Mental Health Resource and Practice Guide


In collaboration with the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership, CanFASD has developed the following resource and practice guide for frontline mental health counsellors/therapists, prevention mentors, crisis workers, community mental health providers and those who work directly with individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Mental health is an important consideration for people with FASD, despite the challenges they face in accessing mental health services and support. This resource guide was developed through a comprehensive examination of the literature on FASD and mental health, other available resources, professionals in the field of FASD, and incorporating individual’s lived experience through the inclusion of audio/video recordings and sources written by individuals with FASD. 

This project was made possible due to the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership and was developed by CanFASD with consultation from an excellent advisory committee of academics, clinicians, researchers, frontline mental health service providers, and individuals with lived experience. Their valuable perspectives guided the content and development of this resource, and we hope that it will allow for professional development, growth, and knowledge regarding the support of people with FASD. 

Content of this website was developed by: 

  • Emma Jewell 
  • Audrey McFarlane
  • Lindsay Wolfson 

With special thanks to our Advisory Committee members for their integral role in creating this guide: 

  • Dr. Jacqueline Pei  
  • Dr. Kaitlyn McLachlan  
  • Dr. Kelly Harding
  • Dorothy Reid 
  • Randi Martin 
  • Maria Beland 
  • Wanda Beland  
  • Brenda Knight
  • Dr. Dorothy Badry  
  • Kate Evans  
  • Amber Hamm 

The Mental Health Toolkit was funded by the Canada Northwest Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Partnership (CNFASDP). CNFASDP is a provincial/territorial governmental alliance formed in 1998 to advance evidence-based policy development and service design in FASD prevention, diagnosis, and support through the sharing of resources and expertise.

The current CNFASDP membership includes representation from the Governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. For further information, visit

Purpose of the Resource Guide

The following resource and practice guide is designed to increase the capacity of mental health professionals and service providers to offer support to individuals with FASD. It outlines and provides resources to better understand FASD throughout people’s lifespan, some promising practices that may be useful and effective, and opportunities for reflection. We encourage you to read the sections in order and to revisit materials and resources as needed.

Guiding Theoretical Framework

This resource is grounded in the belief that people with FASD are capable of significant change and personal growth. It is therefore imperative that, as mental health professionals, we continue to explore how we can adapt our supports so that individuals with FASD can benefit from practices suited to their unique strengths, challenges, and neurodevelopmental needs.

Our underlying philosophies are based on the Towards Healthy Outcomes for Individuals with FASD (THO) evidence-based framework that embodies a developmental, lifespan, and strengths-based approach. The THO works as a roadmap to support individuals with FASD and their families to be proactive and intentional when planning and creating pathways for support. The model has a variety of domains to be considered by service providers and professionals when considering the wellbeing of people with FASD.

In developing the current resource guide, we embodied the three philosophies from the THO:

A Developmental and Lifespan Perspective

It is important that as mental health workers we recognize that individuals will change over time in terms of their capacities as well as their goals. Considering what has informed an individual and then meeting them where they are is important for successful and effective support.

A Consideration of Systems that Influence Individuals

While working with people with FASD there are often multiple areas of support and different interacting systems being accessed as someone grows up. Being interactive and working collaboratively with other systems will greatly impact interventions.

A Strengths-Based and Empowered Approach

Every person will have areas of strength and challenge, but identifying capabilities can be overlooked. As mental health workers, if we are intentional about identifying strengths, we can use these to enhance support, create capacity within individuals and create goals.

Learn more: 

Calls to Research:

  • Viktoria Wuest (University of Alberta) is looking for mental health professionals working with individuals with suspected FASD or known prenatal alcohol exposure who are suicidal. You are invited to complete a short (10-15 minute), anonymous, online survey to help her better understand whether you feel prepared to support this population and what you are currently doing in your work.
  • The Enhance Lab is looking for clinicians and wellness workers in Canada who have supported someone experiencing suicidality to take part in a study. Learn more and participate.

The Language We Use

Throughout the resource guide, we use the language of (pregnant) women, mothers, parents, and people, with the intention of being inclusive of transgender, gender diverse, Two-Spirit, and non-binary individuals who are pregnant and/or parenting youth with FASD, as well as those who see themselves as women or mothers. We encourage all mental health providers to not assume the gender identit(ies) or sexual orientation(s) of the people they support and to be respectful of how people identify themselves.

Resource Guide Content Sections

The content of the resource guide is organized into eight sections, each providing an overview of the topic, questions for reflection, downloadable handouts, and additional resources.

Section 1: Introduction to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder explores what FASD is, common misconceptions about FASD, as well as FASD and stigma.

Section 2: Understanding FASD is a deeper examination of the unique strengths, challenges, and individuality of people with FASD throughout the lifespan.

Section 3: Addressing our Biases provides an opportunity to become more self-aware about how our judgements and assumptions may impact our work with clients.

Section 4: Mental Health and FASD outlines the research in this area that is available, why mental health support is important, and promising practices for mental health professionals. It will also explore research regarding FASD and the risk of suicidality.

Section 5: Diagnosis and Assessment of FASD explores the process of receiving a diagnosis, the challenges and benefits, as well as how to support people who may have FASD but do not have a diagnosis.

Section 6: Substance Use and FASD outlines what research is available in this area, promising practices and resources to learn more about substance use treatment for those with FASD.

Section 7: Trauma-Informed, Strengths-Based, and Culturally Safe Approaches will discuss promising practices for working with individuals with FASD that are embedded in trauma-informed, strengths-based, and culturally safe philosophies.

Section 8: FASD Prevention will highlight current approaches to prevention, having conversations regarding prevention, promising practices, and resources to learn more.

Conclusion & Additional Resources

Key Concepts to Know

Provided here is a list of important concepts that will be discussed as they relate to FASD and that will be important to consider throughout this resource.

Adverse Outcomes – Often discussed in the context of FASD and speak to common challenges that are prominent outcomes associated with FASD.

In-Body & In-Home Lived Experience – In-body lived experience refers to people who have FASD, and in-home lived experience refers to people who experience living with someone with FASD (i.e., caregivers, siblings, etc.).

Intersectionality – A way of understanding the complexity of people and human experience by considering the multitude of factors (not just one factor such as gender) that influence people’s identity and experiences.

Protective Factors – Are individual, familial, community, and society level factors that mitigate risks or potential adverse experiences.

Social Determinants of Health – Are non-medical factors that impact the health of people and communities.

Stigma – A negative view about a group of people based on a particular quality, behaviour, or circumstance.

Suicidality – Speaks to the risk of suicide, encompassing suicidal ideation and behaviours.

Click the dropdown options above to learn more about each of the key concepts.