Bonnie Lee, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences (Addictions Counselling). She obtained her doctoral degree from the University of Ottawa. A Registered Marriage and Family Therapist and a Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, she favours an ecological, human systems paradigm in her teaching, clinical practice and research. Her driving force is the desire to enhance the lives and health of individuals in their contexts of family, culture, and society. She has been an invited keynote speaker and workshop leader in Canada and internationally.
I have always been intrigued by questions about human nature, the universal elements and deep structure of healing and human transformation. For my doctorate, I was led to the work of Virginia Satir (1916-1988), a woman pioneer in family therapy. Satir chose the path of staging experiential workshops rather than conducting academic research and writing for scholarship. However, the ‘culture’ she created with her followers and her style of workshops invited an ethnographic approach to further understanding of her work. This research led to the development of a four-dimensional theory centred on the construct of “congruence” which I systematized into a treatment model for problem gambling and other addictions. Currently I am formulating and testing a relational framework to understand addictions.
My research pursued a progressive series of studies on “Congruence Couple Therapy” (CCT), a 12-session model, which has shown not only positive outcomes in reducing gambling behaviours and urges, but also improvements in couple relationship and communication, healing from childhood trauma and reclaiming of one’s universal-spiritual resources. Combining research, training and clinical work in iterative cycles allows me to gain insights into clients’ and clinicians’ responses to CCT’s therapeutic interventions, which in turn help crystallize CCT concepts and procedures.
An adjunct area of my research interest is examining how cultural values and beliefs as well as factors of immigration contribute to vulnerabilities and resiliencies in addictions and mental health.
One of the joys of clinical research is that it engages both the mind and heart; it also brings together theory, empirical findings, and practice. Such research can make an impact in services and in the alleviation of people’s suffering in profound ways. With a major 2004-2006 research grant from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, I trained 21 Ontario-based problem gambling counsellors in CCT, who then were able to apply the model in their treatment agencies with clients and enhance the work they do with couples. The same model can be used with individuals, but when you work with couples, you change the primary relationship context for the client with addiction. Changes in this executive couple system in the family have spinoffs to the children, extended family and workplace relationships.
In 2010, my students nominated me for the Lethbridge YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (Spirit of Women). I feel honoured by the acknowledgment that came with this award.
I have mentored many keen and bright undergraduate students in my research program. Several students were funded through the Chinook Summer Research Award and others elected to work with me through independent studies. It was not until my postdoctoral fellowships when I took part in a range of research projects through an apprenticeship, hands-on model under the tutelage of a Research Chair. So it is exciting to see how undergraduate students take to such opportunities early in their careers. Some aspire to graduate studies and research after such an experience; others say they have come to appreciate the rigour of research inquiry and want to refer to the evidence base in their practice.
We live in a climate that places a premium on innovations. That’s a good thing. An innovation is new knowledge that creates better products and processes that add value to services and outcomes. It can result in greater productivity, better and more output per input with payoffs in cost savings and improved quality of life. To make this happen, I would put money into creating pathways for innovations from research to be transferred into practice and adoption by the health services system. This is a complex process that involves linking researchers, decision-makers, and practitioners. For clinical research, it is a necessity to reach out beyond the ivory tower and engage those in the field for an innovation to ultimately take hold and bear fruit.
Publications repository: https://www.uleth.ca/dspace/handle/10133/546/browse?type=dateissued