Dr. John Charlton’s curriculum vitae has a long list of degrees: a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Theological Studies, a Master of Pastoral Studies and a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology.
A perpetual learner, Charlton said education and the pursuit of knowledge is a personal experience, but can be much more.
“It makes you a better person,” Dr. John Charlton “Yet learning is also something that provides knowledge that will allow you to help others.”
Now, he has also been accepted to the Doctorate program at the University of Saskatchewan. The degree is interdisciplinary and Charlton will focus on narrative based research on what urban First Nation individuals find helpful in addiction recovery counselling.
“I am looking at what works in therapy for urbanized First Nations individuals in recovery,” Charlton said. “I am really excited about it because I have a group of First Nations people in Vancouver, a group in Ottawa and a group in Saskatoon so I am going to look at multiple cities.”
Charlton, who currently lives in Vernon, B.C., said that throughout his working life he bounced around from here-to-there but didn’t find anything he liked.
“I spent my life trying to figure out where I fit in and what I wanted to do,” Charlton said.
But it wasn’t until he started working with people in addictions recovery that he found his place, Charlton said.
“It was because of the sense of community. I was working with criminalize and marginalized addicts, but the level of honesty amongst that group blew me away,” Charlton said. “I came to the realization that everyone has skeletons in their closets, it is just if you are homeless you have smaller closets, so you can’t really burry it to deep.”
It was in 2010 that Charlton was working, essentially doing front line counselling, with recovering addicts in Ottawa, that he decided he wanted to get formal training in counselling psychology in order to better help the people he was working with.
“And that brought me to Yorkville University,” he said.
While studying with Yorkville University, Charlton started a publishing house, which focuses on publishing textbooks on First Nations issues, he took retreat courses in spirituality and he completed a practicum at the Vancouver Family Services for the Salvation Army.
“Yorkville was an eye opener,” Charlton said. “You can do so much, getting a university education doesn’t have to slow you down.”
Charlton graduated from Yorkville in 2012 and is now working on obtaining his PhD from the University of Saskatchewan. He expects to finish it in three years.
“While working in the addiction recovery field, I witnessed established protocols that I was not happy with; protocols that may arguably be termed punitive,” Charlton explained. “ Another reason for getting a few degrees behind my name is that when I put forward alternative ways of doing things, I cannot be summarily dismissed.”
Charlton said he goes to great lengths to align himself with other professionals and points to his writings as evidence.
He tri-authored Walking With Indigenous Philosophy: Justice and Addiction Recovery with: Dr. John G. Hansen (member, Opaskwayak First Nation and Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan) and Dr. Teresa A. Booker (Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY).
Charlton also co-authored an article, entitled Necessary Knowledge for Working with First Peoples, for the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors’ (BCACC) magazine Insights Into Clinical Counselling with Dr. Sharon Acoose (member, Sakimay First Nation and Associate Professor, School of Indigenous Social Work, First Nations University of Canada).
Charlton said he expects his PhD will be his last, but at the end of all this studying, Charlton said he hopes to try his hand at teaching, perhaps even with his alma mater Yorkville University.
“I think that would be really cool to be an alumni and teaching,” Charlton said.