The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is the first hospital in Ontario to have a fully operational Sweat Lodge and traditional ceremonial grounds in Toronto. It opened June 23. The Sweat Lodge will offer patients the opportunity to engage in a form of therapy based on the values, beliefs and traditions of Aboriginal peoples.
"Having a Sweat Lodge at CAMH will enable us to provide enhanced Indigenous healing ceremonies as part of clients' treatment plans," said Renee Linklater, director of Aboriginal Engagement and Outreach at CAMH. "This is an exciting example of how hospital-based health services can incorporate Indigenous healing processes and create more opportunities for clients to achieve balance and wellness in their lives."
Clients can participate in the Sweat Ceremony after progressing through earlier stages of teachings and healing.
"It's important that clients are mentally and spiritually ready for the Sweat Ceremony and that they are engaged in recovery that includes cultural knowledge," said Diane Longboat, the Elder with CAMH's Aboriginal Services. "There is deep emotional and psychological healing when clients release the negative patterns in their lives and begin to understand their gifts; the whole person they are meant to be."
In addition to the Sweat Lodge, the new ceremonial grounds at CAMH also include a sacred fire and medicine garden. The sacred fire will be used for therapeutic group sessions and cultural learning. Staff, volunteers and clients will increase their own cultural knowledge by receiving teachings that will prepare them to assist with fire keeping and ceremonies.
"We are at a point in time when Canadians are much more aware of the historical trauma experienced by Aboriginal peoples," said Linklater. "We also need to recognize that part of that trauma is the loss of culture and traditional healing practices. This is why it's so important to offer services that are culturally relevant and appropriate."
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion and is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.