Student Research Feature: Laura Hahn

Photo of MA Leadership-Health student Laura Hahn

The School of Leadership Studies would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Laura M. Hahn on the completion of a Master’s Thesis titled, Embedding Truth and Reconciliation in the Practices of the Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta.

This thesis is available through RRU’s library here. 

We asked Laura a few questions about this research and this is what they said:

What are some key takeaways from your thesis that would be helpful for other leaders?

The research findings reminded me of how powerful leaders’ values and ethics are in creating positive system change and addressing systemic racism. The research with ACTA confirmed that the collective will to demonstrate truth and reconciliation, address inequitable health outcomes of Indigenous peoples, and humbly learn to do better—is driven by leaders’ personal and professional values and ethics. The highlighted values were respect, relationality, and integrity. The ACTA leaders’ virtues aligned with ethical principles, creating a learning organization honouring Indigenous truths and implementing reconciliation, which includes Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and wisdom in decisions, policies, and governance.

How is the organization moving change forward based on your work?

ACTA is a transitional organization with restricted authority and resources. The most significant systemic challenge for ACTA to implement the reconciliation recommendations is the prolonged wait for the Alberta Government to proclaim the legislation to regulate counselling therapy, addiction counselling, and child and youth care counselling in Alberta. Once the legislation is proclaimed, ACTA will transform into the College of Counselling Therapy of Alberta (CCTA) with the authority to enact cultural safety measures for counsellors in Alberta. Despite this challenge, ACTA continues to advance reconciliation by building reciprocal respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples and preparing actionable reconciliation steps for the CCTA. Currently, ACTA is collaborating with the Indigenous Counsellors Working Group to reinforce Indigenous voices and their appeal for the Alberta Government to proclaim the CCTA to enhance culturally safe counselling and allow Indigenous peoples to access federal funding for counselling services through NIHB.

What surprised you about your experience of the thesis process?

I was surprised by how frequently people thought I must be Indigenous when they heard about my research topic. As a non-Indigenous researcher, Canadian, and healthcare leader, I entered this journey with humility, gentleness, and a genuine desire to learn. The thesis developed smoothly, interconnecting two meaningful endeavours in my life—reconciliation and statutory health regulation of counsellors to ensure equitable, safe counselling. Dr. Michael Lickers and Elder Casey Eagle Speaker generously offered their wisdom to guide the research process. The pipe ceremony with Casey and the ACTA Board was a momentous first step, which solidified ACTA’s intent and accountability to “reconcili-action.”

How are you applying lessons learned from your whole MA-Leadership journey?

I am chair-elect of ACTA and honoured to partner with colleagues who steadfastly pursue health regulation to secure equitable, culturally safe, and accountable addiction and mental health counselling for Albertans. I am committed to continuing my personal and professional journey to advance Indigenous reconciliation while encouraging others to do the same. In vulnerability, I must acknowledge that through this thesis on truth and reconciliation, I have grappled with my own brokenness and healing processes. I thank Indigenous wisdom for showing me how to hold a sacred space to speak my truth, ask for what I need, and maintain a genuine openness to heal and repair relationships. These lessons have shaped who I am and how I lead and guide my next step into the future.