Bonnie Lee


Bonnie Lee, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in Health Sciences (Addictions Counselling) at the University of Lethbridge and University of Lethbridge Board of Governors Research Chair (Tier II) from 2016-2019. Access her UofL page here.

A Marriage and Family Therapist and Social Worker, she is principal researcher and trainer in an evidence-based Congruence Couple Therapy treatment for addictive disorders. This integrative model works with a couple’s communication, psychological awareness, intergenerational influence and spiritual resources. In partnership with Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health and funded by a major grant by the Alberta Gambling Research Institute, she is currently studying the outcomes of clients with alcohol and gambling disorders receiving Congruence Couple Therapy versus treatment-as-usual.

Other areas of Dr. Lee’s research interest are immigration stress, cultural values and beliefs, and pre-migration trauma in immigrant mental health and addiction.

A mentor and thesis and practicum supervisor of Masters and PhD students, her mentees have been awarded graduate studentships by Alberta SPOR Patient-Oriented Research and the Alberta Gambling Research Institute.

For her publications, research profile, go to:


Node Funded Project (December 2015)

Title: Training Addiction and Mental Health Counsellors in a Couples Systems Intervention

Principal Investigator: Bonnie Lee, University of Lethbridge


Dr. Darren Christensen, U of L; Dr. Andrew Greenshaw, U of A; Dr. Shireen Surood, AHS; Dr. Olu Awosoga, U of L


Prelude to experiment studies of an intervention, training counsellors to learn the requisite concepts and skills to ensure their fidelity and adherence to the treatment model is a critical but largely overlooked and unreported stage in the development of evidence-based treatment. The adequate preparation and training of counsellors to deliver the intervention is especially important in complex systemic interventions for research and ethical reasons.

A 2014 provincial report identified serious gaps in Alberta’s addiction and mental health services and in service providers’ skills to work with families, child and youth impacted by parent addiction, and complex conditions, such as concurrent disorders and adverse childhood events. Alberta Health Services does not currently offer couple therapy as part of the standard treatment services for clients seeking counselling for addictions.

Five-day Training Workshop

This CRISM funding was awarded to conduct a 5-day training workshop on Congruence Couple Therapy to equip Alberta Health Services addiction counsellors to carry out an Alberta Gambling Research Institute funded study “Gambling Disorder vs Alcohol Use Disorder: Comparing Treatment Outcomes with Congruence Couple Therapy”. The CRISM project builds collaborative capacity in knowledge translation between researchers and Alberta Health Services to enhance evidence-based research and practice in addiction treatment.

Workshop participants (N=13) included experienced mental health and addiction counsellors as well as several student trainees from the University of Lethbridge.

The agenda for the five-day training session follows:

  • Gap in Relational Counselling
  • Congruence Couple Therapy
  • Philosophical Principles and Theoretical Framework
  • Opening Phase: Engagement & Hope
  • Middle Phase: Communication, Looking for Patterns & Linking the Dimensions
  • Consolidation Phase: Tying up the Bundle

Workshop Evaluation

 The workshop was evaluated by a quantitative survey and two focus groups. Overall satisfaction rating of the workshop was 6.6 out of 7 (SD = 0.48) on a Likert Scale, and a high level of readiness for implementation of couple therapy in the experimental study, with a rating of 6 out of 7.

Focus group findings brought to the fore the following elements:

Relational Gap in Existing Services

  • An ostensible gap in couple counselling services in AHS addiction and mental health
  • A lack of capacity to offer couples counselling and a neglect of couples needs
  • A focus on substances and behavior but not underlying issues

Counsellors’ Appraisal of Congruence Couple Therapy

  •  Flexible
  • Holistic and Integrative
  • Person and Family-Centred
  • Culturally Adaptable and Appropriate
  • Evidence of Effectiveness

Organizational Factors

 Need for management support and consideration for workload

  • Extra time needed to learn and practise new model
  • Importance of supervision and consultation

 What’s New? Summative Comments

 Conceptualizing addiction differently through a systems lens

  • Addiction is a family and relational issue
  • Good fit for counsellors and clients
  • Personal and professional growth
  • Skepticism of organizational support for ongoing couples work
  • Hope

This project was recently presented at the CRISM Prairie Node 2nd Annual Gathering held Nov 15-16, 2017 in Calgary, AB.

CRISM Presentation Lee Nov 2017


 Bonnie Lee 1Bonnie Lee 2

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