More Writing Prompts for Fun and (therapeutic) Profit

Make several lists:
1. phases of my life
2. people in my life
3. places in my life
4. places in my head
5. the world outside my hometown – people/places/events I relate to or feel something about
6. things I know that matter
7. things I don’t know that matter
8. my regrets
9. my sorrows
10. my joys
11. my characteristics
12. things I’m not honest with myself about
13. things about me most people don’t know
14. things about me or things I’ve done that I am proud of
etc etc
Then sort the lists by heading a page with the following dichotomies and writing each list item in one or the other column:
important/not important
beautiful/plain
happy/sad
good/bad
straight/crooked
conforming/eccentric
strong/weak
helpful/hurtful
generous/selfish
etc. with your own dichotomies
This kind of exercise is interesting to me because of what patterns begin to show up.  It’s a way of doing an informal factor analysis.  Give it a try and modify it as you wish.  You may find some accidental poetry forming – if it does, go ahead and use it to actually make a poem.  I haven’t done anything like this for awhile, but it can be fun and/or self-revelatory (not always the same thing).
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Time Travel: Or, A Phenomenological Demonstration of Context-Dependent Memory

A journal entry from some time ago.  First I should note that my mother and I share an inherited autoimmune blood-clotting disorder which can lead to mini-strokes.  My husband is a little paranoid about any memory lapse or other cognitive oddity on my part.

The other day–the day of the BYU Homecoming Game–I learned how disorienting time-travel can be.  I had been slightly ill for a few days, and had a rare Saturday appointment in my office which I had completely forgotten while working in the garden, and I arrived apologetic and flustered 30 minutes late.  The parking lot was empty on a Saturday, the building dark and eerie.  The temporal displacement was small–from weekday office to weekend office–but it was only the first of many that day.

Next, with The Game still on and a crowded parking lot at the Richards Building, my husband John the English Professor and I went swimming in the otherwise empty BYU pool.  Two or three years ago we were in the healthy habit of swimming twice a week, but have not been at all for at least a year.  So a year-plus temporal displacement.

After swimming, we climbed the hill on the stairs between the Richards Building and the Smith Fieldhouse.  I probably haven’t climbed those particular stairs since taking a swim class at the end of my undergraduate studies at BYU more than 30 years ago.  Temporal displacement number three–32 years.

Then we went to a film at the International Cinema, on the main floor of the Kimball Tower.  There I took many of my graduate psych classes 20 years ago, and there I completed my predoctoral internship at the Counseling Center in ’95-’96.  Time-travel number four.

The movie was interesting–the French film “Orpheus” from 1950–another temporal displacement (but one that probably shouldn’t count).

I was OK until then.  From the time we came out of the building, through eating dinner together at the “Legends” sports bar (on campus, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated) where I wandered down dim and empty hallways looking for the restroom, until I went to bed last night, I was extremely disoriented.

Part of it might have been the strangely empty campus.  Some of it was the sense of dissociation that one can feel while recovering from an illness.  But whatever caused it, John had more and more of that skittish, scared look in his eyes as he asked me about things he or I had said or done earlier in the day, and l didn’t remember.

What I did feel was the echo of memories, preoccupations, and worries that faded as I tried to pin them down.  It was like awakening slowly and remembering that I had dreamt, but being unable to catch the dreaming images.  They faded to nothing as I strained after them.  It was like being in a house with transparent walls that become translucent, then opaque, then solid.  It was like hearing sounds and voices loudly nearby, and then the voices diminish to faintness and silence.  It was a sense of having just forgotten what I was thinking about.  When I tried to grasp it, it slipped through my fingers.

So I have two choices.  Either I was experiencing the aftereffects of some kind of cerebral-vascular event (mini-stroke) or I was experiencing time-travel.  Or to be more specific, I was experiencing a form of context-dependent memory, where my recollections of preoccupations and concerns from one to 30 years ago were evoked because I was again in the places I first had them.

It was very weird.  I didn’t have any other symptoms indicative of a stroke, such as motor or visual or language problems.

On the other hand, maybe John is gas lighting me.

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Buddy Biofeedback

Many years ago, in a previous incarnation (in Houston Texas), I was a certified biofeedback therapist.  Here’s an exercise I wrote for partners.

Biofeedback for relaxation training does not necessarily mean being hooked up with electrodes to an expensive machine.  A biofeedback buddy can give you information about your relaxation level and spot tension of which you may not be aware.  This exercise is done with partners.  For best results, switch roles and repeat.

Biofeedback buddy, read the instructions in a quiet, low voice.  The sound of your voice and the touch of your hands will help deepen your partner’s state of relaxation.  Everything you do should be slow and gentle.  Give plenty of time for your partner to follow the directions.  For best results, at the end of the exercise switch roles and repeat.

Lie back on a bed, couch, floor with pillows, or comfortable reclining chair.  Put your arms to your sides (not touching your body) with your head and neck supported, and relax as completely as possible.  You may want to move around a little to get in a comfortable position.  Eyes may be open or shut.  Hands should be loose and open, fingers slightly apart.  Feet should be about 18 inches apart.  All parts of your body are supported, so that if every muscle became deeply relaxed, nothing would fall or move.

We will begin by checking your breathing.  Your partner will place a hand very gently on your stomach, just below the ribcage.  Between the lungs and the stomach is the diaphragm—diaphragmatic breathing is deep, relaxed, and slow.  Take a slow breath deep down into your diaphragm.  Your buddy’s hand on your stomach should move up with each breath as your lungs expand, but your shoulders do not move, and your chest actually moves very little.  Relax your stomach muscles and let the air down into the bottom of your lungs.  Buddy, count breaths softly and give your partner feedback.  Relaxing partner, breathe as slowly and naturally as possible.  With every breath, become more and more relaxed.  After ten or so breaths, we will move on to the next exercise.

Now we will check the relaxation of your major muscle groups.  Focus on the muscles in your ankles, feet, and toes.  Imagine all the cords and tendons relaxing and loosening; imagine all the small muscles of your feet becoming soft.  Your buddy will gently grasp your foot and move or shake it an inch or two from side to side.  Does it feel loose and relaxed?  Try the other foot.  Does the leg move also, showing relaxation of the entire leg?

Relaxing partner, focus on your arms and hands.  Let all those muscles loosen—your arms and hands feel heavy and warm, as if they could sink right down into the floor—as if they would melt from feeling so warm and heavy.  Your buddy will very gently touch your hand, pick it up from your side, turn it over, and feel the palm.  Does it feel cold or warm, damp or dry?  Buddy, shake the hand and arm gently.  Are the muscles loose and relaxed?  Bend the arm at the elbow.  Does it bend easily?  Relaxed people have warm, dry hands.  Give your partner feedback about the relaxation of hand and arms.  Do the same thing with the other hand.  Try to find the pulse in the wrist.  Is the heartbeat fast and fluttery or slow and strong?  If you are comfortable with more touch, you can give your partner a hand massage as a part of this exercise.

Relaxing partner, focus on your neck and shoulders.  Let those muscles loosen until they are very warm and relaxed.  Biofeedback buddy, take the head between your hands and move it very gently a couple of inches from side to side.  Does the head move easily in your hands?  Give your partner feedback about the relaxation of the neck and shoulders.

Now we will focus on muscles in the face and scalp.  Biofeedback buddy, look at your partner’s face.  Does it look easy, loose, and relaxed?  Are the forehead and eyebrows relaxed?  Touch the forehead.  Is it cool or warm?  To check the relaxation of the cheeks and jaw, biofeedback buddy, gentle grasp your partner’s jaw and move it up and down.  Give your partner feedback on the relaxation of the face.  If you are comfortable with the touch, you may give your partner a gentle face massage as a part of this exercise, tracing you fingers over the forehead, around the eyes, and over the bridge of the nose.  A gentle scalp massage of the temples area (between eye and ear) can be very relaxing.

