal reality.


  • To ensure greater cooperation by participants.
  • To enable participants better to identify themselves as individuals and as sex offenders.
  • To avoid the perception of complete mistrust of aboriginals by therapists.

D) That aboriginals be allowed to meet with significant family members during their therapy.


  • To make treatment more effective.

Cultural and spiritual development component

Therapeutic methods should be seen as only a part of the treatment process, rather than the whole. In that respect, the development of cultural and spiritual components is proving to be a positive complement to make therapy more effective.

Accordingly, we have made the following suggestions:

A) That an elder be hired to conduct ceremonies and provide individual counselling.


  • To give offenders access to someone with whom they can quickly forge a bond of trust.
  • To respect aboriginals' often implicitly expressed desire to confide in one person.
  • To allow for exchanges about their culture.
  • To enable offenders to receive cultural and spiritual advice, thus further strengthening their cultural identity.
  • B) That cultural and spiritual activities be maintained and developed (sweetgrass ceremonies and sweat lodge).


  • To allow inmates to undertake a quest for their identity, thus boosting their self-esteem and their feeling of belonging.
  • To promote cultural exchanges.
  • To provide an additional place for sharing and mutual assistance.
  • To give treatment greater credibility to the program offfered by LMC.
  • To enhance the effect of treatment provided by LMC.

C) That criteria be set for hiring an elder.

D) That a meeting be organized between the elder and the therapy team.


  • To prevent the cultural and spiritual messages from contradicting those conveyed by the treatment itself.
  • To expand the elder's knowledge of the dynamics of sex offenders.
  • To give the therapy team a better understanding of the import and objectives of the cultural activities.

In conclusion, while conventional treatment is still very useful, adding cultural components to it can enhance participation by aboriginal offenders. It is not a question of finding a magical treatment or of seeing cultural components as a substitute for any other treatment. It is a question of coordinating treatment and culture in pursuing a common objective: to prevent recidivism and to enhance sex offenders' quality of life.

2. Holistic Healing Circle, Hollow Water First Nation, Manitoba

The Hollow Water Community Holistic Healing Circle is a coordinated community response to sexual abuse (Hollow Water First Nation, 1991). This initiative is referred to as a process which started in 1985. During the initial phases, a Resource Group was formed, community awareness and education began, and a training program was organized. The community received inspiration from the success story of Alkali Lake where the community was able to move from virtually 100% alcoholism to 95% sobriety. Community members were sent to Alkali Lake for healing and training. This led to the development of a unique holistic approach that follows thirteen steps based on traditional values (Lajeunesse, 1993; Hollow Water First Nation, 1991).

"The Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) aims to restore balance by empowering individuals, families and the community to deal productively, and in a healing way, with the problem of sexual abuse" (Lajeunesse, 1993). The approach is being implemented in four communities in Manitoba: Hollow Water First Nation; Seymourville, Manigotogan and Aghaming. The process is guided by an Assessment Team which works with the criminal justice system.

3. Native Clan Organization - Forensic Behavioural Management Clinic, Manitoba

The community-based treatment program offers three levels of sex offender groups, a moderate to moderately-high risk/need group, a group for high risk/need offenders and a maintenance group for offenders who have made the necessary and required treatment gains to advance from attending weekly group sessions to monthly group sessions. Most parolees participate in both individual and group sessions. If the offender is in a serious relationship, both partners participate in couple sessions, and if at the time of assessment the offender demonstrates a deviant sexual preference profile, he would participate in arousal modification sessions in the clinic's phallometric laboratory. Each of the groups is ongoing and has continuous intake. This reduces waiting lists and allows the Native Clan staff to provide a level of intervention that is designed to meet an individual offender's unique level of risk and need.

The treatment program encompasses a broad range of areas focussed on addressing offender specific issues as well as issues related to areas of more general personal functioning that contribute to an offending cycle.

aboriginal Elders are members of the clinical team. They are involved in healing rituals, and provide guidance on integrating traditional healing practices with conventional sex offender therapy. As mentioned earlier pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, smudging, and holding the eagle feather during disclosures, are integrated with cognitive-behavioural approaches.

4. Native Clan Organization - Stony Mountain, Rockwood, Manitoba

This treatment model involves the integration of services between Stony Mountain and Rockwood and also attempts to integrate treatment services with parole services, to enhance the level of support for the offender's treatment and risk management in the community. Prior to an offender's release to the community, the parole office and the community correctional centre are provided with information about the offender's offence cycles and risk factors, to assist them in their ongoing supervision, monitoring and support of the offender. This allows the supervision component to be consistent with the treatment component and focuses parole officers on monitoring factors that are relevant to the parolees' risk. Once in the community, the Forensic Behavioural Management Clinic's community treatment program maintains ongoing contact with the offender's parole service officer and the community correctional centre, again in an effort to integrate systems and cooperate in managing risk.

