Nature and healing the psyche: Psychiatric Times article on Farming and Doctoring

Thought the members might be interested in this article, particularly with the current discussion on Wales:


We psychiatrists talk about “seeing” patients, but the seeing involves primarily an inward gaze—at least in psychotherapy—along the parameters of listening, empathy, and association. That may be one reason why, after many years seeing patients, I began to work on a farm. I needed to learn to see outward again, the way being in nature demands, to see instead of think, to be instead of analyze. I needed to be physical at work, in the way farming requires. I left my office and joined the crew one day a week at Lindentree Farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Every Tuesday at 7:30 AM, we gathered in the barn to divide up the morning tasks and then paired off for the harvest.



- Valeria

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The model of therapy which we teach, other-centred approach, takes as its core a triangular model of therapeutic relationship. This model is concerned with the therapist getting alongside the client and exploring how the client sees the world. As such, the model is outward oriented, encouraging a more engaged process. This is why the model lends itself to eco-therapy. The main program teaches therapy primarily in the mode of working in the therapy room, but even in this context the tendency is to focus on the external factors in the clients world, exploring relationships and other conditioning phenomena. In the environmental context this three-way relationship between therapist, client and world is particular pronounced

Yes this is how it can be, if one is open enough to experience the immediacy of the moment. Seeing and drawing into the moment, this very other, that exists for us, but which shrouded in self perception, is clouded from view. How can we open to other in a real way? It takes courage. A bravery that is beyond normal experience. A resilient that can accept the onslaught of otherness. A widening and opening that can allow other moments of perception. We are not who we think we are. Nothing is what we think. Our minds are just moments of perception, our minds are not reality. It is only a passing phase. Each perception is just a moment. It is transient, it does not last, it passes away.

Yes I agree that focusing on other is a way of releasing from self perception, self orientation, that keeps us focused on self. It broadens and expands our lives beyond the self. Beyond self is what is taught in Christianity, but is missed in mainstream churches, but with Buddhist mindfulness may come into being.


It took me a while to wrap my head around this. I had tried to read up on the other-centered approach, and it just didn't sink in.

But now I think I'm getting it. It's about empathy. And compassion. 

Letting go of yourself long enough to enter another person's reality. See things from his or her point of view.

Now the big question is: how do you do this when the other person is delusional?

How do you enter the world of a schizophrenic?

Or with someone who has temporarily lost his mind to anger?

Thanks Gina and Valeria. I think there are two things here. Firstly, whilst I agree Gina that it can take courage to 'see things as they are', often , particularly in nature, things impact on us just by our being in contact with them. This doesn't necessarily need to be conscious - put ourselves in the right conditions and the rest follows naturally.Where things get complicated is often when human processes are involved, which brings us to Valeria's point

In response to what you are saying Valeria, I agree that it can be difficult not to get caught in another person's delusion.In Buddhism what is taught is a kind of observation which notices what is happening without getting caught up in it. When one is with a person who is themselves caught in this sort of distorted thinking, this sort of awareness means that one can be caring but not buying into the distortions. From an other centred point of view, one firstly appreciates that this is another person whose experience is different. As such, this person is a mystery to us, and it is this acknowledgement of difference which brings us alive to the fact that our worldview is not the only one and thus can be revised. This introduces a provisional quality to our assumptions, leading us to be more open to others but not forcing us to accept their views. Where somebody has very distorted thinking, we may be empathic to the pain which they are suffering, but empathy is a quality of metaphorically standing alongside the other person rather than becoming them. We do not need to believe in their world. We simply need to get a feel for how they see it so that we can communicate. If you are interested in the case of schizophrenia, you might like to know that a new unit on psychosis has just come on stream as part of our distance learning programme.


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