Barefoot Therapists

We are cooking up a new project and I’m interested in your thoughts.

We are interested in teaching for free, anyone who’s interested to learn the foundational basics that psychotherapy research has taught us about how to be effective in a healing conversation with another human being.

The foundations of relationship, expectancy, and allegiance are not rocket science. They are there in our loving human relationships in our friends, family and community, but they are missing in our ordinary human relationships whenever someone is pathologised.

The label of mental illness puts a wedge in the way we would normally relate, it puts doubt in our ability to be part of their belief that they will get better, and it puts doubt in our own ability to believe that we can help.

Modern medicine has done some great things, but in the way it handles mental illness it has inadvertently damaged the ordinary human relationships that heal.

So, inspired by The Barefoot Investor, and originally by Barefoot Doctors in China, we want to start a movement, that will give back to our community their human ability to be useful to another human who is in a bad spot.

Its not about doing therapy, it’s not about creating a surge of do-gooders, or missionaries, it’s just about rekindling the dying art of human healing.

Please share your response to this as we know we will be blind to many potential hurdles, and your thoughts will help.

And, if this project speaks to you, let’s collaborate.

Communing with communities

All my working life I have worked with vulnerable individuals to heal them, primarily physically, as a doctor, but as a General Practitioner or “family doctor” I couldn’t ignore their emotional or relational worlds as a source of their good health. Many times, helping someone to connect to a community that let them thrive was the greatest medicine of all. So often though, for the most vulnerable and isolated, that was the hardest thing to do.

Recently I have seen how absurdly unworkable that was. Like my life’s work was about carrying individual raindrops in an attempt to make a waterfall. Duh! There are plenty of spectacular waterfalls in the world, with plenty of tributaries that actually suck reluctant raindrops into the mainstream just by their very nature. Why try and make a new one from a mass of reluctant raindrops?
Another thing hit me earlier this year when I joined “The School of Health and Care Radicals” and was asked the question: Have you ever noticed that when you are at a conference listening to an invited speaker, there is actually more knowledge and expertise in the audience than on the stage, no matter how expertly specialized the speaker is? It follows for me, that any community has more resources than its leaders.

My interest in individuals turned to families about 16 years ago, and with my husband Rob McNeilly we developed a very simple yet effective SolutionĀ Oriented approach to working with families, so that an individual with a perceived problem, did not become the black sheep. With the resources of the whole family, and the ubiquitous love that all families have underneath their gripes, a family in strife could flourish as a strong flock. If you’ve ever seen the first Ice Age movie, where the Mamoth saves the Sabertooth tiger, and the tiger is confused, not understanding why his potential enemy would do such a thing. The Mamoth simply replies, “We’re a herd. That’s what you do in herds” the sloth then says “Funniest looking herd I’ve ever seen” Human beings are herd animals. We know that in our bones, but we also feel the isolation of modern life, which I guess is why that line is so funny. Similarly, atĀ a presentation I went to, I think at a Brief Therapy Conference in the U.S, a presenter was talking about “Blended Families” but thought they should more accurately be described as “lumpy familes”

So, just as I got that it’s easier to work at a family level with an individual problem, because there are so many more resources to work with, I finally got the power of of working with a community so that no person is left behind, isolated, marginalised, brutalised, radicalised, but rather, the potential of all is realised. And it’s done from within, not imposed by some outside expert.

I have also discovered that the “how” of doing this is showing up in my actions and conversations with other people, not so much in my conversations with myself, so if you feel similarly inspired I would love to speak with you. We can talk by phone, email, or zoom. I am cooking up an online conversation with a group. Let me know if you are interested to join. Email me at or add a comment.