“Gardens of the Soul” came from conducting involuntary mental health evaluations in emergency departments. Presume a person does not require psychiatric hospitalization and is experiencing a crisis of some sort. The challenge to listen to the person’s story, evaluate and suggest a direction of change, all within a period of 60-90 minutes. Essentially, it is a consultation of helping a person change. By re-orienting and providing a frame of reference, most people are able figure out what they need to do.
I began asking myself, “how does a person change?” A seemingly simple question…”Right ”. I reviewed theories of personality, learning theories and such; which did make some sense but were difficult to convey or apply in a short amount of time. Eventually I stumbled across the idea that we change in cycles and seasons. Over the course of several years, a more complete synthesis emerged using the metaphor “Gardens of the Soul.” The idea is that a person changes in cycles and seasons and in a lifetime, there are many gardens.
Gardening is an elegant metaphor. It is established, intuitive and practically a universal archetype complete with representative concepts, processes and vocabulary. Gardening applies to various dimensions. It is useful for describing intra-psychic processes, interpersonal relationships and organizational change. Applied as a symbolic metaphor for community, societal and cultural change it is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. The gardening metaphor also lends itself concepts of ecology, ecosystems, interdependence, stewardship and sustainability. Furthermore, the gardening metaphor is representative of a “fractal process.” Which is, a process of self-similar repeated pattern that is a seemingly endlessly re-occurring at different levels or scales found in nature. When we stop to take notice, everywhere there are references to gardening, growth, cycles and seasons.
The garden metaphor addresses several challenges found in mental health and working with people who are in crisis. First, psychology has lacked a positive paradigm or frame of reference in which to work with people to enhance health and well-being. Clinical psychology is largely associated with pathology and what is wrong with the person. It has not had a basis or foundation in which to view a person doing healthy things and striving for self-determined health and well-being. Only recently have we begun to study “health and resiliency” and the beneficial factors in a person’s environment.
Secondly, how does a person move from pathology or crisis to a process that encompasses wholeness, health, optimism and wellness? Gardening provides a metaphor where trials, tribulations, and challenges are normal and to be expected. Often struggle is an opportunity for change and growth. Gardening involves hard work, digging, sweat and there is the death/rebirth process of letting go of the old self and rebirth of a new sense of self.
Third, the current mental health delivery focuses on efficacy and efficiency of intervention but from a perspective of a pathology and risk management. Instead, the focus should be on prevention, health and wellness. The current system struggles with how to work with a person beyond trying to convenience them that they have a problem and that the intervention often merely involves medication and skills development to manage symptoms of the pathology. We fail at establishing a client directed partnership, where the client is motivated to make changes in a very short time and hopefully moves toward a healthy well-being.
Fourth, in psychology there is a search for elegance or a simple model. Elegance is to describe something complex in a simple, understandable and representative manner. An elegant metaphor, iconic story or paradigm’s value, is that it is a concise way to communicate a lot of information that enables a multi-dimensional understanding. “Gardens of the Soul” is like a holographic image or symbolic archetype that needs little or no explanation; everybody knows what a garden is. Furthermore, the gardening metaphor is adaptable and applicable to different situations of helping and engaging people to change. Some applications could be developing programs or workshops for middle and high school students and their parents, for prisoners/inmates looking forward to starting a new life after release, survivors of domestic violence and abuse and those who are in "recovery" and struggling to start anew. Organizational application could vary from orientation of new staff, encouraging teams or departments toward proactive and strategic analysis and planning or helping to change an organization’s culture. It is a perspective that promotes the perennial emergence and realization of the individual and/or the group’s symbiotic potential with their environment. It is a metaphor that accounts for environment, yet is not exclusively determined by it. Gardens are a collaborative and co-creative process of emergence.
Summarily “Gardens of the Soul” is as an elegant metaphor that is easily able to provide a frame of reference to re-orient a person in crisis. The metaphor is intuitive, accessible, multi-dimensional and applicable. Furthermore, it does not presume an underlying pathology. Instead, it is focuses on growing with the implicit ideas of renewal, sustainability and health and wellness. It accounts lessons of the past, an anticipation of the future but focuses on what there is to do today. Gardening is based on optimism and hope while acknowledges that one needs to be courageous and have faith and work smartly. It begins with a person’s passions, dreams and loves.
I began life somewhere in South Korea and orphaned twice before the age of one. My adoptive parents were a Methodist pastor and my mother was a homemaker that became an elementary school teacher and then an executive secretary to the president of a small university. Raised in small towns in Nebraska, there was the family garden, dogs, cats and chickens and later working on farms. As a teenager, I developed an interest in “consciousness,” meditation and other views of experience. While working on a degree in speech and communications and psychology, I stumbled into a career in public mental health starting as a psych tech at an admissions unit of a state psychiatric hospital. Then continued as a residential day treatment leader, outpatient case manager and helped develop a clubhouse drop-in activity center.
Obtained a Masters in counseling psychology in 1996 (research in restricted environmental stimulation therapy..."flotation tanks"...and clinical hypnosis). I have been a therapist, coordinator for a hospital diversion/crisis respite facility and have provided countless presentations to schools, law enforcement, social agencies, advocacy groups and at several state behavioral conferences. The majority of service has been conducting crisis mental health evaluations and consultations in emergency departments and civil court evaluations as an involuntary treatment act (ITA) officer. I have been a coordinator for a team of crisis counselors/ITA officers, presented at statewide workshops for ITA professionals, coordinated and hosted conferences for the ITA professionals’ association, provided recommendations to legislators, written position papers and consulted stakeholders in the development of statewide professional guidelines for ITA officers.
While majoring in speech communication the concept of the “culture” of teams, organizational development and transformation became a side interest that resulted in taking courses in community organization, group behavior, small business management and leadership development. I’ve been a board member of two different food co-ops and held positions of Board President, vice-president, chaired the committees of strategic and long-range planning, finance, staff liaison and member relations. There have been opportunities working with enthusiastic college kids, supervising, training and mentoring new professionals and coordinating a team of seasoned professionals.
So why am I doing this?
Having been blessed in life, attempting to live lightly and fortunate that my needs are minimal; the purpose is to merely pass along what I wish someone had laid out for me. Colleagues, clients and their family have begged me to write a book or “just do something.” However, blogging is quicker and perhaps more accessible to a more diverse audience. Our world is going through a shift; the past has been based on “what can I get.” Now with the realization of abundance, emerging is “what can I share.” Lastly, I enjoy travel, meeting new people while trying to be mindful, graceful and with gratefulness. My dream (just to put it out there), is to help people to find their passions, change and grow by providing presentations, workshops and consulting.
I hope you find some of this helpful in finding your passion, insight into the process of change and growth. It is a small attempt to repay the many blessings and pay-it-forward. Thank you for visiting.
Peace, Love and Light!