Resisting the “attachment disruption” of colonisation through decolonising therapeutic praxis: Finding our way back to the Homelands Within

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Riel Dupuis-Rossi


Riel Dupuis-Rossi, MA, MSW, RSW, is a therapist of Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk), Algonquin, and Italian descent. Riel grew up in their traditional territories, off reserve in Hamilton, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec. Since 2011, Riel has been providing decolonising and culturally-centred trauma therapy to Indigenous individuals, couples, families, and groups in Vancouver, British Columbia, located in the unceded and occupied Homelands of the Squamish, Tsleil Waututh, and Musqueam Nations. The decolonising therapeutic work described in this article is based on and reflects the engagement that occurred over many years of counselling sessions with Indigenous clients. The case illustrations presented in this article are composites of different people with whom Riel has worked since 2008 in multiple settings across Great Turtle Island (i.e., the lands many know as Canada and the United States of America). These sessions yielded pivotal moments connected to a larger Indigenous healing and liberation movement occurring on Great Turtle Island.



This article provides a theoretical framework and practical applications for an Indigenous-centred decolonising therapeutic practice. I define and critique the concept of the “attachment disruption” of colonisation and its impacts on Indigenous Peoples and, specifically, Indigenous clients. I discern and differentiate colonial forms of power, which are based in domination and violence, from Indigenous forms of power rooted in cultural traditions and connections to ancestral territories. Case examples illustrate ways of working therapeutically with the “attachment disruption” of colonisation as it concerns “residential school trauma,” “lateral violence,” and “addictions”. The importance of externalising the impacts of colonial violence and centring Indigenous cultural and relational imprints is the foundation of this decolonising therapeutic praxis.


Keywords: decolonising therapy, Indigenous psychotherapy, Indigenous trauma therapy, complex trauma and Indigenous Peoples, transgenerational trauma, Indigenous historical trauma


Address for correspondence:
Riel Dupuis-Rossi
Email: rieldupuisrossi@gmail.com