Whether it’s because of the time of the year, the alignment of the stars, the right conditions, synchronicity, fate or just finally having the right conditions and circumstances, ideas are “being laid” left, right and centre. Much of it started last week when we had a meeting with a lovely lady from Community Catalysts. Commcats (@Commcats) are an awesome organisation fighting micro-enterprises’ corner and helping the likes of Pulp Friction – a cracking social enterprise which provides volunteering opportunities for young people to develop work readiness, social and independence skills.

Initially, I had come to the meeting not knowing really, what to talk about. So much has been going on that I was, in essence, starting to lose my focus. Thankfully, with Amy’s help, I was able to regain my focus. I’ve been able to clarify my current action plan and (incredibly) have come up with some ideas that will hopefully put HumAnima CIC on the public sector map. In the coming weeks, I will be creating 3 or 4 case studies based on anonymous details, that will give social workers an idea of how HumAnima CIC can deliver social, emotional and psychological outcomes for service users through tailor-made Animal Assisted Therapy programmes and associated work. By working in a person-centred way, we can also focus on areas that service user feels needs the most attention, as ultimately they are their own expert.

I am hoping that this will help enlighten people as to HumAnima CIC’s intentions, possibilities and ultimately the opportunities available when working with Animal Assisted Therapy and Eco-therapy. I realise now that all these ideas swimming around in my head are muddying the water and it’s time to gain some clarity and focus. However, this is also helping to filter out potential new ideas for developing and pushing HumAnima CIC and its direction.

Friday, I attended The Edible Garden Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. Whilst I am not a big celebrity follower, it was difficult to miss James Wong when he literally brushed past me. I think I didn’t say anything because I was so starstruck! It was a super day bearing in mind this is the first time I had attended and it also gave me room to think and grow more ideas. It was impossible to avoid the smallholding section and it wasn’t difficult to find me – just follow the loud coos and ahs and the chances were I was at the end of them. That was certainly the case when I nabbed a young man from Chicken Talk and started to fondle his fowl… a small Lavender Pekin Bantam called Britney. Yup. Britney.

Suffice to say I fell deeply in love with Britney, especially after she fell asleep in my arms as I gently stroked her head. I have maintained for a number of years that chickens, especially watching them, are immensely therapeutic. Watching them go about their daily business, picking at grubs, dustbathing, talking, flapping or simply drinking water, I find, really does bring me into the present and somehow spurs me to live in the moment. I find the effect is very much the same as when watching my the fish in my aquarium. As for handling and stroking an animal that is so soft you almost can’t register the sensation on your fingers, well you just have to try it and see for yourself. The eggs whilst few in a bantam (appr. 4 a week) are a bonus! I enquired as to which of the chicken breeds are the tamest and the young did not hesitate to recommend this lovely little breed.

I am now unwavering in my devotion, and as I already heartily support the British Hen Welfare Trust  the next logical step is to entertain chickens. However, for practical reasons that won’t be on the cards for sometime but consider it a dead cert.

Going around the show I was also encouraged to see a stall showcasing a small permaculture project. It was lovely to see an example of permaculture finally breaking through to the mainstream!  This got me thinking to my own musings on permaculture and how I really hope to incorporate permaculture into HumAnima CIC’s work, whether that be through running “Introduction to Permaculture Design” courses, incorporating the permaculture principles into how we operate, inviting a guest speaker to talk about Permaculture or developing a permaculture project in the community. Permaculture is nearly non-existent here in Wolverhampton so to create a permaculture presence would be beyond magnificent. Apparently, we had a Transition Towns (the movement echoes the permaculture philosophy and puts it into action) body in Wolverhampton, but having looked online it seems that they may no longer be around. It would be great if we could start a TT movement here in the heart of the West Midlands exactly where it’s needed most – not only from a perspective of resilience and sustainability but in order to build and rebuild communities. Watch this space…!

Today though, was the icing on the cake! I had the last day of our “Nature as Co-therapist” course that was held at Keele University and you will be pleased to hear that the course will be running again in the autumn of this year. As soon as I have details I will post them up for those who are interested to sign up!

I really can not recommend this course highly enough. None of us really knew what to expect from the course, including the tutors (!) as it hadn’t been run before but it did nothing short of fly! Many of those attending, including myself, felt that it has enhanced their own personal practice and in particular it has given many of us the confidence to incorporate nature into our practice with clients. Now whether that be by bringing in a vase of flowers, a box of shells, taking a client on a guided meditation or literally walking alongside them out in nature it brings a new approach to working to the forefront and a new option for clients to explore their thoughts, feelings and emotions in a different (literally and metaphorically) environment.

There are MANY considerations to be made when approaching a new way of working especially when it may be seen as “unorthodox”. Risk, boundaries and professionalism MUST be at the forefront of our thinking in order that we do not run the risk of compromising client safety, counsellor safety, reputation and above all effectiveness. It is essential that when introducing new ways of working to our practice and our clients, we maintain standards, safety, security and supervision. Without such safeguards in place, the quality of the service and eco-therapies promise as an accepted approach would be jeopardised and its success threatened. By engaging in this course we have been able to thrash out many of the questions raised by therapists wanting to incorporate nature into their work with clients and ensure that we are able to do so in a safe, meaningful and reliable manner.

We are all now embarking on personal and professional journeys of how to incorporate nature appropriately and safely into our work with clients. I will be contacting the organisation “CAPO” (Counselling and Psychotherapy Outdoors) to ask about the practical aspects of such work and hopefully a new network of “Keele Ecotherapy Alumni” may end up being formed… Who knows!

A stockpile of events is building up that HumAnima CIC is now either involved in or organising:

And if all that wasn’t enough, I’m now thinking about writing a book! . . .