The program provides the opportunity for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders to participate in aboriginal Healing ceremonies and to have access to Elders.

Programs are structured so they are ongoing and have continuous intake. This allows them to decrease waiting lists for treatment and to provide a level of treatment (intensity and duration) appropriate for an individual offender's level of risk and need. Again, this approach is a meld of cognitive-behavioural intervention with spiritual healing.

5. Stony Mountain Institution, Manitoba

Stony Mountain Institution (SMI) currently provides two primary treatment alternatives for sex offenders. Inmates in the 'general population' can participate in individual counseling, and also work on the Relapse Prevention Sex Offender Workbooks with the support and assistance of a therapist. The typical high risk, high need, multi-problem inmates in the Administration Segregation Unit participate in an open, ongoing sex offender group. They are also eligible to receive individual counselling.

The treatment delivered by the Forensic Behavioural Management Clinic is cognitive, but the clinic has attempted to be eclectic in its approach to treating sex offenders and is open to models that may be most appropriate for particular clients.

This program contains elements of aboriginal culture and involves aboriginal Elders in the healing process.

The clinic believes that the most effective way to assist clients to internalize the insights they develop in treatment, is related to process-oriented learning rather than more didactic approaches.

The clinic does not perceive sexual offending as an addiction or as a disease. While the relapse prevention model, which is derived from the addiction literature, is a primary treatment model, it is assumed that offenders can learn to control their deviant thoughts, fantasies, arousal and behaviour. It is their responsibility to accept accountability for their actions and to develop the necessary insights and skills that will allow them to manage their deviant thoughts and behaviour. As well, the clinic does not suggest that treatment provides a cure. Offenders must manage their risk factors on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will enhance the risk of lapsing or relapsing in the future.

Goals of treatment include:

  • Accepting accountability for offending history (disclosure of offending history)
  • Developing insight into the offending cycle ( affect, deviant fantasy, distortions, planning, act)
  • Challenging denial, minimization, cognitive distortions,
  • Managing and modifying inappropriate sexual fantasies
  • Modifying deviant sexual arousal patterns
  • Developing awareness of consequences faced by survivors of sexual abuse
  • Developing empathy
  • Developing insight into factors contributing to offending (emotional, cognitive, behavioural and situational )
  • Developing functional coping skills: problem solving; communication; social skills; awareness of emotions; anger management; assertiveness training; managing cognitions; relationship skills; enhancing self identity.
  • Addressing personal victimization
  • Discussing and addressing family of origin and socialization issues
  • Discussing healthy sexuality
  • Attitudes towards women
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Developing an offence cycle and control plan to assist the offender in understanding and managing risk and to aid in case management and later parole supervision.

6. Clearwater aboriginal Sex Offender Program , Saskatchewan

This treatment program has been provided to 40 offenders. There have been no dropouts, although the level of participation has varied. Services were integrated with a multidisciplinary treatment team, and were part of an integrated service.

As the Healer and his Helper functioned as part of the Treatment Team, we can not say there was a distinctly separate aboriginal Sex Offender program in place. Rather, the relationship between the healer and other Treatment Team members was very collaborative.

Feedback from Case Management suggested that aboriginal involvement is a valuable component in Correctional planning. Because of the Healer's participation as part of a Multidisciplinary team, feedback concerning offender progress is readily available. The result has enhanced Case Management decision making.

The aboriginal Sex Offender program has experienced some notable successes. For example, the Healer worked with an offender and his home community to facilitate the offender's return. The Healer escorted the offender on an ETA to attend a Sundance and the offender was eventually reintegrated into the community on a conditional release. It is unlikely that this release could have been effected without the participation of the Healer.

We are currently working with a contractor to develop an evaluation strategy which we hope to be able to employ at other sites. On the whole we have been encouraged by our experience working with the Healer and believe this is an initiative we should retain.



-To foster aboriginal Spirituality through holistic healing.

-To include a ceremony involving the disclosure or confession of offenders specific to sexual offending while in the sweatlodge.


-To cleanse, heal, receive forgiveness from bad behaviour and offending.

-To allow for re-birth and renewal.

-To address shame and remorse in an environment where healing of spirit, mind, body and emotions are key elements of activity.

-To re-introduce and promote honour and respect.


A Sacred Ceremony held within a lodge conducted by the Elder/Healer whereby participants cleanse and heal themselves. In particular this sweatlodge has been integrated to address aboriginal sexual behaviour by the offender/participant. Teaching is provided by the Elder/Healer regarding how offenders can Heal from this type of offending.



