12 Jul From the Ground up
Welcome to the new website and blog of Ground PDX. What an exciting adventure the last four months have offered in making the vision of Ground become reality. For those who are unfamiliar with how Ground came to be, and even for those who are, I am compelled to share the story, as it provides the context and roots of this practice and the work.
One year into my private practice as a Couples, Marriage, and Family Therapist in Portland, Oregon, I began to deeply reflect on the experience of the past year. I had first launched my practice through subletting an office space one day a week from a psychologist named Dr. Banjo in a very hip and rapidly growing part of Division Street. I started with literally one client, on one day a week, and just dove straight into the world of growing a practice and business, one client/day at a time. The rest of my days were spent fathering my two young sons, and squeezing in as many coffee, tea, or lunch networking meetings as I could.
Fast forward one year, I was moving towards building a flourishing practice. My 1 day and 1 client had turned to 3 days and 2-dozen clients. Referrals started to pick up and the work with clients was engaging, meaningful, and challenging. By all accounts, things were going quite well professionally, however something never felt quite right to me in offering therapy from within the confines of an office. A large reason I initially embarked on the journey to become a therapist was from time spent in remote areas of Idaho working as a wilderness therapy guide. A deep self-awareness came from hiking through the desert for weeks at a time, learning to live off the land, and being pushed physically and mentally. Merely being in an office and sitting on couches seemed to fall short on the benefits that came from the nature therapy.
Right around this time-frame, in which I was having these musings on the limitations of the traditional talk therapy format, I had the “A-Ha” moment that propelled me into the forming of Ground. A new client had just entered the room for our first session. As we took our seats, this new client asked: “Hey, do you mind if I lay down on your couch?” In the moment the words left my mouth to reply: “Sure, you may absolutely lay down”, I realized I was straight out of a stereotypical psychotherapy scene from the media. Here I was with my corduroy blazer on, this guy sprawled out on my couch, my butt numb from sitting in the chair all day, and we are talking about feeling disconnected from life. I thought to myself, ‘this isn’t how I imagined it.’
So began my mission to find a way to bring my work back into nature, or as I later discovered, nature into my work. Over the course of the first few months of 2015, I spent an abundance of time thinking about how I could achieve this reality. I considered forming a nature based therapeutic group that met several times in the city office and several times in nature. For a short stretch, I even entertained the notion of picking up camp in Portland and moving down to Hawaii to work as a therapist at Pacific Quest, a Horticultural Therapy program on the Big Island. Through exploring the field of horticultural therapy, the practice of using plants and gardening tasks to promote therapeutic benefits, I started to think more about gardens and plants.
Why yes, of course, gardens! Gardens are all over Portland. This is the Rose City. Urban gardening and urban farming are more popular than ever. I didn’t have to go across the Pacific to Hawaii to have a garden to do therapy in. I started to think much more about gardens, and I became extremely interested in the dynamic meeting of urban and nature that take place in the garden. As the logistics of taking clients out into the wilderness was not one I wanted to take on, my focus shifted to bringing nature into the urban landscape, and the garden seemed like a viable option. So I decided, all I needed was an office with a garden.
Office with a garden? A lot easier said than done. Unsurprisingly, I did not happen upon any Craigslist posts that read: “Hip Office with Therapeutic Garden for Rent”. Nor did I have the start-up capital to build out an office, or building, to have a garden space attached (although I have plenty of ideas of what this would look like, check back for later blog posts). With every realization I made, a new challenge arose. It wasn’t until I had breakfast at my friend’s food cart that I gained the perspective necessary.
For those who have been hiding under a rock for the past several years, Portland has arguably more food carts than gardens. And from a food cart, I was struck by the pure simplicity of what made them so popular: mobile and lower overhead costs. I then realized what I needed to do. If I couldn’t find an office with a garden, I just needed to bring my office to a garden. So once I came to this revelation, everything else fell into place. A yurt became the vessel for the office. And the serendipity of the world brought me the right location to hatch this vision. With the enormous help of an entire community, my family, and friends, I sit here today, proud to introduce: Ground, Therapy Rooted in Nature.