About Us

We are more than a little different from other therapy clinics and agencies. Our journey began with a commitment to serving families with distinct needs, and we continue to adapt and expand to bridge the gaps in services and enhance accessibility. We’ve been pioneers in neurodivergent-affirming therapy from the very beginning. Cherish Clinic has consistently been at the forefront of neurodivergent-affirming therapy and advocacy. We proudly embraced this approach long before it gained popularity or recognition, always staying uncompromising in our commitment. Today, we stand as an industry leader in this vital field.

Unlike many other clinics that take a generalist approach and provide standardized, one-size-fits-all services, we at Cherish Clinic have a distinct mission. Our aim is to serve and enable individuals to reach higher visions and goals, emphasizing self-actualization. We believe in going beyond ease of living and towards authentic quality of life

How We Work

At Cherish Clinic, we embrace the ecological framework as the cornerstone of our approach. We understand that true healing and growth occur within the complex interplay of individuals and their environments. Our commitment to collaboration is at the heart of our mission. We firmly believe that meaningful change is best achieved through collective effort and support around different areas of the client’s life.

We provide robust support, extensive knowledge, and valuable guidance to our clients and therapists. Our commitment to quality service and ongoing professional development ensures that our therapists are always at the forefront of their field. We operate as a closely-knit, interconnected team, embracing a collectivist approach to our work.

Our Philosophy

Vision

Cherish Clinic’s vision is a world where people no longer experience the negative effects of systemic and social marginalization. We aim to be a trusted partner in our client’s journey toward autonomy and wellness, providing personalized care and advocacy tailored to their unique circumstances and goals.  

Mission

1. Focus and align support services within a neurodiversity-affirming paradigm to protect the rights and welfare of all people.

2. Apply an anti-oppression, disability rights, cultural responsiveness and socially just framework to bring awareness to, provide support, and advocate around systemic barriers and gaps in essential services.

3. Empower and honour personal agency, body autonomy, social authenticity, and sensory system needs.

 

Wise Practice Lens

It’s important to note that incorporating the fact that Canada is an unceded territory into a policy is just one small step toward reconciliation and decolonization. Cherish Clinic actively engages in concrete actions to address the ongoing impacts of colonization, such as supporting Indigenous self-determination and promoting meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities. 

  • We acknowledge that Canada is an unceded territory and that the Indigenous people who have lived on this land for thousands of years have never ceded or surrendered their rights, title, and responsibilities to their territories.
  • We recognize the ongoing impacts of colonization and the importance of decolonization efforts in promoting Indigenous self-determination and healing.
  • We commit to upholding Indigenous rights and respecting Indigenous knowledge and traditions in all aspects of the policy, including the management of multiple relationships and conflicts of interest.
  • We actively assess and reflect personal, professional, and company values and actions to ensure we are not perpetuating colonization and systemic marginalization of the Indigenous people. 
  • Engage in ongoing education and consultation with Indigenous communities and knowledge keepers to ensure that the policy is grounded in Indigenous perspectives and values.
  • Create opportunities for Indigenous clients to provide feedback on the policy and ensure that their voices are heard and respected in the decision-making process.

Cherish Clinic acknowledges and respects Indigenous ways of knowing and recognizes the value of incorporating these practices into our decision-making processes. We encourage our counsellors/therapists to use a Wise Practices Lens to approach decision-making, which involves the use of Etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing), a process of integrating Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge for the benefit of all.

We recognize that relationships are essential in decision-making, and we acknowledge the importance of building and maintaining respectful relationships with all individuals, including Indigenous peoples. The seven sacred values, including courage, honesty, humility, respect, truth, love, and wisdom, guides Cherish Clinic and its employees in making ethical and respectful decisions.

On Neurodiversity
Indigenous views on neurodiversity in Canada can vary among different communities and nations. However, many Indigenous perspectives view neurodivergent people as having unique strengths and gifts that can be valuable to their communities. They may also view neurodiversity as a natural part of the human experience, rather than a pathology or disorder that needs to be fixed or cured. Some Indigenous communities may also have specific traditional practices or teachings that support the well-being and inclusion of neurodivergent individuals. Overall, Indigenous perspectives on neurodiversity emphasize respect, acceptance, and inclusion for all individuals, regardless of their neurological differences.

 

Core Value #1: Respect

At Cherish Clinic, we believe that every human being deserves respect and dignity regardless of their differences. We recognize that diversity includes the psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among individuals, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, and learning styles.  In indigenous cultures, respect is often demonstrated through a deep reverence for nature, community, and spiritual beliefs. We honor and embrace this perspective by recognizing the interconnectedness of all living things and working to protect the natural environment.

Respect is not just about being polite or tolerant of differences, but also about recognizing and valuing the unique contributions and perspectives that each individual brings. We reject the medical model for neurodiversity and disability, which views people as broken or needing to be fixed. Instead, we embrace the social model of disability, which recognizes that disabilities are created by social and environmental barriers that prevent people from fully participating in society.

We believe in empowering neurodivergent individuals by acknowledging their cultural identities and supporting their right to self-determination. We believe in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment that celebrates diversity and shows respect through our words, actions, and thoughts toward all people. We explicitly and unapologetically reject harmful therapies and treatments that seek to normalize neurodivergent individuals and erase their identities. Dehumanizing compliance-based behavioural practice, such as the use of punishment or rewards to modify autistic behaviours, is not compatible with respect for human rights to dignity and autonomy.  It has also been linked to poor mental health outcomes. 

Respect is also about showing humility and being sensitively responsive.  To show respect is to be open and honest and to behave with integrity. We understand that everyone has implicit biases and ethical blind spots, and we are committed to actively confronting and addressing these biases. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for our thoughts and actions, and we are committed to creating a culture of openness, honesty, and integrity.

 

Core Value #2: Equity

At Cherish Clinic, we believe that equity is a fundamental principle of social justice.  We believe that every human being deserves respect and dignity regardless of their differences. We recognize that diversity includes the psychological, physical, and social differences that present in individuals, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, and learning styles. 

Equity represents the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of historically underserved and underrepresented populations. The principle of equity acknowledges that these populations have been historically marginalized and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

Indigenous Canadian perspectives on equity emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing the intersecting factors that contribute to marginalization and oppression. For example, Indigenous women and Two-Spirit individuals face unique forms of discrimination and violence that are rooted in both their gender and their Indigeneity. We acknowledge that these intersecting factors must be taken into account when working to advance equity, and that solutions must be developed in partnership with affected communities.

We marshal our resources to advance equitable opportunities and outcomes for all, including neurodivergent individuals. We approach difficulties experienced by neurodivergent people through the lens of intersectionality, recognizing that they may face additional forms of discrimination and marginalization based on their other identities. Health inequalities can result in a range of negative outcomes, including limited access to resources, higher rates of chronic illness, and decreased quality of life. Our commitment to equity and inclusion also extends to challenging ableist and discriminatory practices in all aspects of society.

The principle of equity in the context of neurodivergence and disability means striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent full participation and access to opportunities for individuals with diverse abilities. This includes recognizing the diverse needs and experiences of individuals with different types of disabilities and prioritizing their inclusion in all aspects of society. We center our approach on the social model of disability, which emphasizes the role of social and environmental factors in creating disabilities and promotes the idea that disabilities are part of human diversity rather than individual deficits. We also work to address health inequalities by considering the broad range of factors that contribute to wellness, such as personal, social, economic, and environmental factors.

 

Core Value #3: Autonomy

We recognize that autonomy is not a strictly individualistic concept, but rather is deeply intertwined with community and interdependence. Indigenous perspectives emphasize the importance of balancing individual autonomy with the collective responsibilities of the community and the land. This includes recognizing and respecting the autonomy of Indigenous peoples and their right to self-determination, which has been historically denied through colonization and systemic oppression.

Presuming competence and empowering individuals to exercise their autonomy is particularly important for neurodivergent people and people with disabilities. Presume competence means we believe everyone has the potential to develop their thinking, learning, understanding, ability and capacity to their fullest extent.

Cherish Clinic Motto: “People do well if they can”

When a person’s competence is not respected, we may fall into the sliding slope, although well-intended, of disrespecting their autonomy by making decisions for them or attempting to modify or manage them without their consent.

We also recognize that individuals with disabilities may require different types of support and accommodations to exercise their autonomy effectively. We strive to provide a supportive and inclusive environment that recognizes the unique needs and strengths of individuals, including those with disabilities.

At Cherish Clinic, we prioritize promoting self-determination and autonomy for all individuals, while also recognizing the importance of collaboration and community. We aim to create a supportive and empowering environment that encourages individuals to exercise their autonomy in ways that are aligned with their personal goals and values. This includes fostering a culture of accountability and responsibility, where individuals are empowered to take ownership of their work and commitments, while also being supported by their team when necessary. By embracing individual autonomy and interdependence, we aim to create a culture that promotes both personal and collective growth and success.
Our need for autonomy reflects the basic human need to have control over our own lives. It’s also one of the primary predictors of happiness both at work and in life. Unfortunately, autonomy is frequently subverted by the demands placed on us. This is doubly true in the lives of most young neurodivergent people. We champion self-determination and promote self-esteem in all people.  We honour personal agency, body autonomy, authenticity, and the person’s right to say no. We can support the natural development of autonomy by empowering people and harnessing the power of intrinsic motivation to foster self-directed changes and their sense of self.