-To provide specific spiritual, ritual and cultural teaching to the participants.

-To foster greater understanding in regards to the aboriginal identity which many offenders are lacking.


-To promote cultural, ceremonial and spiritual activity in which the offender will gain greater insight into their place of belonging in society (aboriginal/non-original).

-To encourage the participants to adopt the philosophy, values and beliefs which will promote change and behaviour, and attitudes.

-To promote participants to adopt these teachings in their lifestyle in general.


A Sacred Circle Ceremony held within the Cultural Centre once a week for 2.5 hours.



-To promote changes in attitudes and behaviour through fostering of cultural, spiritual values.


-To identify specific "needs" of each offender.

-To reinforce the traditional/cultural and spiritual teaching.

-To assist the patients to adopt a healthier, holistic lifestyle with good values and beliefs.

-To develop a relationship with positive outcomes and to assist in making out a plan while he is in the RPC.


Sessions and interviews are held on the Unit in the Cultural Centre and the Tipi outside. They consist of one or two long periods.



To co-ordinate and facilitate the holistic healing of aboriginal patients in RPC.


Short Term

-To assist offenders experiencing emotional instability caused by grief and trauma.

-To develop a means of recognizing and coping with loss or changes.

-To neutralize internal personal conflict and establish individual, physical, psychological and emotional health.

Long Term

-To enable the patient upon release to continue the holistic healing process with Elders, and Spiritual ceremonies in the community. This coupled with family counselling will address and help neutralize the ongoing cycles of abuse and violence.


To assist patients suffering from traumas caused by family conflict/violence, divorce, death, residential/foster home syndrome, substances, sexual injury, and general loss of cultural identity.



  • To promote an understanding and awareness of cultural identity through traditional cultural/social activities which will better assist patients to integrate into the community.


  • To work co-operatively with the Elders/Healer, Administration and community agencies and volunteers.


  • The Native Brotherhood is a self help group for patients governed by an elected council (executive) which provides leadership, guidance to its members. The group as a whole identifies aboriginal program needs and participate in the planning of round dances, hobby Pow-wow's, crafts, and sporting events, etc. This group uses a traditional model of governing, developed and guided by the Elders/Healers.



  • To provide for the teaching and therapeutic value of singing, drumming, and dancing.
  • To provide further cultural/traditional teaching.
  • To establish an avenue of positive cultural/social activities both inside and outside of institutional life for the participant.


  • To develop self-esteem and pride on an individual basis through participating in the Drumming.
  • To further positive thinking, attitudes, behaviour.
  • To ensure that a drum group is in place to represent the institution during our social/cultural events.


A practice is held once a week in the Cultural Centre. A Drum Keeper is selected and taught the proper procedure in caring for our sacred drum.


1) FASTING - (issue)

There is difficulty experienced by the participant when he fasts in his cell.

  • noise pollution
  • swearing by passing patients
  • temptation to break due to all the food on the unit
  • poor concentration
  • unexpected interference, intrusion by other patients<
  • women on their cycle near the cell
  • -complaints about the smudging

2) Ideally the fasting should be carried out on a UTA or while in the RPC off the Unit and into lodges built by the helper in the sweatlodge area. Alternatively a permanent structure could be built for these purposes. In this way many of these issues would be addressed.



-To participate in a ceremony which provides for the individual the Right of passage and prepares each person for enhanced spiritual holistic healing and lifestyle.

-To allow for meditation, sacrifice and action to address personal needs upon the healing path. To evaluate their lives to cleanse themselves of negative attributes.


  • To prevent and eliminate negative thought patterns and activities.
  • To empower the participant to develop positive attitudes, responsibility, accountability, peace and more balanced lifestyles.


Currently being carried out on the unit in their cell with sanction, guidance and moral support from the Elder/Healer. During summer months this activity will take place outside near the sweatlodge and Tipi.

In addition the Elder/Healer is involved in these areas on the unit on a daily basis.

1) Ward Rounds - upper and lower

2) CORE Programming - Sex Offender Treatment

3) Supplement Programming

  • Anger Management
  • Family Violence
  • Values and Attitudes
  • Cognitive Skills
  • Empathy
  • Relationships

4) Conflict resolution amongst inmates

5) Case Management consultation

6) Staff Training - cultural

7) ETA's, UTA's - Cultural

8) Supervision of patients

9) Direct involvement, intervention and strategy to ensure aboriginal patients complete the CORE programs.

10) Assist with NPB Hearing, providing moral support.

