New mental health worker program celebrates first graduates
SMITHERS, British Columbia – The inaugural session of the Aboriginal Community Mental Health Worker program at Northwest Community College’s Smithers Campus saw a happy ending for students from Moricetown and Smithers who graduated June 25.
The six-month ACMHW program is a unique combination of First Nations health studies and community mental health courses, along with health access English upgrading and LPAT 100 Student Success classes.
The First Nations Health Studies portion of the program provides students with an overview of aboriginal culture and history and focuses on the societal, political, spiritual and cultural issues that impact the student’s role as a mental health worker and caregiver within a First Nations context.
The community mental health segment includes an extensive introduction to the main concepts in mental health practice, plus coursework focused on communication and the therapeutic relationship, the concept of recovery, addictions, and cultural influences in mental health. The program finishes with four-week community-based clinical placements in Smithers, Moricetown, Hazelton and Terrace.
A general consensus from the graduates is that this has been a challenging and interesting program, said Mark Larsen, one of the program instructors.
“The subject material was both thought provoking and enlightening, with material and subject matter that was new to most students,” Larsen said. “A significant amount of classroom discussion time was devoted to help students incorporate this new knowledge, and place it into a personal and culturally appropriate context.”
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive regarding the program’s community-based practicum placement. Students worked with a variety of community agencies, including Northern Society for Domestic Peace, NHA Adult Mental Health and Addictions, High Road Services Society, Gitxsan Health Society, Northwest Addiction Services, Dze L K’ant Friendship Center, and the Moricetown Health Center.
Graduate Alphonse Gagnon of Moricetown did his practicum at the Gitxsan Health Society in Hazelton where he shadowed a counselor/psychiatrist.
“The stuff I’ve witnessed during my practicum has been really relevant. I loved where I was placed.”
Gagnon has noticed several job postings of interest that suit his new skill set and he’s excited to start a career in the field.