Strengthening Your Voice​
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Strengthening Your Voice


Strengthening Your Voice (SYV) is a day-long training designed to prepare people with lived experience of problematic use of opioids and/or family members of those with problematic use to share their personal stories.  

Strengthening Your Voice is led by two facilitators with lived or family experience. The training also provides on-site therapeutic support from a community partner. 

The Strengthening Your Voice Guide was developed as a tool for participants to use during the day and as a reference as they move forward with speaking engagements. 

What is the SYV program goal?

The goal of SYV is to train people with lived experience of prescription opioid problems to tell their stories publicly.


The course topics will include:

  • Being ready to share your story
  • Developing your story
  • Addressing stigma
  • Developing presentation skills & tools for your presentation
  • Managing audience questions and reactions
  • Taking care of yourself.

What are the goals of having people with lived experience share their stories?

Having people with lived experience of prescription opioid problems tell their stories publicly can have profound impacts.


Speaking out in this way can:

  • raises awareness and educates people about the issues and dangers related to the use of opioid medications.
  • reduces negative attitudes and behaviours toward people with lived experience of prescription opi­oid problems.
  • humanizes the issue and shows that anyone can develop problems with prescription opioids.
  • may change the attitudes and practices of health care workers and others regarding the proper use of and dangers of prescription opioids.
  • may encourage people with problems related to prescription opioid use to get help.
  • reinforces a message of hope for everyone.

Hear from our graduates 

“Until the last century, storytelling was a key, highly valued feature of human life. Personal stories passed down from generations, told at the fireside, hearth, in parlours and on verandahs formed a large, important fabric of life – for entertainment, for history, for information and for support. We have lost the art of telling our real-life stories, but I believe it is an art that can and must be revived. Nowhere is this revival more critical than the Lived Experience story.”

-Faith, SYV Graduate

“I have learned so much and have networked all across my area. I have done media speaking, video training sessions on addiction and became an advocate for harm reduction of any/all kinds.  Lots of invites to speak at a local college and I have become a peer at another health centre in town.  I completed CAMH Opioid Resource Hub’s “Strengthening Your Voice” speakers training when it came to Ottawa and I have developed more support groups and more opportunities for employment and many more tools to help me through my recovery journey. Plus I help others through their journeys.”

- Suzanne, SYV Graduate

“This training asked me to come out of my comfort zone, and explore ways to share my story. This training not only taught me a different way to tell my story, but it also taught me I still have some work to do on myself, and my past. This training made me dig deep and focus my thoughts. This is something I do not do currently, and it sometimes hinders my progression through my recovery.”

- SYV Graduate

Hear from the course facilitators 

More about Betty-Lou Kristy

Betty-Lou Kristy is a bereaved mother, in recovery for 17 years from co-occurring alcohol/multi-drug addictions, trauma and mental health issues. She lost her 25 year old concurrent disordered son to an accidental overdose of Oxycontin mixed with psychiatric medication on December 23, 2001. As a result of Pete’s death, Betty-Lou dedicates her time as a provincial systems level, lived experience/family adviser, educator & advocate – helping to frame policy, governance, programming and funding. She additionally provides peer support and outreach at community level. Betty-Lou is the recipient of the 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Transforming Lives Award and the 2012/13 Ministry of Health ACE Award- Partner Relations category for her work with Expert Advisory Narcotics.


More about Sean LeBlanc

Sean LeBlanc grew up on a series of Air Force bases to a very abusive father and left home at age 13. Despite his early struggles, he got through high school and went to university, where a tragic loss started him on his addiction to opioids. Homelessness, jail and a series of personal losses gave him the impetus for change and he founded the Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL), an advocacy group for drug consumers, in 2010. He was able to combine advocacy with recovery and now lives a very happy life in Ottawa with his partner Catherine. He is a CAMH consultant, a trainer for the CAMH Strengthening Your Voice and Opioid Problems, Treatment Solutions courses, and an outreach worker for a local health organization. Sean has done a lot of various research, advocacy, and service provision but considers Strengthening Your Voice to be his most empowering work.


Future training details will be posted here. 



Download the public speaking manual

A guide to speaking publicly for persons with lived experience  or family members supporting loved ones dealing with opioid misuse.  En français