7. Aboriginal Sex Offender Healing Program, Bowden Institution, Alberta

Region: Prairies

Institution/District or Area Office/CCC: Bowden Institution

Programme Title: Aboriginal Healing Programme

Programme Description: Sex offender retraining which is delivered holistically, encompassing the four major life areas as per the Medicine Wheel i.e., physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The programme is a blend of core programme teaching with service being provided by an Elder to cover spirituality and culture. It is recognized the latter will not be able to cover all cultures or spiritual practices of every participant.

Indicate whether this is a shared initiative with NPB: No, but would desire NPB be thoroughly informed. We would be pleased to provide workshops.

Method of Delivery: Group with occasional individual.

Service Deliverers: Elder, CSC.

Background of Service Providers: Elder who is recognized as such in the community. Able to provide cultural/spiritual teachings. Able to work under the umbrella of the partnership model.

Retrainer - specific training in working with sex offenders (Justice Institute of B.C.)

Occasional other co-facilitators with extensive experience working with sex offenders are used.

Number of sessions per week: Eight sessions over four days: 0800-1130 & 1300-1530 hours.

Capacity per session:< Maximum twelve.

Total Duration per Programme: Hours are 0815-1100 and 1300-1500 four days per week for 12 weeks. First two programmes were fourteen weeks.

Target Groups: Primarily, but not absolutely limited to, Indian, Metis and Inuit men who have committed a sexual offence.

Exclusions: Intellectual impairment or mental illness or an inability to work in group process. Those who flatly reject Native Spirituality.

Participant Assessment Approach: Motivation to make changes, action to demonstrate same, willingness to participate in group process.

Expected Results of Programme:

1) offenders will discuss the sexual offence behaviour

2) offenders will not blame others for their choice to offend

3) offenders will be able to identify their own feelings of victimization

4) offenders will be able to identify the likely feelings of their victim

5) offenders will be able to discuss some emotional and attitudinal precipitants of the sexual offence behaviour

6) offenders will discuss what situations and emotional states must be considered danger signals in the future and what action steps to take to change such situations

7) offenders will be encouraged to openly discuss their sexual fantasies and masturbation patterns

Follow-up After Programme: At approximately 6 months after completion of programme, individuals will be given the pre-post evaluation questionnaire again.

Two modules are currently being developed for formal follow-up:

1) Sex Offender Maintenance Model (programme)

2) Community Readiness Module

To date there has been an informal follow-up for those inmates who request an interview with either Elder, Facilitator or both.

Programme Evaluation Approach: Two knowledge questionnaires pre and post programme. Culture fair test - the Kelly Grid. Post programme interview wherein participants are seen individually and asked to answer such as the following: "describe your offence cycle; how might your victim feel or be affected?; describe your relapse prevention plan."

Commencement Date of Programme: September 3, 1996

Programme Completion in 1996-1997: Two

Target Completions for 1997-1998: Three

Assumptions: Outside resource people will be brought in (i.e., Healers).

8. Intensive Sex Offender Program For aboriginal Men, Mountain Institution, British Columbia


This intensive program for aboriginal male sex-offenders is based on the holistic model, where participants will learn, experience and develop skills to maintain a healthy sexual and offense free lifestyle, under the guidance of qualified correctional practitioners and an aboriginal Spiritual Advisor. aboriginal Culture/Spirituality will be the basis under which the program will function and Spiritual Healing will be the ultimate by product.

The responsibility for learning rests with the individual. Offenders must be motivated and have an idea of their own goals. They must accept responsibility for their offense(s)

Offenders will be required to participate in the cultural and spiritual components of the program


  • to provide a safe and healing environment that will assist the participant identify and correct his dysfunctional behaviors.
  • to assist offenders develop skills to recognize the deviant patterns of thinking and behaving.
  • to assist offenders to gain insight and understanding of deviant and dysfunctional behaviors.
  • to assist offenders to be able to identify high risk situations and high risk factors
  • to assist offenders to understand and establish their own Behavior Cycle
  • to assist offenders to establish a Relapse Prevention Program (Personal Maintenance Program)
  • to identify those offenders who require additional program involvement for enhancing successful community integration.


The candidate will:

  • have accepted responsibility for their sexual offending and be willing to discuss all parts of their abusive behavior cycle.
  • request treatment and demonstrate the motivation to change.
  • be able to understand the written work and complete it, bearing in mind the service of a tutor will be utilized as well as a 2 hour per week discussion on homework expectations for each forthcoming week. It must be recognized that English is often a second language and therefore, more assistance may be required than with the general population group.
  • have a comprehensive psychological assessment on file.
  • be totally committed to a full time program involvement, and not be involved in other assignments such as legal actions, temporary absences, other work assignments. Each participant will however, develop a WELLNESS PLAN, which they will be encouraged to follow.
  • have preferably taken the Cognitive Living Skills Program and other programming identified in their Correctional Plan.


