23rd February issue

New ideas for old

Try something new… but remember what already works.

Hunting through the woods blindfolded while pretending to be a wolf sounded pretty daft at first to me, but I would be an ideal candidate for nature awareness therapist Geoffrey McMullan, who says the more sceptical his clients are, the better (see this issue’s cover story). Reading the interview made me think that actually, there’s nothing wrong with a totally novel approach – and a lot right with having your conditioned behaviours turned on their head. What better way to demonstrate how we instinctively react and illustrate the work you would need to do to change? If you’ve tried this kind of therapy I’d be really interested to hear from you. Did the experience of a day in the countryside help you relate in a meaningful way to your behaviour in the urban jungle?

From the shock of the new to the shock of the old. Why do we research only to reinvent? Nick Barton gently reminds us on page 10 that the discovery that meaningful employment can be beneficial is a decade behind some highly practical and effective back-to-work schemes. The issue here is not just the income, but the restoration of self-esteem. With the slogan ‘working recovery is a recovery working’ he makes a vital point – that support groups have their role, but for many people they do not offer a path away from addiction and into self-sustaining long-term recovery.

We’re grateful to Sharyn Smiles for tackling a difficult subject on page 11, through an account of her own relapse. When you’ve been a drug worker and lecturer it’s not easy to face the fact that you’re not immune to falling off the wagon, particularly when you fear losing your job as well as being accused of hypocrisy. But this story does have a satisfying outcome in that Sharyn tested the drug treatment system and found it worthy – not just of her clients’ confidence, but of her own.

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