When I was eating lunch recently with my friend Ellie, who volunteers at the Richmond jail teaching meditation and yoga, she mentioned a quote by Dr. Parker Palmer, an educator and activist. He says, “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.”

I’ve been thinking about that idea and how it relates to the work we do at The Coleman Institute (TCI). Obviously, people sign up for a very specific service when they seek our help; most people are coming for rapid opioid, alcohol or benzo detoxes. And Dr. Coleman has finessed this process so carefully for many years it is a very functional and--dare I say—elegant way to detox.

But deeper than the actual product that we offer, part of what surprises people when they come through our doors is the feeling of complete acceptance of who and where they are in their journey to wholeness. Although we are doing some ‘fixing, advising, and saving’, I think what we offer to our patients is the opportunity to return home to themselves. We help to lift the crushing veil of unreality that using these substances creates. Only then can a soul be truly “witnessed, seen, heard and companioned”.

It’s a miracle and a privilege to witness patients returning to the office, often almost stunned at what has opened up in their lives. Sometimes people just need the chance to have access to their souls again.

Joan Shepherd, FNP