Relationship is the key: dirt and therapy

I’m just home from an event organized by my local Transition Town group that focused on soil, poetically described by Bill Logan as “dirt – the ecstatic skin of the Earth”. We watched the movie and then grounded the experience by learning how to make compost. It was great!

The movie is intelligent and inspirational. As expected, it offers brilliant insights from familiar names like Vandana Shiva (physicist and activist) and Wangari Maathai (Nobel Laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement). But more significant for me was the input of people like James Jiler, Program Director of The Greenhouse at Rikers Island Prison Systems. James spoke about a program run at New York City’s main jail that enables inmates to work with the soil. This is hugely healing and those who take part are far less likely to re-offend after release.

Book cover of 'Dirt'.

Relationship was a key theme through the film. The main reason we’re in an environmental mess is that as a culture we’ve impoverished our relationship with the rest of Earth’s ecology. We’ve somehow got it into our heads that we’re not related to the rest of the ecosystem and that idea is potentially fatal.

I was struck by how clearly a film about ecological relationship echoed my reading on relational approaches to counselling and psychotherapy. Though I was struck by the similarity, I was far from surprised. ¬†Many previous posts are rooted in this same common ground and I’m delighted to report that at least some therapists recognize that our work is part of an ‘unfolding process’ that is much bigger that the encounter between client and therapist (Neville, 2012). We are working with an¬†organismic psychology which “emphasises the indisssolubility of organism and environment” (Tudor and Worrell, 2006). Relationship is the soil from which healing – whether ecological or therapeutic – grows.

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