Jaicee Chartrand

Soulful Therapy: Jaicee Chartrand Explores Therapy from a Queer, Indigenous Lens

“There's more than one way to accomplish a career in mental health,” says Jaicee Chartrand, who works in Winnipeg as the founder of a private practice called Soulful Therapy and as a therapist specializing in Indigenous addictions and general mental health. Growing up in small-town Manitoba, Chartrand was raised in a religious family, angry from being pressured to conform to expectations that did not reflect her identity as a queer, Two-Spirited person. 

“I just wanted to be normal, whatever normal was, but I knew it wasn't me.” 

In adulthood, Chartrand saw therapists that didn’t work for her. Eventually, she found transformative support that made a difference for her, but those early experiences gave her a unique orientation to her work. She thrives on connecting on a human level in a unique way, without feeling constrained by the textbooks. Deconstructing old views and creating new, more constructive conversations with real people, she’s inspired to be a different kind of therapist.

“The more aligned I am with myself, the more amazing things that can really happen.”

Through self-awareness, she was able to overcome barriers. She did unglamorous jobs that gave her a wealth of rich experiences and a connection to people who saw her value. High school was a big barrier for Chartrand, with spotty attendance, only coming on test days and to hand in assignments. She graduated and moved to a nearby town. 

After partying for a few years, she went onto postsecondary not expecting to succeed, but being willing to try, if only as an experiment. Defying her own expectations, Chartrand graduated on the Dean's honour list, despite being certain upon her arrival that she was not smart enough to go to university.  

She didn't do much with her education for several years after graduating, eventually finding mental health work with adults in complex mental health, something she got bored with before moving into highly traumatized spaces with youth and frontline work with a group home. For the nine years she worked those jobs, she wondered what she was doing there, but was sure she wasn’t smart enough to do anything else. 

The work paid the bills and was in her field and fulfilled her passion for figuring out the puzzles of human minds and behaviours. The theory she learned in school didn’t compare to the on-the-job experiences she had and those jobs helped her learn, connect with mentors and gain a different therapeutic approach. Those experiences also caused her to engage in self-reflection and accept her intelligence and the idea that she is good enough.  

“Education is so much more than sitting down and going to school.”

Chartrand also learned a lot about learning and the process of gaining knowledge. She also learned that education isn’t just something that happens in a school.  The process included a lot of trial and error, getting creative, and finding alignment with best practices and her own approach. “I've had to take all of the things out of the square box and put them into a space that is still constructive and helpful and healing,” she recalls. 

Over the course of her career, Chartrand has worked with traumatized youth populations, with attachment dysregulation histories, people with fetal alcohol spectrum or brain injuries, and sexually exploited and drug-addicted youth. Working in addictions in in-house programs for men and women and delivering psycho-educational groups for people early in recovery, Chartrand had the opportunity to bring her whole self to group workspaces and contribute her authentic energy to the experiences. 

“It's wonderful getting to see people do their own work and to come out of their own healing with something is amazing,” she beams. Lately, she’s been working with artists on mental health, doing group programming online and in person. She also does training and consulting with the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute, including educating about de-escalation techniques, healthy skills for frontline workers, trauma-informed care, addictions, healthy communication, relationships and youth workshops. 

She’s currently developing a week-long workshop in responding to trauma and grief within Indigenous communities, taking a Two-Eyed Seeing approach combining Western and traditional knowledge as equals. She’s looking to initiate trauma, grief and resilience-related conversations with an approach that is relational, cultural and connected and doesn’t focus on Western ways of thinking. 

Her advice for a young person who's thinking about getting into the field of mental health is thoughtful. “We need to navigate things differently. Particularly, as Indigenous people, we have a unique opportunity for our rich culture to guide us. These conversations are coming out more and more as people are engaging in and finding their culture again, and especially spaces like therapy, when we need to be able to connect to ourselves, and to Mother Earth and honour where we come from,” she shares. 

“The more I'm able to tap into my culture and connect with my heart, the more I tend to stumble upon magic and healing in those spaces to honour the people I'm working with. This is not something that I have been taught or experienced in the classroom. In my experience, it means that we get the exciting opportunity to forge our own path,” Chartrand continues.  

“There's so much knowledge and knowing that we have had for generations that have been stifled.”

The way she suggests aspiring mental health practitioners approach this is through finding and learning Western knowledge, therapeutic approaches and theories. That knowledge makes it easier to deconstruct Western ideologies and integrate traditional ways of knowing and walking. “It is in this unique, beautiful space that indigenous therapists get to create and bring a powerful way of healing that hasn't really been talked about before,” she beams. 

“Keep doing your own work. Stay connected to your heart. Throw out the textbook, but keep the knowledge, and then build that into how that works for you in the best spaces.”

In closing, Jaicee Chartrand offers hope for finding your own path. “Don't just settle for the square box. If it's not working, go find something that does, because there's so much out there that will,” she urges. She encourages practitioners to think outside the Western therapy box and bring more Indigenous pieces into their work. She knows that there's more than one way to accomplish a career in mental health and she’s finding one that uniquely suits her and the clients she wants to help in the world. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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    Health & Science
    First Nations
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    First Nations
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  • Date
    November 29, 2023
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