While Cherish Clinic encourages work in teams, occasionally we generally work independently or “the team of me, myself and I”. This does not mean our staffs are on abandoned their own island alone. We invest heavily in our infrastructure, onboarding, and resources to make sure that people are not only properly supported, but we can lean into the team collectively for support. Our people genuinely care about their fellow employees and are happy to lend a hand when needed.  We avoid multiple layers of management and micromanagement.  We value people who can think creatively, critically, dynamically, and intuitively about their work and their relationship with their colleagues.

 

Framework

Cultural Responsive Socially Just

Sandra Collins’ Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Framework is like a compass guiding us toward a more inclusive and equitable society. It’s all about recognizing and celebrating our differences, whether in culture, background, or identity, while ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at success and happiness.

Imagine a world where everyone is seen and heard, where every unique voice contributes to the beautiful mosaic of humanity. Sandra’s framework encourages us to create this world by respecting and valuing diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

In practical terms, it means we strive to understand and appreciate the challenges some people face because of their culture or social background. We work to break down barriers and provide equal opportunities, like ensuring that everyone has access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities. It’s a bit like making sure that every seat at the table is reserved for anyone who wants to join the conversation.

This framework is about building bridges, not walls. It calls on us to be empathetic, to listen, to learn, and to stand up for fairness and justice. It reminds us that when we embrace diversity, we all benefit and grow as a society.

Disability Justice and Anti-Oppression

We are guided by the 10 principles of Disability Justice.  Our work is heavily inspired and influenced by Norman Kunc, a disability advocate.  His cautions against therapy and professionalism when working with people with disabilities are a fundamental consideration in our practices and services.

Instead of pathologizing and “fixing” disabilities, we approach human differences from the social model of disability.

Codes of Ethics

General Code of Ethics
      1. Counselling and therapy providers at Cherish Clinic must go above and beyond to meet the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics set up by their licensing colleges or associations.
      2. We presume the competence of our clients. We challenge the assumptions of deficits and  incapability. We believe our clients have the capacity to think, learn, understand and work to facilitate the right support and systems to help them succeed.
      3. Human self-determination is paramount. We uphold every child’s right to autonomy and peace. Children have the right to consent and withdraw consent to therapy services at any time.  We uphold every person’s right to dignity and privacy.
      4. We hold confidentiality for our clients regardless of age and will reframe from discussing or talking about them in front of them unless they are collaboratively involved in the discussion. We value trust, open communication, and teamwork with the adults in the children’s life.  We desire and welcome their interests, curiosity, and involvement.  We are committed to supporting the family from a judgment-free, respectful, compassionate, and collaborative approach. We recognize that parents may carry fear and shame regarding their parenting mistakes and bad habits.  We also recognize that Indigenous families are systematically over-reported for child safety concerns.  Therefore, we must proactively and continuously communicate about our safety threshold around safety reporting towards breaking confidentiality. If possible, we first inform the clients or their parents and invite them to be a part of the reporting process while actively examining and confronting our own privileges and biases, especially ablism through an intersectional perspective.  
      5. We uphold Canadian Disability Rights and the social model of disability.  People with disabilities have always been part of human diversity.  We reject the perception that disability is a tragedy and disabled people as a burden. 
      6. We pledge to uphold the ethics and code of conduct set forth by Therapist Neurodiversity Collective.  This includes a commitment to not use or encourage the use of applied behavioural analysis (ABA), positive behavioural support (PBS), and masking-oriented behavioural modification.
Working with Minors
      1. Humans are perfectly imperfect. Everyone is perfect, including neurodiverse children, exactly the way they are. We reject the idea that children should not misbehave or make mistakes. We also reject the idea that neurodivergent individuals should live and act neurotypically.
        2. We acknowledge that therapists are perfectly imperfect ourselves, and we are dedicated to constantly questioning our own assumptions, triggers and how they may colour our perspective and reactions.  
        3. Power dynamics and financial transactions are an inescapable part of the therapist-client relationship.  Even though parents are the payer, children are our clients, and we prioritize children’s well-being over our own desire to demonstrate our therapeutic competence.  We are also sensitive to the children’s additional vulnerability in therapist-child-client relationships.
        4. Everyone is the first witness and expert of their person and experience.  Although subjective, we are committed to believing children’s lived experiences, perspectives, and narratives as they see them and not how we or the parents may imagine their experience to be.
        5. We prioritize establishing and maintaining safety on all 5 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy in all areas of the client’s life.  We prioritize belonging over fitting in. 
        6. We believe the best, authentic, and most embodied changes come from within. We prioritize helping clients discover their own understanding and answers.  We believe there is no formula or prescription for living a full and fulfilling life.
Working with Indigenous and Foster Children

When considering therapy services for Indigenous children, it’s important to recognize the unique challenges they may face. One major factor to consider is that Indigenous children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system. This is often due to systemic issues stemming from colonialism and ongoing policies that have resulted in the removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities.

