Helping people heal from the heart.
Shinah House Foundation is the only charitable organization that provides peer-based support for mental wellness by focusing on the ‘whole person’, respecting individual needs, beliefs and circumstances.
Recognized as the catalyst for a national movement to improve mental wellbeing for all people, we draw from lived experiences, combined with a range of natural and traditional practices to address the wellness needs of each individual.
Understanding through experience
Shinah House Foundation was born out of understanding the struggles of mental health issues. Based on our own experiences, we wanted to create a safe environment for others that treated more than just symptoms, rather, and actually got to the root of the issue so one could truly begin to heal.
Now, nearly 10 years later, we’re proud to have helped thousands of Albertans feel empowered to take control of their own mental wellness. Together, with our affiliated organizations, we treat the entire individual—mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually—and provide necessary peer support from others who have overcome their own issues.
Some may see us as unconventional. We see ourselves as an alternate approach toward a healthier life; one that we hope will one day change the conversation around the stigma of mental health.
Sharon Ryder Unger
Founder & President
As Founder and President of Shinah House Foundation, Sharon has dedicated her time to this and other mental health organizations as a lived experience researcher and advisor. For the last 15 years, she’s travelled across Canada, advocating for new treatments for mental health through holistic and nutritional approaches, and for creating socially inclusive communities that support healing with respect to diversity.
Through her own story and those she has supported, Sharon knows there are answers for a safe, sustainable and respectful approach to mental health care. Her work in the non-profit sector and support of individuals through crisis and wellness has helped create numerous concept and community developments, including the youth directed ONEHEART Project.
Sharon’s passion for fostering community collaboration by celebrating art, living, and culture is as strong as her joy of working with young people and having the opportunity to learn from them, and her belief that no matter what, there is always hope.
Kimberly Weasel Fat
Kimberly is Blackfoot from the Blood Tribe, as well as a certified Reiki, Spirit and Transformational Healer. Passionate about building bridges, breaking stereotypes and dissolving misconceptions, Kimberly is a modern day warrior and cultural advocate.
As a second generation survivor of the residential school system, she knows that healing starts within before it starts with others. Her involvement as an organizer and coordinator for Idle No More events held in Calgary Treaty 7 & Area experience connected her to people from all walks of life and all corners of the world, and has motivated her to look for new ways to help her community grow, excel and exceed in preparation for their healing journey for the future of the next seven generations—all while promoting peace and understanding along the way.
Karen is from the Piikani Nation part of the Blackfoot Confederacy and the first “free” generation in her family after her ancestors signed the Treaty #7 in 1877. Her mother, father, grandparents and great grandparents were all Residential School survivors.
For 27 years, Karen has worked in the human resources field and in 2003, established an Indigenous grassroots business called Kamotaan Consulting. The desire to start this company came from her own painful events. Able to see past the trauma, Karen’s experiences have inspired her to to be a role model and help Indigenous people reclaim their place in Canada. In 2000, she completed her Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Calgary, and continues to work within the systems to create more holistic, grassroots approaches to working with Indigenous families and communities.
Part of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Loretta is a Piikanaaki from the Piikani Nation in Southern Alberta, and daughter to the late Omar English and her mother (and role model), Louise. Growing up as one of 14 family members, she values the importance of upholding her traditional cultural teachings, and has carried that forward to her five children and 19 grandchildren.
With over 22 years of experience in the addictions field, including the Court System for Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Northern Addiction Centre and currently, Grande Prairie Regional College, Loretta understands what it takes to promote change and wellbeing for others. She believes through understanding and compassion, together, we can all live a brighter, healthier future.
Kathryn is passionate about transformation and healing. A Bachelor of Psychology and Aboriginal Studies graduate from the University of Toronto, Kathryn has always felt connected to Indigenous people, their traditions and especially their stories, and has lived and worked in Indigenous communities in Canada & Central America.
Currently finishing her Master of Herbalism Diploma from Wild Rose College, and already trained in advanced cranial sacral therapy, Kathryn uses an integrated mind, body and spirit approach in her healing. She believes in the importance of removing barriers, coordinating resources and cultivating trust in order to heal. For her, it is all about connecting—to the land, to traditional culture and most of all, to each other.
Tara O’ Sullivan
For over 35 years, Tara has been a clinical social worker and a relationship and family therapist. Described by her colleagues as being “as comfortable with a young child as she is with an elder,” Tara’s work is guided by the belief that when a deeper connection to self, community and source is restored, more energy becomes available for greater joy and purpose.
An EMDR Specialist, and Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, Tara’s academic interests include nutritional mental health, attachment and trauma, healing family systems, and quantum physics and its applications to the new medicine. Tara has also authored The Hologram Healing System, an integrative energy healing modality that considers trauma, dissociation, addictions, co-dependence, and developmental theory within the framework of human multidimensional experience. She currently has a private practice in Calgary, Alberta.
Susan Koch is a Spiritual Settler living in Blackfoot Territory who has explored the spiritual and artistic traditions of many Asian, African, European and South American cultures. Trained as a Visual Artist, Susan attended the Emily Carr University in Vancouver and is a certified UX Designer. Her experience has enabled her to collaborate with a number of industries, including New Media, Sales and Marketing, and work as a web developer with various tech startups in Toronto and Calgary.