Look at your partner’s total body relaxation.  Does the body appear to be calm, peaceful, and serene?  Is the breathing deep and slow?  Give feedback about the total level of relaxation.  Relaxing partner, as you stretch and sit up, give feedback to your biofeedback buddy about the effectiveness of their feedback.

Switch roles and repeat.

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Journal Writing Techniques

Here is a list of journaling techniques that I have used personally and with patients for many years.  Some come from my husband John the English professor, some from Progoff’s classic At a Journal Workshop, and some from Rainer’s The New Diary.  Enjoy.

Free writing.  Sit down for a predetermined amount of time, anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours, and write everything that comes into your head.  Don’t stop.  If you get stuck, write, “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to say next, I wonder why I’m not thinking or feeling anything right now…” etc. until you get unstuck.  The idea is to keep going and not to edit or hold back anything.  Don’t cross anything out.

Sometimes you can pick a topic ahead of time, like “Memories,” “My Family,” “Things that Make Me Sad,” etc.  When that happens, you may find that you are feeling some strong emotions.  Just go ahead and write through it even if you’re crying–don’t stop.

After you’ve finished, wait until the next day to read it.  Then you can underline or circle the important parts.  Some people wait until the end of a month before they reread.  It becomes like a letter from your deepest, hidden self.  There may be a lot of boring, silly stuff, but there will be important stuff too.

Lists.  Make lists of anything.  Make lists of lists.  For example–Emotions, Old Boyfriends, Favorite Foods, Happy Memories, Red Things, Things I’m Curious About, Important Days in My Life, The Person I Want to Be When I Grow Up–you can see that a list can be about anything.  Make lists of the issues that are close to you–your parents, marriage, love, etc.  These can be titles for your free-writing time.  But they don’t have to, necessarily.

Unsent Letters.  You can write letters to people that you know you will not give them.  You can even write letters to the past, for example, “To My Dad When I was Five.”  You can write letters from other people–”To My Daughter, Love Mom.”  You can write letters to yourself in the past, to yourself now from the past, or to yourself now from yourself in the future–”From myself, age 35 to myself, age 15.”  You can write letters from the different parts of yourself–”From the Angry Self to My Parents.”

Cued poems.  Write poems with any of the following beginnings for lines:

“Before, I used to….

But now, I…”    [repeat]

“I wish…” [repeat]

“[emotion] is [color], like [description]“  [repeat]

Example: “Sadness is deep violet,

Like the last hint of light in the West before darkness.”

Portraits.  You can write a description of a person or yourself.  Imagine it as a photographic or painted portrait, but include everything about the inner reality as well as the external reality.  Use drawing as a part of the portrait.  Again, the drawing doesn’t have to be realistic.  It can be symbolic or reflecting only a part of the person whose portrait you are doing.

Cathartic writing.  This type of free-writing is done in the heat of emotion.  When you feel very strongly, especially when you don’t know exactly how or what you feel, try writing as a way of expressing the emotion.  Don’t censor anything.

Reflection.  A quiet sort of writing, reflection lets you think about something, examine it, ponder its meaning.  Best done in a calm state of mind.

Altered point of view.  Try writing an experience from the other person’s point of view.  Try it from the cat’s point of view, or a fly on the wall.  Try it from your guardian angel’s point of view.  Try it from the point of view of yourself, at a wise, kind, generous age 70.

Dialogue.  Try writing a conversation.  The other speaker may be another person, another part of yourself, yourself at another time, a place, an object, a dream.  If something is bothering you, ask it why.  Then listen, and write what it tells you.

Dream log.  Keep a notebook by your bed and record your dreams.  Some will seem nonsensical or funny.  Some may have a very direct meaning.  Some will be messages from your unconscious mind.

Map of consciousness.  Instead of writing, try drawing.  Draw yourself as a map, with such areas as the “Dark Sea” or the “Valley of Peace.”  Explore the landscape and find more and more detail.

Journey (guided imagery).  The word “Journal” first meant a record of a journey.  Imagine yourself as on a journey through this phase of your life.  Create a landscape to reflect where you are now.  Put obstacles, helpers, and adventures in your way.  Imagine where it is you are going.  Then write it down.  This journey can evolve, and you’ll find many new and interesting experiences occurring as you let it grow.

These exercises can deepen your emotions, memories, and thoughts.  By understanding them, and working through them, you gain control over those that are frightening or painful and put them behind you, and you learn to love and appreciate those that are pleasant and good.

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Lowering the Bar

Most of my patients have a problem with doing things.  When they feel good and energetic, they know what they want to do, they plan it, and they do it.  But much of the time they either don’t know what they want, are unable to plan it, or just don’t do it.  They call this a lack of motivation.

I believe otherwise (excepting prefrontal cortical compromise or dopamine-related problems with executive functioning).  It’s usually not lack of motivation that keeps my patients from action—it is a directly oppositional force.  That is, they are not just standing there, indifferently or perversely refusing to move forward.  They are instead facing a strong headwind.

The opposition is usually anxiety or a fixed belief that keeps them from acting.  Something about the proposed action frightens them, and the question becomes, “What are you afraid of?”  Or they have a deep, sometimes unconscious belief that they are unable to do, or shouldn’t do, or don’t deserve to do the action.  Ferreting out the specifics of the fear or belief is an essential part of making action possible—necessary but preliminary exploration with a patient.

The next step is to experiment with action despite the fear or the unproductive belief—that is, in the face of the headwind.  Successful psychotherapy is all about experiential learning.  Momentum occurs with even a tiny bit of success.  But it is dang hard.  How can I encourage patients to make that first effort?  How do I transfer my faith in the efficacy of the new behavior to my patients, and then how do I get them to begin to move, to try it, to take a first step?

To switch metaphors in the middle of things—how do I lower the bar on change?  How do I help make it less costly and therefore more possible?

This is a serious question (even though it is a bit abstract without the details of a specific person’s situation).  And I just realized that the one person most likely to be able to answer it is the patient him- or herself.

Go to the source, and ask.

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Increasing Daily Pleasure

Nearly everyone who comes in for psychotherapy is struggling with symptoms of depression.  They no longer enjoy life.  They get little pleasure from things that previously made them happy.

So do people feel depressed because we stop doing things we enjoy, or do we stop doing things we enjoy because we are depressed?  Either way, it becomes a downward cycle of defeat and despair.

Fortunately, in this case, what goes down can come up, and be fun in the process.  This exercise, garnered during my graduate work years ago from the Brown & Lewisohn’s Coping With Depression Workbook, but seen more recently in The DBT Workbook, is one of the first assignments that I give to new patients.  The list has been modified to make it acceptable in Utah Valley—you can add your own ideas ;-)

Directions:  Use this list to help brainstorm and generate ideas of things you like to do.

