Trauma Talks

Speakers (2022)

Dr. Janet Smylie

Dr. Janet Smylie is a family physician and public health researcher. She currently works as a research scientist in Indigenous health at St. Michael's hospital, Centre for Urban Health Solutions (CUHS), where she directs the Well Living House Applied Research Centre for Indigenous Infant, Child and Family Health. Her primary academic appointment is as a Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She maintains a part-time clinical practice with Inner City Health Associates at Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto. Dr. Smylie has practiced and taught family medicine in a variety of Aboriginal communities both urban and rural. She is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, with Métis roots in the prairies. Her research interests are focused in the area of addressing the health inequities that challenge Indigenous infants, children and their families through applied health services research. Dr. Smylie currently leads multiple research projects in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities/organizations. She holds a CIHR Applied Public Health Research Chair in Indigenous Health Knowledge and Information and was honoured with a National Aboriginal Achievement (Indspire) Award in Health in 2012. A Métis woman, Dr. Smylie acknowledges her family, teachers, and lodge.

Keynote Title: Story Medicine: Indigenous Approaches to Understanding and Addressing Trauma

Learning Objectives:

  1. To introduce specific Indigenous concepts and contexts regarding trauma
  2. To highlight gaps in access to relevant and useful trauma prevention and treatment services and programming for Indigenous peoples in Canada
  3. To share information regarding the design and testing of a novel Indigenous narrative exposure therapy


The concepts and constructs of mental illness and psycho-trauma as understood in modern psychology and psychiatry are not well aligned with traditional Indigenous worldviews and social systems.   This can limit the relevance and effectiveness of mainstream diagnostic and treatment approaches.   This situation is further complicated by the fact that historic and ongoing Euro-colonial policies and practices and anti-Indigenous racism persist as primary and root determinants of Indigenous mental, emotional, and spiritual imbalance and/or anguish.  Given the striking and disproportionate burden of trauma and its associated co-morbidities among Indigenous populations there is a pressing need to identify and advance culturally relevant and effective healing modalities and workforce.   Current policy and evidence direct us to ensure that this work is developed for and by Indigenous people.

Acute and chronic affective and cognitive conditions that interfere with fulsome engagement in key life activities cut across human societies and are commonly associated with traumatic life events.  Indigenous worldviews and social structures are extremely diverse and there are countless distinct and nation specific understandings and responses to what might be externally interpreted as psycho-trauma.   Emerging protective factors and healing approaches that cut across some (but not all) Indigenous societies will be discussed.  These include: the contextualization of trauma and responses to trauma within everyday belief systems that centre spirituality, life meaning, and ongoing individualized roles and responsibilities; societal structures that are rooted in strong relationships to human kin and broader ecosystems; strength-based and affirmative treatment approaches; ceremonial healing practices; and storytelling traditions.

Building on First Nations and Métis story-telling traditions, our team of researchers has worked with Indigenous community partners and elders to adapt Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) for use in Indigenous community contexts.  This presentation will finish with an overview of this pilot study.

Dr. Roberta Timothy

Keynote Title: Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy and Transgenerational Trauma

Learning Objectives:

  1. To discuss the impact of socio-historical contexts, intersectional violence, colonial trauma and psychotherapy in a Canadian and global context.
  2. To describe the principles of the model Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy, and the role of transgenerational and transnational connections working with survivors of trauma.
  3. To introduce participants to essential skills, and tools to address the impact of transgenerational trauma in psychotherapy through an intersectional lens.


The keynote presentation will look at the impact of colonial violence and the need to decolonize one’s practice in order to deal with intersectional trauma/violence. I will examine how Anti-Oppression Psychotherapy (AOP), a decolonizing mental health trauma-informed model, can be used as a tool to create healing and wellness with intersectional clients, focusing on Black, indigenous, and purposefully marginalized populations. Firstly, the historical and current context in relation to the impact of anti-Black racism/racism and other determinants of health or what I call “health violence” will be briefly explored. Secondly, the importance of theoretical and methodological concepts and practices of AOP will be discussed and essential definitions of AOP will be described. Thirdly, some of the principles of AOP will be explained in the context of issues relating to colonial trauma, transgenerational connections and psychotherapy. Finally, the experiences of intersectional transgenerational colonial trauma in clients’ lives will be looked at using case studies to indicate how AOP can be used as a trauma-informed model for anti-racist, social justice praxis.

Women's College Hospital