I plan to continue advocating for decolonizing approaches to counselling when working with Indigenous clients, families and communities.

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Student Profile: Katrina Smeja

November 08, 2019
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Counselling Psychology Master's student in the Faculty of Education

I am from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi and was raised in Montreal, QC. My professional interests mainly revolve around Indigenous mental wellness. I have experience working with Indigenous community organizations in QC and have helped out with some community-based research initiatives in my territory too. I will be attending a doctoral program in Counselling Psychology at McGill and am looking forward to being closer to family and friends. I plan to continue advocating for decolonizing approaches to counselling when working with Indigenous clients, families and communities.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I came out to visit Vancouver with my sister who planted the seed of studying in BC. I was drawn to SFU because the counselling program had a strong practical component. I decided to apply to a few graduate programs both in BC and in QC, and things in my life aligned in a way that lead me to study at SFU.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

I've been interested in exploring approaches to counselling that centre Indigenous worldviews and support resisting colonial violence. My masters research looked at how narrative therapy could fit within decolonial efforts. I spoke with a couple of therapists who have practiced narrative therapy in an Indigenous context and got to hear about their experiences.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

The encouragement I got from faculty members and my peers really stand out to me when I think about my experience at SFU. Through my thesis research, I was able to create a unique space for myself to explore topics that are not covered in great depth in most counselling programs. I was able to tailor my studies to serve the context I will be working in.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

The CP program is hands-on, with opportunities to go practice in a range of clinical and community settings. I enjoyed that the program was smaller, so you can get to know faculty and peers throughout your studies.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE GRADUATE STUDENTS?

If grades/GPA feel like a barrier to applying to graduate school, know that there are other ways to strengthen your application. This was a challenge for me, so I repeated some courses, got tutors, worked to get experience and connected with mentors in the field. I think finding support and persisting for something you know you want to do can help get you to where you want to be. That, and people who lift you up when you're feeling discouraged.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

I appreciated the resources available on-campus for Indigenous students, like the Indigenous Student Centre. It was nice to have welcoming spaces to go to especially when studying far away from home. I was able to participate in events like the Indigenous Graduate Student Symposium (IGSS). Being in a supportive environment like the IGSS helped me build confidence to present at the 2018 Canadian Counselling Psychology Conference in Calgary. Those positive experiences got me to seriously consider applying for a PhD in the first place.

Contact Katrina: katrina_smeja@sfu.ca