For Indigenous children in foster care, it’s important to approach therapy with cultural sensitivity and to work collaboratively with their families and communities. This may involve engaging in culturally appropriate practices and respecting traditional knowledge and healing practices.

Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that Indigenous children in foster care may face additional challenges related to trauma and loss, as well as the ongoing impacts of colonization and systemic oppression. Therapy for these children should be trauma-informed and culturally responsive, with a focus on healing and empowering them to reconnect with their culture and community.

Moreover, it is essential to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the foster care system. This involves advocating for policies and practices that support Indigenous families and communities, including addressing the root causes of poverty, lack of access to resources and systemic issues that have led to the removal of children from their families.

In summary, when providing therapy for Indigenous children, it’s crucial to consider the unique challenges they may face, including the disproportionate representation in the foster care system, and to approach therapy with cultural sensitivity, trauma-informed and culturally responsive practices. Addressing the systemic issues that contribute to the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the foster care system is also an important ethical consideration in promoting the health and well-being of Indigenous children and families.

Walking the talk

Virtue Signalling is the act of publicly expressing opinions or actions that are intended to demonstrate one’s good moral character or “virtue,” often in a way that is perceived as being excessive, insincere, or done for the purpose of gaining social status or approval. It can also refer to the act of making a statement or taking a stance solely for the purpose of appearing morally superior to others, rather than as a genuine expression of one’s values or beliefs.

Cultural appropriation refers to taking aspects of a culture that is not one’s own without proper understanding, respect, or permission, and using it for one’s own benefit, often while ignoring or exploiting the culture’s historical and social context. Cultural Acknowledgement recognizes and respects the cultural origins and contributions of a particular group. This can be done by acknowledging the origins and history of cultural practices, showing appreciation for the culture, and giving credit where credit is due.

Actionable statement:
At Cherish Clinic, we prioritize actionable statements and tangible social impact in our approach to social justice.  For example, we do not spare a paragraph on indigenous issues, but rather we incorporate an indigenous framework into every aspect of our practice and thinking. Our value and commitment to equity can be observed in the social changes we make.  It is common and easy for anyone to slide into virtual signalling.  Here are some guidelines and scaffolding against that bad habit:

Clear communication: We prioritize clear communication focusing on actions that benefit the community and clients, rather than on statements that sound good but do not result in any meaningful change.

Avoiding tokenism: We avoid tokenism, which is the practice of making symbolic gestures or statements that do not lead to actual change. We actively empower marginalized perspectives and proactively facilitate the co-creation and collaboration of narratives and experiences.

Transparency: We are transparent about our goals and intentions. It should avoid using vague or ambiguous language. Do not minimize or “white-wash” the harm and injustice experienced by marginalized people in our communication and description.  Cherish Clinic members are encouraged to speak up about injustice. 
Consistency: We should not make statements or claims that are not supported by our actions.
Collaboration: The policy should prioritize collaboration and partnerships with community members and organizations. It should aim to work together with the community to effect positive change, rather than acting unilaterally and claiming credit for actions that are not truly collaborative.

Culture

Cultural Hybridity

Individualism refers to a cultural framework where individuals are seen as autonomous, independent beings who are primarily responsible for their own lives and well-being. In individualistic cultures, people tend to value self-expression, individual rights, and personal achievement. They may prioritize their own goals and needs over those of the group.  Canada is an individualistic culture.  Critique:

  • Can lead to a lack of social cohesion and fragmentation in society, as people prioritize their own interests over those of the group.
  • Can lead to a focus on competition over cooperation, which can result in a zero-sum game where winners take all and losers are left behind.
  • Can lead to a lack of social safety nets, as individuals are expected to be self-sufficient and not rely on others for support.
  • Can lead to a focus on short-term gains over long-term planning, as individuals prioritize their immediate needs and desires over the needs of the group in the future.

