Josh Short MD
Keeping the Pilot Light Lit
Combining integrative psychiatry, psychedelic assisted therapy, and nature connection into a single practice in the woods has been a long and difficult project. Between the stresses of starting a business and the challenges of gettting 16 acres with 3 buildings ready for clients, Tiffany and I have had to rely on our skills as a psychiatrist and ER doctor for our own selves more than we expected. We've had a structure fire, a flood, and an excitable dumptruck driver who knocked down our front gate. We've found entire new species of stinging insects, record length snakes, and we've had meetings with lawyers and accountants that were more frightening than any of the critters in the crawlspace. There were days that I had trouble remembering why we were doing this, especially when I was removing barbed wire and poison ivy while talking on the phone to the NC department of revenue about payroll taxes.
Oddly enough, something that has really kept us going is something that initially seemed kind of like fruity homework from our business coach. Almost 2 years ago, in the early planning stages, our business coach (and sometimes couple's therapist) had us craft our mission statement. At the time it just seemed like something we would be italicizing and putting on our website or business cards, but as we started working on it, it became interesting to try to succinctly explain what it was that we were trying to do here. We made quite a few versions and, honestly, I changed it at the last minute without telling Tiffany, which might have been one of the riskiest things I've done in a while. The final version, in italics of course, is below. The original version did not contain the last sentence, but Tiffany eventually okayed it after a few weeks and some intermittent growling about my level of maturity and professionalism.
"Our mission is to nourish each individual’s innate ability to heal themselves. We believe that the foundations of self healing are a strong connection to the natural world and an integrative approach to healthcare that embraces both ancient and emerging perspectives. We also believe that joy is good for our health and that creating joy is meaningful work."
So much has happened since we crafted that statement, but we find ourselves going back to it over and over again when we feel a little lost or overwhelmed. It creates needed boundaries and helps us remember why we are here in the woods trying to keep the mice out of the wi-fi router and get people to slow down, look around, and listen to wind blowing through the trees. We know, from research and from experience, that healing happens better in natural settings and when our attention is tuned to the natural world. We work hard to make every encounter here an opportunity to spend a few minutes just being in nature.
One way that we like to play with this process is by using a deck of tarot cards with animal spirits. We give clients the opportunity to pull a card and reflect on its meaning before psychedelic sessions or therapy. It's a nice way to step away from the clinical interviewing techniques we were taught in medical school and bring some spontaneity and curiosity into the conversation. Never once in medical school, nor in the ER since, have I had the opportunity to discuss "otter energy" or "nightingale songs" the way I do here and it is real damned refreshing.
Recently, a client sent us one of the most moving and cherished pictures we've received as a practice and I asked for her permission to share it here. In each of her four ketamine assisted psychotherapy sessions she pulled a different animal card. After completing her journey here with us, she had the earth, air, fire, or water element symbol from her cards tattooed onto her hand. It makes for a beautiful tattoo. I keep a copy of it on the desktop of my computer and, like our mission statement, it reminds me why I'm busy trying to get the neighbors goats home before the next client shows up or helping our lawyer buy a ski boat.
Helping people find and nourish their own inner healing intelligence brings us joy and inspiration. It's why we are here and why the hornets in the roof aren't anymore. I'm proud of this space and the people that spend their days here. We are still getting our feet under us and we learn so much every day, but when it works, it makes it all worth it.