  1. Check the activities that you like in particular.
  2. Add your own ideas to the end of the list.
  3. Note how many (or how few) times you have actually done each of your checked items in the past 30 days.
  4. Now schedule one small activity (short, inexpensive, requiring little planning) per day; one moderate activity (more time-consuming, expensive, or involving more people) per week, and one major activity or event per month.
  5. Repeat forever.
  • being in the country
  • wearing expensive or formal clothes
  • making contributions to religious, charitable, or other groups
  • talking about sports
  • meeting someone new of the same sex
  • taking tests when well prepared
  • going to a rock concert
  • playing baseball or softball
  • planning trips or vacations
  • buying things for myself
  • being at the beach
  • doing art work (painting, sculpture, drawing, movie-making, etc.)
  • rock climbing or mountaineering
  • reading the scriptures or other sacred works
  • playing golf
  • taking part in military activities
  • rearranging or redecorating my room or house
  • going to a sports event
  • reading a “How to Do It” book or article
  • going to the races (horse, car, boat, etc.)
  • reading stories, novels, poems, or plays
  • going to a club or small music venue
  • going to lectures or hearing speakers
  • driving skillfully
  • breathing clean air
  • thinking up or arranging a song or music
  • saying something clearly
  • boating (canoeing, kayaking, motor-boating, sailing, etc.)
  • pleasing my parents
  • restoring antiques, finishing furniture, etc.
  • watching TV
  • talking to myself
  • camping
  • working in politics
  • working on machines (cars, bikes, motorcycles, tractors, etc.)
  • thinking about something good in the future
  • playing cards
  • completing a difficult task
  • laughing
  • solving a problem, puzzle, crossword, etc.
  • being at weddings, baptisms, confirmations, etc.
  • criticizing someone
  • shaving
  • having lunch with friends or associates
  • playing tennis
  • taking a shower
  • driving long distances
  • woodworking, carpentry
  • writing short stories, novels, plays, or poetry
  • being with animals
  • riding in an airplane
  • exploring (hiking away from known routes, spelunking, etc.)
  • having a frank and open conversation
  • singing in a group
  • thinking about myself or my problems
  • working on my job
  • going to a party
  • goinkg to church functions (socials, classes, bazaars, etc.)
  • speaking a foreign language
  • going to service, civic, or social club meetings
  • going to a business meeting or a convention
  • being in a sporty or expensive car
  • playing a musical instrument
  • making snacks
  • snow skiing
  • being helped
  • wearing informal clothes
  • combing or brushing my hair
  • acting
  • taking a nap
  • being with friends
  • canning, freezing, making preserves, etc.
  • driving fast
  • solving a personal problem
  • being in a city
  • taking a bath
  • singing to myself
  • making food or crafts to sell or give away
  • playing pool or billiards
  • being with my grandchildren
  • playing chess or checkers
  • doing craft work (pottery, jewelry, leather, beads, weaving, etc.)
  • weighing myself
  • scratching myself
  • putting on makeup, fixing my hair, etc.
  • designing or drafting
  • visiting people who are sick, shut in, or in trouble
  • cheering, rooting
  • bowling
  • being popular at a gathering
  • watching wild animals
  • having an original idea
  • gardening, landscaping, or doing yard work
  • reading essays or technical, academic, or professional literature
  • wearing new clothes
  • dancing
  • sitting in the sun
  • riding a motorcycle
  • just sitting and thinking
  • seeing good things happen to my family or friends
  • going to a fair, carnival, circus, zoo, or amusement park
  • talking about philosophy or religion
  • planning or organizing something
  • listening to the sounds of nature
  • dating, courting, etc.
  • having a lively talk
  • racing in a car, motorcycle, boat, etc.
  • listening to the radio
  • having friends come to visit
  • playing in a sporting competition
  • introducing people I think would like each other
  • giving gifts
  • going to school or government meetings, court sessions, etc.
  • getting massages or backrubs
  • getting letters, cards, or notes
  • watching the sky, clouds, or a storm
  • going on outings (to the park, a picnic, a barbecue, etc.)
  • playing basketball
  • buying something for my family
  • photography
  • giving a speech or lecture
  • reading maps
  • gathering natural objects (wild foods or fruit, rocks, driftwood, etc.)
  • working on my finances
  • wearing clean clothes
  • making a major purchase or investment (car, appliances, house, stocks, etc.)
  • helping someone
  • being in the mountains
  • getting a job advancement (being promoted, given a raise, or offered a better job; getting accepted to a better school, etc.)
  • hearing jokes
  • winning a bet
  • talking about my children or grandchildren
  • meeting someone new of the opposite sex
  • going to a Christian revival or crusade (or Mormon conference or activity)
  • talking about my health
  • seeing beautiful scenery
  • eating good meals
  • improving my health (having my teeth fixed, getting new glasses, changing my diet, etc.)
  • being downtown
  • wrestling or boxing
  • hunting or shooting
  • playing in a musical group
  • hiking
  • going to a museum or exhibit
  • writing papers, essays, articles, reports, memos, etc.
  • doing a job well