Collectivism refers to a cultural framework where individuals are part of a larger group, such as a family, community, or society, and place more emphasis on the needs and goals of the group than on their own individual needs and goals. In collectivist cultures, people tend to value interdependence, cooperation, and harmony. They may prioritize the well-being of their family, community, or country over their own personal goals. Critique: 

  • Can lead to a lack of individual autonomy and freedom, as people are expected to conform to the norms and values of the group.
  • Can lead to groupthink, where individuals are discouraged from questioning the beliefs or decisions of the group, even if they may be flawed.
  • Can lead to a lack of diversity and creativity, as the group values conformity over individual expression and innovation.
  • Can lead to a focus on the needs of the group over the needs of the individual, which can result in the sacrifice of individual rights or well-being for the supposed greater good of the group.

According to Cultural Dimensions Theory, cultures can be categorized based on several dimensions, including individualism-collectivism. However, Cherish Clinic also recognized that cultures can fall somewhere in between, or even shift between the two extremes depending on the situation. Cultural hybridity recognizes the complex ways in which cultures can blend and evolve over time, especially in multicultural societies.
Cherish Clinic adopts cultural hybridity in the creation and evolution of our cultural values.  We will continuously adjust our cultural values as we grow and change over time.

We believe our society is inherently interdependent and collaborative.
In Canada, we eat fruit imported from Mexico and buy plastic products from China.  We rely on medical professionals to care for us when we are ill and the city’s sanitation infrastructure for clean water and garbage disposal.  We reject the Western assumptions that children are born overly dependent on their mothers and that we must work hard to foster independence in children.  In Canada, we must also acknowledge the history of marginalization and isolation of Indigenous peoples. We recognize that colonization has disrupted traditional systems of interconnectedness and community support that were once central to Indigenous cultures. As a result, Indigenous peoples may experience higher rates of poverty, social exclusion, and mental health issues.

Therefore, we believe that children in an individualistic culture like Canada are vulnerable to becoming detached from their social safety net and we must work hard to facilitate an environment that encourages interconnectedness, trust, and social responsibility towards others. 

Autonomy versus Independence
Independence refers to the ability to do things on one’s own, without the help or support of others. It is often associated with self-sufficiency and self-reliance. An independent person is someone who is able to take care of themselves and meet their own needs without assistance. Autonomy, on the other hand, refers to the ability to make decisions and take actions based on one’s own values, preferences, and goals. It is about having the freedom to live according to one’s own wishes and to have control over one’s own life. At Cherish Clinic, we prioritize autonomy over independence. We operationalize autonomy in a collectivist framework. 

Mastery versus achievements
Mastery is the process of developing deep knowledge, skills, and expertise in a particular area. It involves a commitment to continuous learning, practice, and refinement. Mastery is often associated with intrinsic motivation and the pursuit of personal excellence, rather than external rewards or recognition. Achievement, on the other hand, is the attainment of a specific goal or outcome. It may involve the acquisition of new knowledge or skills, but it is often driven by external factors such as social recognition, financial gain, or personal status. Achievements are typically measured in terms of outcomes or results, and may or may not involve a deep commitment to mastery.  At Cherish Clinic, operationalize mastery within an individualistic framework and achievement within a collectivist framework.

Neurodivergent Culture

Cherish Clinic is created by neurodivergent individuals for neurodivergent people. We are transparent and explicit about the unique social positioning between neurodivergent and neurotypical identities in this company and we actively nurture a culture that is neurodivergent-centred. 

1)    Actively confront and break the mental health and neurodiversity stigma
2)    Demystify the organization’s unwritten rules and rituals
3)    Tailor business arrangements, practices, and task performance to the individual such as flexible working hours and control over case assignments. 
4)    Proactive accommodation and accessibility such as multiple methods of communication.
5)    Proactively maintain a diverse staff demographic by actively seeking out neurodivergent talents. 

Cherish Clinic values inclusivity and recognizes that every individual has unique needs and experiences. Exploring the ways in which Cherish Clinic promotes diversity and inclusion in its services and workplace culture could be an interesting topic to delve into.

The Double Empathy Problem

At Cherish Clinic, we acknowledge the Double Empathy Problem, which is a communication issue that can occur between individuals with different neurotypes. It is important to understand that autistic people may experience the world differently than those who are not, and therefore, may struggle to communicate effectively with those who do not share their experiences. To address this issue, we encourage all employees to be mindful of their communication styles and strive to create a safe and inclusive environment where all individuals are respected and valued, regardless of their neurotype. We also provide ongoing training and education to our staff to help them better understand and address the unique needs of our clients.

Double Empathy Problem and Intersectionality
We understand that our neurodivergent clients’ experiences are also shaped by their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, ability, socio-economic status, and other identities. We also recognize that these identities can intersect in complex ways, creating a variety of experiences and needs. To provide effective care, our priority is to seek to understand the unique perspective and experiences of each individual client and make no assumptions about them.

