Wild Refuge works alongside residents of Chy Rehab in Truro, Cornwall, to explore the process of connecting to self, others and the transpersonal through nature, as an aid to holistic change facilitation. It takes the form of a semi structured 7-week program for people with addiction issues and complex needs including mental health diagnoses and formative trauma.
After several years working in the mental health system, I saw how despite the best efforts of talented and passionate individuals, many services were failing those they set out to help. The reasons for this are complex, and embedded in structural inequality, and a prevalent psychiatric model that tends to reduce the circumstances, traumas, and transpersonal experiences that so often surround crises and breakdowns, to individual parts, focusing almost entirely on the brain of the individual, as the ‘problem’ to be fixed.
Having co- facilitated interventions within the NHS that offered holistic and transpersonal alternatives to this model, I saw the potential and power of this approach but still felt confined by the clinical setting: the four white walls, school room chairs and bleak absence of beauty, nature or creativity in the environment within which people were expected to overcome their traumas and heal. Wild Refuge seeks to establish a middle ground between the trauma-informed, psychologically robust, frontline interventions I feel called to participate in, and the beautifully held contemplative retreats in nature I have experienced over the years.
When my brother died unexpectedly of an accidental heroin overdose in 2019, I followed a strong intuitive call to move home to the land I grew up on in Cornwall, UK. Fuelled with a fresh desire to prevent deaths from drug use, my partner and I built a therapeutic space in the family-owned woods in memory of my brother, which will be the immersive setting for Wild Refuge. Through the process of building these foundations, we have tried to energetically imbue the space with care, inclusivity, and beauty.
Just before this grant funding opened, I was introduced somewhat synchronistically to Dr Paula Pearson, a local, holistically-minded clinical psychologist and yoga teacher who also lost a brother to heroin many years ago. Together we have designed a coherent arc to the sessions, underpinned by the movement between expansion and containment in the healing journey. In expansion, we honour the need for transpersonal exploration, a connection to the Divine and expanded ways of knowing and being. We also acknowledge the potential of becoming lost in and addicted to this expansiveness. In containment, we honour the need for safe embodiment, self-connection and a secure base. This too carries potential pitfalls of isolation, separation and feeling trapped.
Within the context of trauma and addiction, exploring healthy, safe and ethical ways of connecting to and moving between expansion and containment is key, and will be facilitated through working with natural spaces, both open and contained, natural building, foraging, fire making, environmental arts therapies as well as embodied and creative narrative work. Trauma informed mindfulness and yoga practice will also be woven through the sessions. Finally, the alchemical experience of pizza making with our earthen oven will provide nourishment and connection to the land.
While this program may seem very ‘content rich’, the aim will be to create a spacious experience, where connection and the unfolding process of the group is the focus.
We are excited to see where it takes us…