On the nature of a truly therapeutic relationship.

To hear Majo read the following text in his voice, click this link to play a 5″ audio:


Hear is a 5′ video that I shot right after writing this post. It covers much of the same territory – in perhaps an even more conversational way, and with some pretty visuals of a little town in Western North Carolina Appalachia:


My last therapist, Lorrie Streifel, dealt with me like a friend in ways like calling me directly.

She did not have a secretary as an extra boundary between us.

She also was a huge fan of my poetry and never missed a chance to attend one of my poetry performances.

She would even go to Jubilee, which was not her thing at all, for a four-minute poem by me. And afterwords would be my biggest cheerleader – always telling me how thrilling my poetry was – at least performed live. (I am missing that experience of performing for an audience a whole lot.)

She would then slip out before Howard’s preaching – in much the same way that, during Howard’s last year at Jubilee, I would consistently slip out to “walk the dog, she’s getting restless” when it was time for Howard to preach.

Lorrie and I had quite the hybrid therapy relationship. Even though she had spent 30 years in the establishment mental health system, she had no problems with us seeing and knowing each other outside of the therapy office.

For several years before I ever recruited her as my therapist, we knew each other through Interplay. Interplay is a wonderful performance-based, improv-oriented personal growth methodology that is kind of strong in Asheville.

It is described as “improvisational storytelling, movement and song” or even as “kindergarten for grown-ups”.

It helped grow in me a powerful commitment to an improvisational life – not scripted or rehearsed, but making it up as you go along.

That same kind of improvisational risk is the basis of Asheville Movement Collective’s ecstatic dancing – and another reason why I love that approach to dancing so much.

People who are not used to jumping off the diving board into the deep end – leaping and trusting that the net will appear – tend to regard all this improv stuff as horrifying. But for those of us who are drawn to it like a moth to the flame, it just keeps making us more alive.

I guess I want therapy to be that way, too: each of us daring to show up fully, spontaneously, and authentically with each other – even as my life may be the primary focus.

It was based on knowing Lorrie personally through those dozens of hours of “being personal” with each other that I felt safe with her and wanted her as my therapist.

She had no problem with the fact that we had had all these experiences before assuming the structure of therapy.

We also went to Asheville Movement Collective’s ecstatic dances together. We would interact with each other extensively on the dance floor, including “contact improv” that involved a lot of touching (almost unimaginable after a year of social distancing).

I did find her attractive – when I let myself go there – and would occasionally get turned on as we were dancing together.

Most of the time when this happened, I would choose to dance further away. This never would stand out, because contact improv involves moving towards and away from contact with your partner.

It is that dynamic of choosing how and when to engage – and how and when to set a boundary – that was always part of the excitement of it for me.

I even, for several months, attended Lorrie’s Zen meditation sangha. She was a big booster of that stuff and thought it would be good for me, so I don’t think she ever found it threatening to her personal boundaries to see me there, also.

I threw myself into it big-time for a while, as I always do with most anything I am trying. It finally did not really fit for me – as no structured meditation fits for me these days – and I stopped going.

We always used to say that these many points of contact with each other in the community “normalized” our therapy relationship.

I do think that this was true – and it is possible that I will never be able to accept a “pure” therapy relationship that is not somehow anchored in a bigger connection with each other.

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These days all of my identities are converging: whether I am offering a blessing in the grocery store checkout line, offering a prayer in a poem or experiencing the kinship with all life while walking my or a client's dog - it's all the same. It's all Life.

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