High-context cultures rely heavily on nonverbal cues, context, and social hierarchy to communicate, while low-context cultures tend to rely more on explicit communication and individualism.  At Cherish Clinic we are committed to using extremely low-context (clear and direct) communication with our clients and we individuate our communication style for each relationship. 

  • We will critically reflect and evaluate any implicit messaging in our presence and actions
  • We will critically reflect, remove or communicate internal or hidden social rules or expectations and make them explicit
  • Cherish Clinic will offer continuous training to support its team members’ competence, skill, and capacity to communicate effectively.

Some questions we reflect on:

  • Are there any differences in the awareness about the information and context being communicated
  • Are we paying attention to the same thing?
  • Are there mismatches in what is important to us?
  • What are the differences in how we are experiencing this interaction?
  • What there any discrepancy in how our intentions are communicated and interpreted?
  • How do we learn from this experience about our match and mismatch?

Policy and Procedure

Anti-Behaviouralism

At Cherish Clinic, we recognize and value the diversity of all individuals, including those with neurodivergent conditions. We are committed to promoting respect, equity, and autonomy, and reject the use of harmful behavioural intervention techniques and strategies.

Commitment to addressing systemic issues
We recognize that systemic issues exist in society that disproportionately affect marginalized groups, including neurodivergent individuals. Therefore, we are committed to actively working towards addressing these systemic issues and promoting a more equitable and inclusive society for all individuals.

Explanation of harmful techniques
It is important to note that behavioural intervention and practices have a history of being used against marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of colour. A form of conversion therapy, particularly for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, has been reported in some cases. Conversion therapy refers to any practice or treatment that attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been widely discredited and condemned by professional organizations. 

There is a growing recognition among psychologists and mental health practitioners that the use of behaviorally-focused interventions, such as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), may not be appropriate or effective for all individuals, including Indigenous peoples. This is due in part to the cultural differences that exist between Western approaches to mental health treatment and the traditional healing practices and beliefs of Indigenous communities. One of the primary criticisms is that CBT is based on Western, individualistic models of psychology that do not take into account the collective nature of Indigenous cultures and healing practices. Additionally, some Indigenous communities view mental health as interconnected with physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, whereas CBT tends to focus primarily on the cognitive and behavioural aspects of mental health. Many Indigenous peoples have experienced intergenerational trauma as a result of colonization, forced assimilation, and residential schools. These traumatic experiences have had a profound impact on their mental health and well-being, and have resulted in high rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions based on very real and continuous experiences of oppression and injustice.

In accordance with Cherish Clinic’s Neurodiversity Affirmative commitment, we identify a pattern of significant vulnerability for behavioural approaches and techniques to be used to perpetuate ableism, marginalization, and identity erasure of neurodivergent people. All therapists are humans and vulnerable to misinterpreting the client’s experience due to internalized and implicit ableism and underestimating the breadth and depth of systemic injustice affecting the clients.  Cherish Clinic’s code of ethics views children as complete humans with rights to respect, equity, and autonomy. While well-intended, behavioural intervention tends to be used to extinguish or suppress autistic behaviours rather than supporting individuals in developing skills and abilities that are meaningful to them. As such, Cherish Clinic explicitly forbids the use of behavioural interventions such as applied behavioural analysis (ABA), positive behavioural support (PBS), cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), neuro-normative social skill programs, and other neurotypical mindfulness-based interventions.

The primary concern is that ABA is based on the idea that autistic behaviour needs to be corrected or changed in order to make individuals more “normal” and that this approach is dehumanizing and can cause harm. Critics of ABA argue that it is often focused on extinguishing or suppressing autistic behaviours rather than supporting individuals in developing skills and abilities that are meaningful to them. They also point out that ABA has a history of being used to enforce compliance, with some practitioners using aversives or punishment to stop unwanted behaviours.

The Neurodiversity Therapist Collective, a group of therapists dedicated to promoting neurodiversity and advocating against harmful practices, has highlighted the need to prioritize the autonomy and well-being of neurodivergent individuals in all therapeutic practices. As such, we follow their recommendations and reject the use of any techniques that do not align with our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and respect for all individuals.

It is crucial for mental health professionals to prioritize the autonomy and well-being of all individuals, particularly those who have been historically marginalized and oppressed.  Cherish Clinic views “problematic behaviours” as symptoms and we apply disability-informed nuance and critical thinking when evaluating a client’s functioning. 

Frameworks for providing care
At Cherish Clinic, we recognize that our work is deeply rooted in societal structures and systems of oppression. Therefore, we prioritize an anti-oppression framework that acknowledges the power imbalances that exist within our society and aims to create a safe and inclusive space for all individuals, particularly those who are marginalized or disadvantaged. We also incorporate a CRSJ (Culturally Responsive and Socially Just) framework that recognizes the unique experiences of individuals based on their cultural background, and we strive to provide culturally responsive and respectful care to all clients. 

