Integrating the voices of youth in clinical training approaches

University of Calgary

This presentation will share the learnings from an in-progress research project (funded by Frayme) to engage youth as co-researchers in a project looking at how to improve counselor competencies when working with children who have been exposed to intimate partner violence (CEIPV). Youth co-researchers will be providing feedback on existing training as well as sharing their own lived expertise on what they believe makes youth-counselor relationships successful. Youth co-researchers will be working with the research team to develop resources and knowledge translation strategies to best share the research results. The research team will speak to youth engagement strategies and provide a space for youth co-researchers to share the work they have done up to this point. Providing a space for youth co-researchers to speak to the work they are doing and sharing youth engagement strategies is essential in validating youth experiences and furthering youth engagement in research. 


Olivia Cullen
Olivia is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary and the research coordinator on this current project. Her research is focused on using collaborative and participatory methods to engage youth in research. Some of her work explores how youth understand risk and safety in online relationships. Other research focuses include participatory research to explore Indigenous youths’ sexual health and wellbeing needs to support programming in this area, and service providers knowledge and capacity to work in the area of child sexual abuse imagery and exploitation online. Olivia has worked primarily with children and youth in frontline and clinical positions in mental health and social services and completed her MSW at the University of Calgary.

Laura Shiels
Laura Shiels graduated with a BA in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies from the University of Calgary in 2012. Since then, Laura has been working within the field of sexuality and public health. She has spent several years delivering relationships and sexual health education to youth in grades 5-12. Laura identifies as queer and has worked with LGBTQ2S+ youth and their families during the coming out process to increase family acceptance and support LGBTQ2S+ mental health. This work inspired Laura to return to the University of Calgary in 2020 to pursue her Masters in Social Work.

Angelique Jenney
Dr. Angelique Jenney, is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, and the Wood’s Homes Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health at the University of Calgary. Wood’s Homes is a multi- service, non-profit children’s mental health centre based in Calgary. The Wood’s Homes Research Chair was established in order to build a knowledge base that will improve mental health in children and youth and to bridge community-based practice with academia. Dr. Jenney has over 25 years of experience in intervention and prevention services within the children’s mental health, child protection and violence against women sectors. Dr. Jenney’s research and program development has been devoted to understanding and responding to the impact of exposure to violence/trauma on children; including family-based interventions for childhood trauma; child protection responses to intimate partner violence cases; the experience of mothering in the context of violence/trauma; the role of childhood exposure to violence on children in out of home care environments and reflective approaches to teaching and training social work students. She regularly promotes knowledge translation and exchange through relevant publications, speaking engagements, community-based workshops, and conference presentations.

Key takeaways

  • Created a training focused on people who experienced/experience intimate partner violence
  • Engaging youth in research is critical because they bring a form of expertise that may not be present in academia/research
  • Youth are a collection of diverse experiences: important for researchers to recognize lived experience as "Expertise"
  • Creating a safer & braver space can look like: creating a set of group norms, compensation/honorarium, flexibility, and ongoing consent

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Participants will learn about the current research project looking at improving competencies for counsellors working with children who have been exposed to intimate partner violence (CEIPV). Youth have rarely been directly involved in research on counselling and IPV. Participants will also learn what youth find most valuable in counselling and helping relationships, which can be taken back and shared with mental health organizations who work with youth
  2. Participants will learn about youth engagement strategies being utilized for this research; especially important will be a discussion about safety and community building for youth co-researchers when working on research topics that may be sensitive or difficult in nature

Key Themes

  1. Youth engagement and peer support

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