  • having spare time
  • fishing
  • loaning something
  • being noticed as sexually attractive
  • pleasing employers, teachers, etc.
  • counseling someone
  • going to a spa, gym, health club, sauna, etc.
  • having someone criticize me
  • learning to do something new
  • going to a drive-in (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc.)
  • complimenting or praising someone
  • thinking about people I like
  • being at a fraternity or sorority
  • taking revenge on someone
  • being with my parents
  • horseback riding
  • protesting social, political, or environmental conditions
  • talking on the telephone
  • having daydreams
  • kicking leaves, sand, pebbles, etc.
  • playing lawn sports (badminton, croquet, shuffleboard, horseshoes, etc.)
  • going to school reunions, alumni meetings, etc.
  • seeing famous people
  • going to the movies
  • kissing
  • being alone
  • budgeting my time
  • cooking meals
  • being praised by people I admire
  • outwitting a “superior”
  • feeling the presence of the Lord in my life
  • doing a project in my own way
  • doing odd jobs around the house
  • crying
  • being told I am needed
  • being at a family reunion or get-together
  • giving a party or get-together
  • washing my hair
  • coaching someone
  • going to a restaurant
  • seeing or smelling a flower or plant
  • being invited out
  • receiving honors (civic, military, etc.)
  • using cologne, perfume, or aftershave
  • having someone agree with me
  • reminiscing, talking about old times
  • getting up early in the morning
  • having peace and quiet
  • doing experiments or other scientific work
  • visiting friends
  • writing in a diary
  • playing football
  • being counseled
  • saying prayers
  • giving massages or backrubs
  • hitchhiking
  • meditating or doing yoga
  • seeing a fight
  • doing favors for people
  • talking with people on the job or in class
  • being relaxed
  • being asked for help or advice
  • thinking about other people’s problems
  • playing board games (Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.)
  • sleeping soundly at night
  • doing heavy outdoor work (cutting or chopping wood, clearing land, farm work, etc.)
  • reading the newspaper
  • snowmobiling or dune-buggy riding
  • being in a body-awareness, sensitivity, encounter, support, or therapy group
  • dreaming at night
  • playing ping-pong
  • brushing my teeth
  • swimming
  • being in a fight
  • running, jogging, or doing gymnastics, fitness, or field exercises
  • walking barefoot
  • playing Frisbee or catch
  • doing housework or laundry; cleaning things
  • being with my roommate
  • listening to music
  • arguing
  • knitting, crocheting, embroidery, or fancy needlework
  • making out with someone
  • amusing people
  • going to a barber or beautician
  • having house guests
  • being with someone I love
  • reading magazines
  • sleeping late
  • starting a new project
  • being stubborn
  • having sexual relations with my partner
  • going to the library
  • playing soccer, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, etc.
  • preparing a new or special food
  • bird watching
  • shopping
  • watching people
  • building or watching a fire
  • winning an argument
  • selling or trading something
  • finishing a project or task
  • confessing or apologizing
  • repairing things
  • working with others as a team
  • bicycling
  • telling people what to do
  • being with happy people
  • playing party games
  • writing letters, cards, or notes
  • talking about politics or public affairs
  • asking for help or advice
  • going to banquets, luncheons, potlucks, etc.
  • talking about my hobby or special interest
  • watching attractive women or men
  • smiling at people
  • playing in sand, a stream, the grass, etc.
  • talking about other people
  • being with my husband or wife
  • having people show interest in what I have said
  • going on field trips, nature walks, etc.
  • expressing my love to someone
  • caring for houseplants
  • having coffee, tea, a coke, etc., with friends
  • taking a walk
  • collecting things
  • playing handball, paddleball, squash, etc.
  • sewing
  • suffering for a good cause
  • remembering a departed friend or loved one, visiting the cemetery
  • doing things with children
  • beachcombing
  • being complimented or told I have done well
  • being told I am loved
  • eating snacks
  • staying up late
  • having family members or friends do something that makes me proud of them
  • being with my children
  • going to auctions, garage sales, etc.
  • thinking about an interesting question
  • going volunteer work, working on community service projects
  • water skiing, surfing, scuba diving
  • receiving money
  • defending or protecting someone; stopping fraud or abuse
  • hearing a good sermon
  • picking up a hitchhiker
  • winning a competition
  • making a new friend
  • talking about my job or school
  • reading cartoons, comic strips, or comic books
  • borrowing something
  • traveling with a group
  • seeing old friends
  • teaching someone
  • using my strength
  • traveling
  • going to office parties or departmental get-togethers
  • attending a concert, opera, or ballet
  • playing with pets
  • going to a play
  • looking at the stars or moon
  • being coached
  • _______________________________________
  • _______________________________________­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
  • _________________________________________ etc.
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Ecopsychology