The Program will be provided by a male Spiritual Advisor, a qualified and experienced male sex-offender therapist and a female correctional practitioner who is specifically trained to deliver aboriginal sex-offender treatment. The three facilitators will be viewed as equal members of the treatment team.

Most importantly the aboriginal Sex-Offender Program will be based on a Cultural/Spiritual Concept and spiritual healing is viewed as the cornerstone of this program. The Program in it's entirety will, in essence, be considered a Puberty Ceremony, at which time those participants who complete the program will be honored as having passed into manhood. It should also be noted that the Educational modules are an integral component of the learning/healing process.

The facilitators will present each participant with:

  • a special cup (preferably made of a metal from Mother Earth) that he will use each morning for the Water Ceremony.
  • tobacco. In accepting tobacco he will be making a commitment to honesty and to completion of the program.
  • a piece of print.
  • a white candle to be used during prayer.

Each day will begin and end with a ceremony and/or prayer, lead by the Spiritual Advisor. A special prayer may be offered on occasion, for instance, to honor a death in the family, or celebrate a participants birthday. Participants will attend a Sweat Lodge Ceremony every second week which will be exclusively for group participants.

Visiting Elders will be invited to provide teachings at certain times throughout the program. For instance, during the Sexuality and Human Relationships module, a female Elder will be invited to provide teachings about these issues. An Elder whose expertise is Generational Grief and Shame will provide 2 days teachings on that issue. A visiting aboriginal resource person will provide a full day workshop on the Effects of Residential School. Yet another Elder who has been incarcerated in his past will spend an afternoon and share his life story. He will be viewed as a positive role model.

Halfway through the program a lunch will be served to honor the work and progress made thus far. The Graduation Ceremony at the end of the program will be a major celebration. Significant others (up to 2 each) will be invited to celebrate the event. Correctional Services of Canada people will be invited to join in the celebration. Each participant will be asked to give a talk about his experience and what he has learned. The Certificate of Achievement will be wrapped in leather and presented to each graduate. From an aboriginal point of view, we must celebrate the human being and our achievements, while recognizing that changing our deficiencies and dysfunctions will be our lifelong journey/ work plan.

The program will provide educational modules including; Thinking Error and Cognitive Restructuring, Rational Emotive Therapy, Sexuality and Human Relationships, Behavior Cycle and Relapse Prevention Planning.

The following is an outline of the aboriginal Sex-Offender Program offered at Mountain Institution.


This is a free floating group where facilitators will steer the group process. It will not be labeled a psycho-therapy group or a Healing/ Talking / Sacred Circle. Unlike a true Healing, Talking or Sacred Circle, participants will be confronted and when necessary brought back on track. They will be encouraged to look at their attitudes, thoughts and behaviors. The facilitators will use a combination of techniques encouraging group cohesion and participation/ confronting problems, denial as they arise.

This group will begin with a WATER CEREMONY, in which the participants will drink pure spring water from a special cup, while the Elder/Spiritual Advisor teaches the SEVEN SACRED RULES OF LIFE. The significance of this ceremony is to water the essence of goodness within each person. The teachings may be alternated with PRAYER some days. This ceremony will take a few minutes. A special prayer may also be offered at this time for a specific reason, such as honoring a death in the family or celebrating a group members birthday, etc.

By fully participating in the group process, participants will have an opportunity to explore their own feelings, deviant thoughts and behaviors. They will identify with others thoughts/feelings and behaviors and provide feedback to assist themselves and others change. Throughout the group process, a supportive and safe environment will be maintained.

The group will maintain a strict time frame, commencing at 08.30, ending at 10.30 hours, Mondays through Thursdays.

Every three weeks the morning will be used for Review Group, where the facilitators and group members will provide feedback to each group member. Facilitators will encourage the members to provide positive feedback in terms of how they see their fellow members growing and progressing as well as positive criticism where they see their fellow members having to work harder.


Each participant will construct a genogram and an autobiography. Each person will present both verbally.

The genogram will include as many ancestors as can be remembered to a maximum of 5 generations. Participants, using different colored markers will mark each person in the genogram (as it applies) as having :

  • been a victim of sexual abuse,
  • suffered from alcoholism / cultural self hate, depression, poverty, family violence
  • been a survivor of the residential school system,
  • etc.

By using the genogram, participants can, at a glance, see what traumas/dysfunction have been generational, and in identifying them, they can then begin the process of understanding themselves and breaking the cycles.

