People’s Path Begins With A First Step

By PAIGE BUFFINGTON

Santa Fe— Participators will be starting the third week of a ten-week long program being conducted at IAIA. It started Sept. 21 with a beginning step. For individuals who participated in the first group, this beginning step involved acknowledging a readiness to change over the course of a ten-week period.

The first two weeks were an introductory to The People’s Path, a program open to IAIA students or staff members who would like to acknowledge or learn more about substance abuse, prevention, relapse-recovery and themselves.

In the second week of the program, a traditional elder led a sweat lodge and discussed his personal journey from alcoholism to recovery.

The People’s Path is in its second year at IAIA, its curriculum relating to IAIA’s past program, the Red Road.


Image of A Sweat Lodge courtesy of Temegami-Nativeweb.org

The Red Road and Wellbriety

Beginning in the mid 1980s, the Native American sobriety movement became more visible and widespread since its start in the late 1960s. Treatment programs first became available through the Office of Economic Opportunity and Indian Health Service’s Office of Alcoholism Programs.

The start of these base-programs triggered several movements, many of which incorporate culturally-based tools into alcoholism treatment programs, molding a different way of healing.

White Bison , a center for the wellbriety movement defines “wellbriety” as an individual being “both sober and well.” Their website explains that wellbriety is achieved through recovery from chemical dependency and thriving as an individual in both a community and in life.

“The Well part of Wellbriety,” they explain, “means to live the healthy parts of the principles, laws and values of traditional culture.”

Today, throughout American Indian communities, there are many diverse programs, sweat lodges, Native American Church meetings and hospital programs, all dedicated to building positive resiliency and improving overall health in families and individuals belonging to the communities.

The People’s Path

Here at IAIA, students have access to different groups promoting behavioral health, one of which is IAIA’s very own People’s Path, a group meeting every Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.

Greer McFadden, IAIA counselor, describes the People’s Path, a group specifically designed for IAIA and its students, as being a safe, confidential haven for individuals.

“We really don’t push students emotionally,” she explains. “We can go at the students’ pace, and so what we really try to create is a safe place so they don’t feel they have to reveal too much too soon.”

Throughout the program, which will be running through Nov 30, participants will journey through a series of ten groups, each offering a different approach to the early stages of recovery.

Erasing The Stigma Around Counseling

The activities planned for each grouping will include a variety of materials. In one group, a video will illustrate the effects of alcohol and other drugs on brain functions.

Guest speakers will frequent the People’s Path Program. Al Benalli, a Vietnam Veteran who participated in AA and is now the clinical director of behavioral health at Kewa, (formally Santo Domingo Pueblo) will be discussing his personal beliefs and introducing the group to the Native American Recovery movement.


Image of a Talking Circle courtesy of Beverly Rene
“>Beverly Rene

“We’re trying to erase stigma around counseling,” explains Greer, now in her second year at IAIA. “One of the things we assure is confidentiality and honoring it. Counseling doesn’t work if this is absent.”

If students or staff have any questions regarding The People’s Path or counseling, Greer McFadden is available Mon-Fri, 10 a.m-5 p.m. She can be reached by phone at (505) 424-5758.

People’s Path Info:
Group Meeting Every Tuesday at 6 P.M.
Contact: Greer McFadden (505) 424-5758

Copyright © IAIA CHRONICLE 2010

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