Addictions Counselling, Reconciliation and Expressive Arts Therapy

Miriam Windsor - Student story

Miriam Windsor is from Kitamaat Village, which is the primary residence of the Haisla Nation, on the North Coast region of BC.

In 1999, Miriam left Kitamaat Village to attend a six-week addictions program at The Namgis Treatment Centre in Alert Bay. The centre was located across from St. Michael’s Residential School, where her father was placed at the young age of five.

“The school was right in my view as I looked out the window of the treatment centre. I couldn’t imagine what my father went through during his eleven years there. It was during this time I thought that in order to understand my father, I needed to understand my own path,” Miriam said. “After treatment, I continued to support my father and began attending healing ceremonies with him. I came to understand what he went through by witnessing the healing and hearing his story.”

Unsure of what to do after the treatment program, Miriam was offered an opportunity to take a one-year counselling course at The Four Quarters Institute in Vancouver. The course was based on the intergenerational effects of residential schools. Miriam had always felt passionate about wanting to support others and jumped at the chance.

The practicum component led her back to her place of healing at The Namgis Treatment Centre, after which she was offered a full time position as an addictions counsellor. But after four years of employment Miriam began to burn out.

“I became exhausted, I felt like I was taking on too much. I decided to resign and go back to Vancouver.”

She continued her counselling career at Rhodes Wellness College, studying a balance of Life Skills Coaching and Wellness Counselling. After this, Miriam returned to Namgis for another three-years and then came to Vancouver to try her hand in office administration, taking a course to improve her computer skills and landing a job in an office.

“I did that for one year and realised I didn’t want to be an office worker. I wanted to continue my journey as a helper.”

Online research led Miriam to the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts Therapy where she is now completing the Expressive Arts Therapy program.

“I see the world through a different lens now. There are certain differences between addictions counselling and expressive arts. Yet, I’ve come to realize from my employment history that I was already utilizing the arts, I just never put a name to it until I began the course. I love it!”

Miriam is currently doing a placement at the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society where she works with young mums and their children who are at a high risk of being separated by the ministry.

“I think of my clients as teachers. It has been very rewarding to see the intelligence of the children.”

Miriam hopes to work with people all ages throughout her career. She says an outstanding teaching in expressive arts for her is to find and create unique ways through various modalities, to bring the meaning of reconciliation through the arts and culture of Aboriginal communities.

“In this career path, I honour my father,” Miriam said.