The autobiography will include a summary of his childhood, school experiences, sexual development and experiences, adolescent and adulthood experiences and criminal behavior. The presenter will choose one or two other persons from the group to stand with him as he gives his presentation. The purpose of choosing another to stand with him is to begin to teach that aboriginal people need not stand alone. This exercise will begin the process that we can offer support to each other ( and the presenter) can ask for support and help when we are in need.

The autobiography will serve two purposes. It will allow group members and facilitators the opportunity to get to know their fellow participant and allow the presenter an opportunity to take a risk, talking about himself in a safe environment , while facing the events and traumas of his life. Through this process they will begin to identify that aboriginal people have had similar experiences and are in a healing process.


This is an educational module in which the facilitators will teach the participants to identify and label their thinking errors. Based on the fact that every person, whether responsible of irresponsible has certain patterns of thinking, each person will be encouraged to look at their particular pattern of thinking.

To change their deviant way of thinking, the pattern must be disrupted and a new and more appropriate way of thinking learned.

They will maintain a log in which they will make 4 entries a day. Using the log they will identify their Thinking Errors, labeling and restructuring them.

Total hours = 18


Will be included and incorporated into the Thinking Error Module, as well as six afternoons where the principles of RET will be taught and discussed. In this module, the basics of emotional disturbance and how to overcome one's own emotional disturbance will be taught. This module is of significant importance given that aboriginal people live with the effects of generational shame/trauma and grief and a very confused history.

Total hours = 12 hours


This module is designed to assist the participant to identify unhealthy and disrespectful ways of thinking, behaving and relating to other human beings. A female Elder will be in group throughout the module to provide teachings about the sacredness of the human body and boundary issues. During this module the following areas will be covered:

  • sex education, including factual information on basic anatomy and physiology, STDs, and contraceptives.
  • responsible decision making skills in terms of sexual relationships, planned parenthood.
  • understanding the development of the individual's sexuality, including deviant behaviors and their own sexual victimization.
  • understanding past and present relationships, and learning about healthy vs unhealthy relationships.

Total hours = 18


1) In order for the offenders to identify a repetitive cycle of thinking, feeling and behavior that lead to offending or abusive behaviors the following will be covered:

  • a detailed presentation by facilitators to teach the participants about the cycles they have developed.
  • a detailed written and oral presentation on his individual Behavior Cycle, to the group identifying his own thoughts feelings and behaviors that were present prior to, during and after each offense.
  • completing written assignments in the Freeman-Longo and Laren Bays workbooks, "Who Am I and Why Am I In Treatment?", Why Did I Do It Again?" and "How Can I Stop?"

2) As a second part of this exercise, the participant will present his appropriate interventions and deterrents that will effectively break the deviant cycle.

3) Their Behavior Cycle is to be shared with the individual's support people, as well as his Parole, Probation and Community Program people, i.e., Band Social Worker and/or Program Provider.

Total hours = 30


This module will focus on increasing the offender's awareness of the effects his offending behaviors have on his victim(s). To assist the offender to experience the feelings of his victim (both short and long term) and to develop empathy, the following exercises will be used:

a) Near the beginning of the program the offender will be asked to write a letter to his victim, which will be sealed and stored for later critiquing. During the Victim Empathy Module the offender will read his letter and will be asked to critique it himself and will be given feedback from the facilitators and the other participants.

b) A series of victim empathy videos will be shown and discussed.

c) One 3 hour session will consist of a panel of 2 or 3 victims ( who have been in recovery and are comfortable and willing to face these offenders) will sit in the circle and tell their story.

d) Finally, each offender will participate in a Victim Empathy role play, where he will assume the role of his victim and another member will become the person he is confiding in. He will be coached by the facilitators and other group members.

e) The workbook, "Empathy and Compassion" by Freeman-Longo and Bays will be used to compliment this module.

Total hours = 48


Success is indeed impossible to determine. However, the offender's day to day behavior will be observed. His daily logs will be monitored. As an aboriginal cultural/spirituality based program, the focus is on healing and growing and becoming aware. As an alcoholic or drug addict, the sex offender will need to practice a relapse program for the rest of his life.

Furthermore, restitution will be discussed and the offender will be encouraged to make restitution to his victim(s) where doing so will not further traumatize the victim. This may be done by conducting a give-away, potlatch or shame feast or whatever tradition is specific to his people. However, this will not be "part" of the program, but will be something he may consider for a later time. While for mainstream society this may not be an important consideration; however, in the aboriginal community, where families are closely related and offenders will likely be returning to their communities, a great deal of work needs to be done in this area.


The offender agrees to participate in pre and post testing on a battery of psychometric battery of psychological tests. These tests have been adopted from the Personality Disorder Programs at RHC.

The offender's thoughts, feelings and behaviours will be monitored throughout the program. His general behaviour and his logs will be the sources of information in this regard.