Some years ago I attended a UPA sponsored workshop in St. George on Ecopsychology, which I had never heard of before.  The workshop was a lot of fun (my husband came too) and I gathered the following ideas for incorporating consideration of the natural world into my therapy practice.  Most of the ideas below are from presenter Patricia H. Hasbach.  I’m saving them here for my own use and the benefit of readers.

In the initial assessment ask where home is and what natural setting feels like home.

  • What has happened to that home?  Can you return to it, recover it, or recreate it?
  • What are your memorable childhood experiences in the natural world?  Did you tend a garden or keep food animals?  Pets?
  • Did you enjoy or fear and avoid the outdoors?
  • How do your early experiences affect your relationship with nature now?  What were your family attitudes toward the natural world?
  • As a part of the initial small-talk at the beginning of a session, comment on the weather and consider it mindfully.

In the office

  • Keep a basket of natural objects for use as touchable metaphors and signifiers, chosen by therapist or patient
  • Keep an informal shrine for offerings by therapist or patient – a gratitude or blessing space
  • Create an natural environment in the office with plants, a water feature, nature photos and art
  • Collect stories/metaphors of nature to use in regular talk therapy
  • Draw a genogram which includes places and pets

Create and allow ritual or ceremony

  • Celebrate events and mark passages
  • Use drawing, mask-making, poetry- or journal-reading
  • Use incense, a candle, or a smudge pot
  • Create a place map for patient’s childhood home and/or adult journeys

Take people outdoors

  • Create a therapy or meditation garden in conjunction with your office
  • Go on a walk or visit a nearby natural space with a patient

Assign experiences with nature to the patient

  • Sun (moon, tree, bird, sky, stone, etc.) mindfulness.  Garden mindfulness.
  • Use transition times (sunrise, sunset, moon, weather) to consider specific questions
  • Go to a special natural space, consider assigned question
  • Bring a natural object to the session that means something to you (patient and/or therapist)
  • Plan an outdoor retreat – report
  • Participate in environmental restoration e.g., planting, cleanup
  • Assign conscious consumption for a week
  • Assign a news fast and/or a technology fast
  • Find or create an all-season outdoor sitting space
  • Create an indoor natural space at home with plant, water feature, etc.
  • Consciously care for a plant or animal as a part of therapy
  • Walk the edges – beach, cliffside, forest-to-meadow – and consider transitions
  • Move away from settlement and back again
  • Immerse self in wild water
  • Note the periodicity of nature

Other presenters included Utahns Stephen Goldsmith, David Ranks, Patrick Barickman, Sumner SwanerLance Owens, and Glen Rogers.  Arvol Looking Horse discussed the white buffalo calf and led a sunrise service.

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