One to live her life to the fullest, Susan enjoys sharing her passion for an ethical social user experience, and continues to turn to the teachings of Indigenous people for wisdom and guidance.
Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD
Professor Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD, has lived in Calgary with her husband for over 30 years. As a research psychologist at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, she studied the role of nutrition in mental illness and brain development. Since she retired from the University 2 years ago, she has continued to lecture and write about the importance of nutrition for healthy brains.
She is a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR.org), which brings together scientists studying inflammation, gut function, and dietary intake in relation to mental health. In her talk she will tell us about what nutrients do in the brain, and how they improve resilience in the face of stress. This type of knowledge was well-established in the past, especially amongst indigenous peoples; today, however, we seem to have to renew our awareness.
Brenda Leung, N.D., M.Sc.
Dr. Leung is the Director of Research at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a doctoral student at the University of Calgary, where she received her master’s and has a research interest in nutritional epidemiology and mental health. She also has naturopathic training from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, and has conducted various studies, including children’s use of naturopathic medicine, the effects of a homeopathic remedy on lymphedema in breast cancer patients, and the Chinese and Caucasian population’s use of healthcare services and complementary medicine in the Calgary Health Region.
Dr. Leung’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, having earned her a number of awards and grants, such as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Hospital for Sick Children Foundation studentship grant and Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research (IN-CAM) studentship grant. She is a member of the Canadian Interdisciplinary network for CAM research (IN-CAM), Canadian Pediatrics and CAM network (PedCAM), CAM education and research network of Alberta (CAMera), College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC (CNPBC), Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), and the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada (CDPAC). She has also published numerous articles based on her research.
Alvine Low Horn
Alvine is a member of the Blood tribe, with her name meaning Many Painted Face Woman, which truly tells a story of her life. As a child, Alvine often visited a Medicine Man for help with an illness, and as part of the traditional healing treatment, had her face painted. Her strong knowledge and beliefs in the Blackfoot culture and traditions remain with her to this day, and are something she dedicates to sharing with others.
As a Certified Addiction Counsellor, Alvine has worked with youth in the community through schools and treatment centres. Together, with her husband, Alvine coordinates annual pilgrimages based on the 12 steps of AA, which includes traditional teachings. They also serve as Sundance leaders, organizing a number of ceremonies throughout the year. Alvine has been a foster parent for many years, and dreams of building a ranch by the mountains for at risk youth—a place where they can heal through the traditional medicine wheel teachings.
Elder Peter Weasel Moccasin
Elder Peter Weasel Moccasin is a man of quiet respect, who honours all men. A Blackfoot Elder, Peter was awarded a Bachelor of Applied Science – Ecosystem Management Honorary Degree from the University of Lethbridge, and known for his work with Youth and Communities. Fluent in his native tongue and signs, Peter is an amazing horseman, storyteller and Keeper of Blackfoot Teachings and Traditions, who shares his journey and great wisdom with many as he inspires them in healing.
An instrumental member of our team, Peter has served on Shinah House Foundation’s Board since 2009, first as Board Director and currently, as an advisor. His contributions have been instrumental in helping direct the Shinah House ONEHEART movement, a project that has been spoken about throughout Canada and serves as a model for other Alberta communities.
Deborah Faith Pace, PhD, RPsych
Dr. Pace is from the Blood Tribe, Blackfoot Nation, and is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in children’s mental health. In her long time career, first as a special needs teacher and then as a school psychologist, Dr. Pace has been a true advocate in providing quality mental health care for First Nations children. Currently, she provides clinical consultation services to First Nations in Treaty 7 rural clinics, schools and Children’s Services with Calgary Health Region.
With an extensive research focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, community wellness and culturally appropriate psychological assessments. Dr. Pace combines western approaches to mental health issues with cultural knowledge and insight through her consultation with local area elders. She also holds an Education Degree and has worked in the Education System as a teacher and in other areas.
Carolyn Scott, MA, RPsych
Dr. Scott is a Registered Psychologist in Nova Scotia, where she specializes in assessments and interventions for individuals impacted by substance abuse and dependence. Experienced in client-centered therapy for issues related to anxiety, depression, trauma recovery and interpersonal difficulties, Dr. Scott’s primary goal is to help those struggling with emotional and mental trauma find their path to wellness.
Dr. Scott obtained her Bachelor of Arts Degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS and her Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC. She also holds certification in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and is trained in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness Practice and Crisis Intervention. Her extensive background includes working with Correctional Services of Canada, where she provided individual therapy as well as group interventions and as a therapist in treatment centers for women struggling with addiction and men with concurrent disorders. She keeps her life balanced by spending time with her family, which includes her daughter and four grandchildren.
Norah Bird Hamilton
With a degree in Economics and Accounting at the University of Guelph and courses in business development from the University of Calgary under her belt, Norah knows a thing or two about managing finances. Using her education and work experience with the Federal Government and assisting small start-ups with developing business plans and accessing finance grants, Norah started two companies of her own with her husband, Bob. During this time, she took on several contracts, teaching accounting at Olds College and working with the Royal Tyrrell Museum on product development and fundraising. Over the next 12 years, Norah and Bob expanded a couple of their re-development projects to become one of Alberta’s finest country inns.
Although the Hamilton’s still invest in real estate and develop properties, Norah dedicates much of her time to volunteering as a team leader for Habitats for Humanity and the Shinah House Foundation. She is also a board member for Travel Alberta South.