Every 3 weeks review groups will be conducted where the facilitators and other group members will provide feedback and confrontation to all participants.

A final report will be written, and will speak to progress, changes in attitude, thoughts, feelings and behaviors, while in the program and areas that the offender needs further work, insight and change and will make recommendations for further programming.


Each morning will be dedicated to the Healing/Insight/Feelings Group. There are approximately six mornings when special resource people will attend and rather than proceed with group, a teaching will be offered.

Each afternoon will be dedicated to educational modules that will include Thinking Errors and Cognitive Restructuring, Behavior Cycle and Relapse Prevention Plan, Teaching from Elders, Victim Empathy, RET and Sexuality and Relationships.

Each Friday morning will be used to discuss and provide instruction for the following weeks homework. A tutor will be utilized to assist members with their homework.

Every second Thursday afternoon the members will participate in the Sweat Lodge Ceremony.

Throughout the program, tobacco, pure spring water, sage, sweetgrass, cedar and other sacred medicines will be used to aid the healing process.

9. Tsow Tun Le Lum Substance Abuse Treatment Centre

THUYTHUT, roughly translated as "Standing Tall", is an 18 week closed residential program for aboriginal sex offenders. This program commenced as a pilot project at Tsow Tun Le Lum Substance Abuse Treatment Centre (near Nanaimo B.C.) in 1992 and continues to offer 2 program cycles each fiscal year. The program is grounded in the culture of the aboriginal people of the region. The program schedule for the Sexual Abuse and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse programs are similar, although the group work for the Sex Offender program deals with subject matter specific to that group.

This community-based clinic offers comprehensive assessments and a multi-disciplinary treatment program for sex offenders. The clinic assesses incest offenders and rapists, and is open to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal offenders. Acceptance into the program is conditional upon the result of the assessment.

There are three phases. Phase 1 has a psycho-educational approach, and is didactic in nature. Phase 2 has a heavy emphasis on group therapy and reinforces the psycho-educational training of Phase 1.

In Phase 1, treatment includes psycho-educational lessons, both group and individual therapy, with the Thuythut panel of elders. Treatment concentrates on a psycho-educational curriculum covering sexual aggression, victim empathy, the offending cycle, human sexuality values and inappropriate myths about relationships, as well as relapse prevention planning. Participants attend educational group sessions and are required to do exercises on their own which are designed to help them understand each of the content areas. Group therapy initially focuses on denial. Offenders are required to share their deviant sexual behaviour, sexual misdemeanors and crimes with each other in an open and honest way without minimizing, blaming, or rationalizing. Supportive confrontation is used to break through denial.

Each offender is required to develop a comprehensive sexual history and share this with the group. Peer feedback is developed and regularly used in group therapy. Stemming from their sexual histories, offenders begin to work on how they were abused during their own lives and how that abuse relates to their own sexually offensive behaviours. Care is taken not to allow blaming and rationalization to detract from full and honest accountability for their own actions.

Before the end of the first phase, offenders develop a plan to ensure against offending during the inter-session which occurs between the first and second phases of treatment. Work assignments are issued to offenders for completion during the inter-session period.

Elders lead sessions which teach cultural ethics, traditional values and principles and introduce spirituality. Traditionally, witnesses were paid to stand by the teacher and were responsible for remembering and validating the session. However, during treatment sessions, everything is recorded in writing, and at the beginning of each session, it is read aloud.

The second phase reinforces the psycho-educational training of the first phase and has the offender emotionally connect that content with his or her own experience and life. It helps offenders strengthen self-esteem, sobriety, and personal resources for reintegration into the community without re-offending. The offender is also required to define and create healthy relationships.

In general, the clients attend 5 hours per week of cognitive-didactic or psycho-educational sessions focusing either on sexual offending behaviour or on alcohol and drug issues. The program includes 5 hours per week of Traditional Values and Principles, 10 hours per week of more process-oriented group therapy and two hours per week of Elder sessions. Offenders are introduced to stress management techniques, complete homework assignments, attend AA, may participate in individual counseling sessions, and are involved in leisure pursuits and activities of daily living. The program is offered within a therapeutic environment. It would appear that the clients attend a total of 400 hours of group sessions over the course of the 18 week program, which is consistent with intensive programs (National Standards and Guidelines for the Provision of Services to Sex Offenders, 1996). This program integrates traditional healing with a cognitive-behavioural approach.

10. Canim Lake Family Violence Program

The Canim Lake Band developed a program for sex offenders. The initiative involves seven phases of intervention for perpetrators and survivors. The seven phases are: community orientation; deferred reporting; risk and trauma assessment; primary intervention; reunification; maintenance programs; and research and empirical growth. The treatment intervention takes a cognitive-behavioral approach, and the polygraph is used to provide additional monitoring.

11. Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Family Intervention Program (FIP)

An evaluation of the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Family Intervention Program [known hereinafter as FIP], an aboriginal intervention program, produced by the B.C. Institute on Family Violence stated that the philosophy of the program was that:

(1) the program must be grounded in traditional values and customs of the people;

(2) it must employ both traditional aboriginal and mainstream psychological approaches to healing;

(3) it must base healing on support from families and the community;

(4) it should treat both abusers and survivors, and

(5) the ownership, responsibility and control of the program must reside with the community.

Although the philosophy was based on solid principles, the program was only in operation from April 1994 to February 1995. The evaluation took place a few months after it closed down. Except for some disagreements among the social workers themselves, the reasons for closing down the project are unclear in the report although the evaluation mentioned that the breakdown of the FIP was closely connected to problems related to band politics, money, shifting roles, and a weak administrative and management structure. By the same token, the evaluation was very thorough and the conclusions could be useful to other aboriginal intervention programs.

The evaluation states that the history and development of the FIP has strong roots in the community. The community has a history of relocation, residential schools, victimization and cultural devaluing. This history contributed to many problems including: a severe problem with alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse, child apprehensions, spousal abuse, elder abuse, child neglect, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Abuse and dependence on social assistance. (Attempted or completed suicide was not identified by respondents as a serious problem in this community.)

FIP was initiated in 1991 when two mothers wrote to Chief and Council to express concern over sexual abuse. Between 1991 and 1992 the community used Federal "Family Violence" funds to develop a program. This Family Violence Initiative was jointly funded by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada in an initiative lasting from 1991 to 1994-1995. By the end of 1992 the band administrator approached the consultant to work again for the community. Chief and Council played a key role in providing political leadership.

The components of the program for the abusers were the following:

  • Assessment: This included a thorough psychological assessment and Risk Management Committee recommendations to Crown Counsel
  • Safe House: This was a home originally designated for women and children at risk of violence or abuse. However, it was later decided that the abuser should leave the family home rather than the converse. This was generally supported by the community.
  • Individual therapy: Occurred once a week with the consulting psychologist or the paratherapists, supervised by the psychologist.
  • Group therapy: This occurred once a week and was co-lead by a consulting psychologist and paratherapists. Most reports indicate this was working well and the abusers were motivated and supportive of each other.
  • Sponsors: Each abuser had a sponsor that he met with twice a week for 20 minutes.
  • Drug and alcohol counseling: Was required for abusers when appropriate.
  • Case conferences: Included relevant FIP staff and probation.
  • Community work: Was supervised by the community patrol and seemed focused on providing services for the Elders. There were suggestions that this needed to be expanded.

Other FIP components included: (1) Individual therapy for children, adult clients, and staff, (2) Family therapy; (3) Group therapy (non-abuser men's group, an infrequent Elder's group, children's groups, women's groups); and (4) Support groups (A.A., Adult Grief). Note that for the children there were groups for 3-4 year olds, 7-10 year olds, 10-13 year old boys, and 10-13 year old girls.

There were also components in place for the community. These included Brief Emergency Intervention, as the FIP served as a Walk-In Clinic for individuals in acute distress. As well, there was an On call service provided by the paratherapists during evenings and week-ends.

The evaluation team noted some confusion regarding the definition of traditional healing and its role in the FIP. "It may be that people, including ourselves, are not always talking about the same thing when this topic is discussed" (B.C. Institute on Family Violence, 1995). The FIP evaluation stated that the problem of defining traditional healing needed to be clarified. It mentioned that if it is to be a model for treatment then it must be clearly defined for funders and evaluators. A distinction can be made between traditional healing and traditional mechanisms and the role each plays within a program. The traditional healing ways that exist in the community need to be a part of the program. The evaluation indicates that traditional healing may not be relevant to certain individuals, and would have to be an individual choice. On the other hand, traditional mechanisms of the community guide daily community life and are relevant to the operation of a program, as they can impact on the delivery of healing/clinical services (B.C. Institute on Family Violence, 1995).

Concerning the involvement of the Band Council, the evaluation mentioned that programs designed and controlled by the Band Council will not "get the job done" unless the community is involved. But by the same token, the evaluation indicated that the FIP should have been operated at arms-length from Chief and Council. There is always the risk that Chief and Council, a political body, will have a conflict-of-interest on matters related to the program and make decisions which are not in the best interest of the program (B.C. Institute on Family Violence, 1995). In the closing comments, the evaluation suggested that leadership must come from within the community but "expertise" is needed from without. It added that the role of the outside "expertise" is to support the community.