Investing in First Nations Communities through Clinical Services

“MFNERC responded to a need in communities for more First Nations practitioners. There is a gap in clinical services provided by First Nations for First Nations. The organization is playing an active role in creating a stronger relationship between services related to psychology and assessment and those living on-reserve. There is still stigma attached to such work, and I think First Nations practitioners can help close the gap,” says Tishina Shannacappo.

Tishina and her cohort, a group of thirteen people, spend many full-day weekends in class, regularly studying in the weekday evenings. Coordinated by MFNERC, in partnership with the University of Calgary, Tishina and her classmates work diligently to fulfill requirements for a Master of Education in School and Applied Child Psychology. They are set to graduate in 2021.

Since February 2017, MFNERC’s school psychology cohort has completed fifteen courses—ten at an undergraduate level through the University of Winnipeg and five at a graduate level through the University of Calgary. Tishina says, “The undergraduate courses were completed quickly but as thoroughly as possible. Every six weeks we’d start a new course, often finishing a final exam in the morning and then starting new material in the afternoon. Many in the cohort have a degree in education, and these prerequisites gave us the necessary foundation to go into educational psychology.”

After Tishina finishes a two-year course load that rigorously focuses on theory and practice, she will begin an eight-month-long internship guided by the Centre and the university. Upon program completion, she will be working with MFNERC schools as a school psychologist through the Special Education Department, specifically with Clinical Support Services. In the meantime, she works in Publishing and Communications as an editorial assistant, touching on her other interest for words, writing, and creative service delivery.

“Aside from some more arts-based work, I have always been interested in psychology and thought I would one day go back to school and get a master’s degree in counselling psychology or maybe even clinical psychology. After seeing the opportunity here at MFNERC, I figured pursuing school psychology would be a way for me to work closely with First Nations, combining several of my interests and fulfilling my desire to work with my people.”

Tishina names Dr. Margaret Scott and Dr. Don Shackel as two people, among a few others at the Centre, who influenced her decision to apply and commit to the program.

“After talking to Don and Margaret, it seemed like a good idea to blend my interest in psychology with culturally relevant ethics and practice. I want my future work to include close contact with Manitoba First Nations, and I look forward to travelling to communities and working with a network of children, families, and educators.”

Tishina says that one of her motivators has been the sense of community and accountability that comes with being in a cohort, especially one made up of First Nations people.

She also says that early on in the program, she found inspiration in her mentor, who was then in the final stages of writing her dissertation. “We would stay behind at the office after hours, working independently. It was nice to have company, and I realized that anyone at any point in their life could pursue an education. And through our conversations, I learned how invested educators are in their communities and the need for certain services. It made me feel a deeper responsibility toward my future role.”

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