In addition to these frameworks, we also integrate a psychodynamic approach that recognizes the importance of understanding the individual’s past experiences and how they shape their present behaviour and mental health. We believe in creating a safe and supportive environment where clients can explore and process their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner.

    Multiple Relationship and Conflict of Interests through the Indigenous Lens

    In Indigenous communities, relationships are often viewed as interconnected and multidimensional, and the concept of “multiple relationships” can be understood in a different way than in Western cultures. The principles of respect, reciprocity, and trust are central to Indigenous cultures and are important in establishing therapeutic relationships.

    In the context of therapeutic relationships, Indigenous people often prefer to work with mental health professionals who have a deep understanding of Indigenous cultures and ways of life. Indigenous people may also prefer to work with individuals who have personal experience with Indigenous cultures or who come from Indigenous backgrounds themselves.

    In addition, Indigenous communities often have their own traditional healing practices and may incorporate these practices into mental health treatment. Traditional healers, Elders, and community leaders may be involved in the therapeutic process, and the therapist may need to work collaboratively with these individuals to ensure that the treatment is culturally appropriate and respectful of Indigenous traditions.

    When it comes to multiple relationships, it is important to recognize that close-knit social structures and interconnected relationships are a strength and not a barrier to accessibility. It is possible that a mental health professional may have multiple roles in a community, such as being a therapist, a teacher, or a community member. In these situations, it is important to establish clear boundaries and roles in each relationships and to avoid conflicts of interest or power imbalances.

    Different communities may  may also have their own codes of ethics and guidelines for working with mental health professionals. These codes and guidelines may vary depending on the community and the region and may reflect cultural traditions and values.

    At Cherish Clinic, we recognize that our team members may have multiple relationships with clients or colleagues due to shared identities, interests, or communities. We also recognize that these relationships may present potential conflicts of interest and may impact the quality of care we provide. Therefore, we have developed this policy to guide our team members in navigating multiple relationships and conflicts of interest in a way that prioritizes client well-being, maintains professional boundaries, and upholds the principles of disability rights and neurodivergence.

    Definition of Multiple Relationships: A multiple relationship is any situation in which a team member of Cherish Clinic has a relationship with a client or colleague outside of their professional therapeutic or work relationship. This may include personal, social, or business relationships.

    Potential Conflicts of Interest:
    Cherish Clinic recognizes that multiple relationships have the potential to create conflicts of interest. These conflicts may arise due to the power differential inherent in a professional-client relationship, or due to personal or financial interests that may impact professional judgment.

    Guidelines for Managing Multiple Relationships and Conflicts of Interest

    • Self-Reflection: Cherish Clinic team members are encouraged to reflect on the nature and potential impact of any multiple relationships they may have with clients or colleagues. This may involve discussing the situation with a supervisor or seeking guidance from colleagues.
    • Informed Consent: If multiple relationships are deemed appropriate and ethical, Cherish Clinic team members must obtain informed consent from all parties involved. This includes informing clients or colleagues of any potential conflicts of interest and discussing how these conflicts may impact the therapeutic or work relationship.
    • Professional Boundaries: Cherish Clinic team members must maintain professional boundaries at all times, even when engaging in multiple relationships. This includes refraining from engaging in romantic or sexual relationships with clients, colleagues, or their family members, as well as avoiding relationships that may create a financial or business interest.
    • Prioritizing Client Well-Being: Cherish Clinic team members must prioritize client well-being at all times, even when engaging in multiple relationships. This may involve disclosing the multiple relationships to a supervisor, seeking guidance on how to manage potential conflicts of interest, or refraining from engaging in the multiple relationships if it is deemed inappropriate.
    • Disability Rights and Neurodivergence: Cherish Clinic is committed to upholding the principles of disability rights and neurodiversity affirmation. This includes recognizing the importance of interdependence and interconnectedness within disability communities. Therefore, Cherish Clinic team members are encouraged to explore how multiple relationships may enhance client care and community building within the disability community.
      Child Safety Disclosure and Report

      Cherish Clinic recognizes that Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (BIPOC) families experience systemic discrimination, overreporting, and poor outcomes in the legal and correctional systems. Additionally, we acknowledge the historic background of residential schools that have disrupted the safety and well-being of Indigenous families and communities.  We recognize that disabled and neurodivergent families may have unique concerns and considerations around confidentiality, such as the sharing of sensitive medical information or concerns around stigma and discrimination. 

