Healing of Aboriginal offenders : a comparison between cognitive-behavioural treatment and the traditional Aboriginal sweat lodge ceremony
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Within the correctional system, aboriginal people are disproportionately represented at both the provincial and federal levels. Moreover, recent statistics confirm that this disproportional representation is increasing at alarmingly high rates. While high levels of social discord and poverty can be implicated in this disproportional representation, it is also reasonable to suggest that current correctional programming may not yield the same positive results with some aboriginal offenders as it does with non-aboriginal offenders. In the absence of effective rehabilitation, large numbers of aboriginal offenders return to prison repeatedly. The present study develops hypotheses about the experiences of federal aboriginal offenders who attended cognitive-behavioural programming and the traditional aboriginal Sweat Lodge ceremony as part oftheir healing while incarcerated in a forensic psychiatric hospital with the Correctional Service of Canada. The primary method for data collection consisted of a qualitative semi-structured interview in accordance with a "Grounded Theory" protocol (Glasser & Strauss, 1967). Eleven respondents were interviewed and asked to speak about their personal experiences within both of these treatment approaches. Their stories revealed a rich and varied narrative drawing attention to the fact that the aboriginal community is a very diverse people and culture. The processes of acculturation and deculturation are considered central factors in accounting for this diversity and, therefore, were incorporated into the design of the study. Results revealed that respondents saw both of these treatment approaches as having interesting points of parallel but, by far, there were more differences than similarities. While cultural variables such as "worldview" and "etiquette" were argued to be central in accounting for these differences (ie., traditional vs. contemporary), acculturation was also thought to produce a wide spectrum of response variability from within the sample population. Respondents identified the most salient aspects of the Sweat Lodge ceremony and the cognitive-behavioural programs uncovering strengths and weaknesses of both while at once revealing interesting insights into areas requiring address. Finally, directions for future research, as well as suggestions and recommendations are made with the intent of enhancing each approach so that the efficacy of correctional programming with aboriginal offenders will be sensitive and responsive to the needs of its client population.