Student completes UNB Saint John’s first-ever clinical psychology field placement with Indigenous clinician
A University of New Brunswick psychology student spent the winter 2021 semester being mentored by Mi’kmaq clinician Stephanie Francis – an historic moment for UNB psychology and experiential learning.
Gabrielle Benoit, a third-year bachelor of science student majoring in psychology on UNB’s Saint John campus, undertook the clinical placement as part of Field Placement in Clinical Psychology (PSYC4265). This course gives students exposure to community mental health settings, with the goal of gaining applied supervised experience.
For Benoit’s placement, she was paired with Indigenous clinician Stephanie Francis, who conducts land-based counselling at Kikehtahsuwiw Farm on Killarney Road, just outside Fredericton.
“I am a Mi’kmaq woman, originally from Elsipogtog First Nations,” says Francis. “My great grandmother was originally from Sitansisk, which is located in Wolastoquk, where I am now a proud member. Wolastoquk is unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory of the Wolastoq people.”
Francis was first introduced to UNB psychology instructor Dr. Moira Law, who organizes field placements for students, through a mutual acquaintance. Francis then invited Dr. Law to visit Kikegtahsuwiw Farm to learn more about the counselling she conducts on her property.
After her visit to Kikehtahsuwiw Farm, Dr. Law saw a fantastic opportunity for continued student learning and asked Francis if she would be willing to mentor Benoit. This mentorship is a first-of-its-kind placement, as UNB has never had an Indigenous clinician supervise and mentor a psychology student before.
“I am delighted that Stephanie was able to provide mentorship to one of our students,” says Dr. Law. “This is the first time we have had a placement like this and hope that we can continue to help students find experiential learning opportunities they can personally connect with.”
As part of her mentorship, Benoit had the opportunity to sit in on client-approved counselling sessions, attend trauma informed seminars, participate in weekly book clubs and undertake extensive research.
“There were some specific things I had asked Gabrielle to research for me,” says Francis. “It was partially to gain academic resources and to expose her to a different worldview. I was so excited to hear the feedback from Gabrielle. It was as though she too was a kindred spirit and had a genuine appreciation for Indigenous knowledge.”
UNB is committed to providing authentic, culturally relevant experiential learning opportunities for Indigenous students and partners. Through the nihkanapu UNB/nikanaptmu’k UNB program, Indigenous students and partners can engage in work-integrated and land-based learning in ways that are meaningful to them. UNB’s partnership with the provincial Future Wabanaki initiative demonstrates UNB’s and New Brunswick’s commitments to ensuring Indigenous student success.
“Working with Stephanie allowed me to broaden my knowledge on Indigenous culture, but also exposed me to new perspectives on spirituality and how it can be an important element in an individual’s overall wellness,” says Benoit. “I am forever grateful for this experience and would like to thank both Stephanie and Dr. Law for this opportunity.”
Media contact: Kathleen McLaughlin