      Cherish Clinic is committed to an anti-oppressive framework that upholds the rights of all children to safety and well-being while recognizing the impact of systemic oppression on BIPOC families. We recognize that children who are members of marginalized communities are more likely to be overrepresented in the child welfare system, which can lead to further trauma and discrimination.

      In our efforts to ensure the safety of children, we will strive to engage in culturally responsive, neurodivergence-informed, and trauma-informed practices that prioritize the voices and experiences of vulnerable and marginalized families. We recognize that mandatory reporting can be a difficult and complex process for families, and we will work to provide support and guidance throughout the process.

      In all reporting processes, Cherish Clinic will prioritize the safety and well-being of the child while working to minimize harm and trauma to the family. We recognize that the child welfare system can be a source of trauma for Indigenous and BIPOC families, and we will work to ensure that our reporting practices do not contribute to further harm.

      Cherish Clinic will strive to work collaboratively with families, communities, and other service providers to ensure that child safety is prioritized while recognizing the impact of systemic oppression on marginalized communities. We will work to address systemic discrimination and overreporting in the child welfare system and support the empowerment and self-determination of families.

      In all our practices, Cherish Clinic will strive to prioritize the well-being and safety of all children while upholding the principles of anti-oppression, cultural responsiveness, and trauma-informed care. We acknowledge that we have a responsibility to work towards the decolonization of child welfare practices and support the rights and self-determination of marginalized families.

      No seclusion or Restraint

      Physical seclusion and restraint are strictly prohibited by any staff towards a client.  Cherish Clinic forbids our staff to work in an environment where they may have to witness seclusion and restraint done to another person. 

      Seclusion and restraint are never therapeutic. If a parent has to pick up a stressed child or physically make them stay in a time-out spot, this is an outdated parenting practice. When an autistic child is expressing stress and dysregulation through their behaviours, the adults need to provide support, not punishment. A child should not be punished for having a disability.

      When consulting with parents of autistic or neurodivergent children with challenging behaviours, a counsellor must have competence in supporting this population. If they recommend negative consequences, especially involving seclusion, or physical restraint, such as strapping the child into the feeding chair until they meet the food intake demand or putting the child in timeout to extinguish their stress behaviours, they are causing harm to the child.

      Maybe a BCBA can get away with this type of unethical and abusive approach, but we cannot. We also actively report offending counsellors who recommend or use seclusion and restraint.

      Safety Planning

      Many of our vulnerable clients would benefit from having a safety plan to ensure a positive and successful therapeutic experience.

      • Conduct a thorough assessment of the client’s needs, abilities, and vulnerabilities. This can include an evaluation of their physical environment, communication skills, sensory processing, and social support.
      • Work collaboratively with the client and their caregivers to identify potential safety risks and concerns. This should include a discussion of the client’s goals, preferences, and values.
      • Develop a safety plan that is tailored to the client’s specific needs and preferences. The plan should prioritize the client’s autonomy and agency while addressing any potential risks or safety concerns.
      • Identify and train a support team that is familiar with the client’s unique needs and abilities. This may include family members, friends, caregivers, and service providers.
      • Provide ongoing training and support for the support team to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to implement the safety plan effectively.
      • Regularly review and update the safety plan as needed to ensure that it remains relevant and effective in addressing the client’s changing needs and goals.
      • Ensure that the client and their support team have access to resources and support services that can assist them in addressing safety concerns or emergencies.
      • Foster a culture of safety and inclusivity by promoting neurodiversity affirmative language and practices, promoting dignity and respect, and addressing any discriminatory or abusive behaviours promptly.
      Post-Incidence Procedure

      Safety Check-In: The clinic will prioritize the immediate safety and wellness of all involved parties, including the client, team members, and any other individuals who may have been affected by the incident.
      Post-Incidence Review Meeting: The clinic will offer the client and/or their family a post-incidence review meeting to address any concerns or questions they may have about the incident. This meeting will be conducted with sensitivity, respect, and confidentiality.
      Incident Analysis: The clinic will conduct a thorough analysis of the incident to determine the root cause and contributing factors, including any clinic procedures, policies, or staff training that may have played a role in the incident.
      Adjustments and Changes: Based on the incident analysis, the clinic will make any necessary adjustments or changes to address the contributing factors related to the clinic, facility, procedures, or staff training. This may involve revising policies, procedures, and protocols, providing additional training or support to staff, or making changes to the physical environment.
      Collective Learning and Healing: The clinic will review the incident collectively during regular clinic group sessions to promote collective learning and healing for all involved staff. This may involve sharing experiences, discussing best practices, and implementing changes to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
      Follow-Up: The clinic will provide ongoing support and follow-up to the client and/or their family, as well as any staff members who may have been affected by the incident. This may include counselling, additional training, or other forms of support as needed.

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