“The human soul doesn't want to be fixed, it simply wants to be seen and heard. The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient and shy. When we go crashing through the woods shouting for it to come out so we can help it, the soul will stay in hiding. But if we are willing to sit quietly and wait for a while, the soul may show itself.”

These are the words of Parker J. Palmer.

I am reading this, thinking of the patients who come through our doors, desperate to be released from the grip of substances, and from the grip of agonizing thoughts.

There is no way to access the soul, the true essential self, without first being able to sit quietly with oneself. This can be excruciating for our patients who, after coming off a substance—or substances—which effectively blocked discomfort, are now confronted with painful TEAMS: Thoughts, Emotions, Associations, Memories, and Sensations.

In a sense, our medically-assisted withdrawal or rapid opioid detox actually rips a band-aide off; we help to create the conditions necessary for true healing to begin. We assist in the process of allowing our patients to have true, deep access to their own souls.


A patient who came for long-acting Naltrexone therapy last week, now four months off all substances and living in a half-way house tells me, “I am learning to be comfortable with discomfort. My previous default was to avoid discomfort at all costs.” The setting of this halfway house and being with other guys who are experiencing similar TEAMS has been remarkably helpful. He is beginning to generate compassion for others and for himself.

It is an incredible privilege to perform our medically-assisted withdrawal treatment with finesse and science, and then be able to stand back and witness our patients’ “tough, resilient and shy” souls emerge.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP