Ilisaqsivik’s Inuit-led counsellor training program has prepared numerous people now qualified to offer help, according to Joshua Akavak, the Clyde River-based organization’s counsellor manager.

“I am proud that this program has 50 graduates who are now offering support across Nunavut,” he said.

Ilisaqsivik’s counsellor training program, officially named Our Life’s Journey: Inuit Counsellor Training Program, has been operating for about 15 years.

The program was developed in response to “the acute need for counselling by Inuit, for Inuit,” according to Ilisaqsivik’s website.

“It’s important because we get to speak in our own language,” said Akavak, who is himself a graduate of the program. “It’s easier to talk to somebody who’s got the same background. Our way of life is different from the non-Inuit way of life. It’s important that we have a sense of sympathy in these counselling sessions. It’s better for the client to speak to somebody with the same background.

“Understanding each other is a big thing for us.”

Ilisaqsivik’s counsellor training program is broken into five modules. There is one module every three months, and each one is composed of two courses, which cover topics like loss, trauma, addictions and abuse. Each course takes five days each to complete.

“This pace works well,” according to Akavak, as many trainees come to Clyde River from other communities.

Graduates of the program can work as counsellors for Ilisaqsivik across Nunavut, or join other operations if they choose.

“Ilisaqsivik provides crisis services across Nunavut, and we prioritize the Baffin region for crisis response,” Akavak said. “We try to have people in every community, so graduates have the opportunity to work with Ilisaqsivik on a casual basis, or with another organization.”

Feedback from graduates has been good, according to Akavak.

While the intention of the program is to train Inuit to help each other, he said many graduates have found the program to be personally beneficial as well.

“The feedback we hear most often is that graduates were personally helped with this training program,” he said. “It gives trainees the time to work on themselves while they are training. We highly believe we have to work on ourselves to help other people.

“Once graduates start working, they tell us the training prepared them well to support others. They are able to support people within their community,” he added.

Having shepherded 50 Inuit counsellors, the impacts of Ilisaqsivik’s counsellor training program are already being felt across Nunavut.

For Akavak, that is a source of immense pride.

“I’m very proud of the team every time I hear from other people that our counselling work has helped them in their life — either professionally or personally,” he said. “Our team is there for people who need help.”

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