In Pinakates, a small village on Mt. Pelion in Central Greece, two friends have decided to create Village Psy. Our project aims to foster the exchange of knowledge and ideas through an open dialogue and spontaneous experiential expression which gives space for personal development. The main objective of Village Psy is to bring together people who have a common interest in issues related to psychotherapy, personal development, and self-improvement. The whole process goes beyond the format of conferences and seminars in enclosed spaces but integrates elements of the natural environment.
There are numerous examples from similar healing events in ancient Greece, such as the Asclepeia showing the importance of nature in healing. Drawing from this inspiration, Village Psy combines experiential workshops, presentations, and parallel events to visitors who are looking to combine their summer holidays with self-development.
The people behind the idea
Village Psy is an original idea of Dimitris Pantelis and Atalandi Apergi. The initial idea came 3 years ago, in a discussion under an old plane tree in the village of Pinakates. The discussion revolved around how psychotherapy connects with nature, and how this connection could be expanded to benefit more people. This idea has since evolved to a vision which connects two pillars: 1) thematic tourism and 2) making the process sustainable, repeatable and stable over time.
Atalandi has a degree in Sociology and is a post-graduate in Text & Performance Studies. She has also completed a 4-year specialized post-graduate training diploma in drama therapy, and further enriched her psychotherapeutic training and experience with seminars in various psychiatric structures. As a drama therapist, she has clinical experience with different populations, including drug addicts, immigrants, abused women, psychiatric patients, the elderly and people with learning disabilities. Atalandi is a member of the European Association of Psychotherapy (EAP), The British Association of Dramatherapists, the Panhellenic Professional Union of Dramatherapists, a member of the editing team of a thematic magazine dealing with drama therapy and a volunteer for WWF-Hellas.
Dimitris studied Economics & Business Administration and has worked for 15 years in the banking and telecommunications sector on public relations, sales, and client service. He then continued with studies in Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy and training on treatments of multi-cultural communities following natural disasters. Dimitris is a member of the local community council, a member of the Mountaineering Club “Pan” and member of the Hellenic Counselling Society.
The project runs on the basis of trust and good chemistry between the two founders. The whole concept has been tested in the past through collaboration in smaller scale projects, such as seminars. Their relationship is based on complementarity and mutualism, not rivalries. Driving motivation by their own inspiration, the two of us develop the project locally, being aware of other seminars and educational activities that take place in different places. However, this is the first attempt to connect psychotherapy with nature, while offering access to knowledge stemming from different schools of therapy.
The team focuses on facilitation of organizational work -not coaching in the seminars- something that allows them to retrieve various tools and previous experience. On the course of this collaboration, the two founders discovered abilities that even themselves were not aware of. Dimitris is very business savvy, while Atalandi is more into the arts and very protected from all forms of institutionalization. Although we’re different, we have managed to develop “the same language” and excellent communication, allowing the project to move further.
Village Psy is the work of two persons, who are usually busy with other tasks. Atalandi is raising two small children, while Dimitris is preparing for his exams in the Nursing School. During the last months, Village Psy has been occupying nearly half of their everyday lives. Although it is difficult to understand this time commitment, seeing the results allows them to realize that this is a lot of work. According to Atalandi, the whole process entails a risk. “It is amazing how you begin with an idea and in a few days or weeks, you see it taking off. The more you believe in your vision and the more passionate you are about it, the more you can overcome many personal obstacles”. For Dimitris, this project is important because it allowed him to “trust collaboration again”.
Who benefits from Village Psy?
The target group of the project includes men and women of 25+ years of age, but there is no restriction in terms of age, gender or background. This audience is distributed as follows:
- General population who is interested in self-improvement.
- Fellow psychologists, counselors of mental health or other professionals, who have finished their studies and are looking to come in contact with different approaches in their professional development.
- All those who would like to continue their training in counseling or psychotherapy and wish to be exposed to different schools of psychotherapy. This includes students who want to specialize in something they do not know, who in 8 days can experience nine different approaches in order to arrive at what is the most compatible with their own interests.
The ideal place for Village Psy
Beyond the personal connection with the village of Pinakates, the inspiration for choosing the location stemmed from the need of a place where people can stay together, ensuring continuity, contact and sharing throughout the process. At Village Psy, everything is done in a community, and that is the importance of the word “Village”.
In this context, we are collaborating with local hostels and restaurants and the village’s Cultural Association. Other collaborations involve graphic designers and web developers, although all content is generated by them.
At present, the main objective is to get Village Psy established, attracting more and more people in its sessions. However, there are ambitious ideas for similar activities related to alternative and holistic therapy, running in parallel in the surrounding villages, but also the creation of other such respective villages in other areas, so that they can work and connect together. This would allow Village Psy escape its physical boundaries and work towards the creation of a platform for the generation and diffusion of knowledge, always connecting therapy with the landscape and the natural environment.
Towards concept validation
For this first year (2016) the project runs on experimental mode, under the auspices of Kondyli Publishers (www.kondyli.gr). This is a thematic publisher, owned by Dimitris, which specializes on issues relevant to psychotherapy. There are thoughts to change the legal entity behind Village Psy, and establish a new one, once the concept is tested and running in a way that is sustainable.
Our project has attracted the attention of the press, with many media publishing press releases, interviews or articles. At the same time, a dedicated website (www.village-psy.gr) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/villagepsy) includes all information that needs to be transferred to potential beneficiaries.
The first session of Village Psy has taken place between 18-28 August in Pinakates, under the theme “Centaur Chiron: Myth - Trauma - Therapy”. The title pays tribute to the mythological figure who roamed the Mountains of Pelion, where Pinakates is located. This first trial offered opportunities for receiving feedback from participants, aiming to improve the process in following sessions. And it resulted in both creation of a very strong community, but also ideas and solutions beyond our imagination.
Are you developing different ways of approaching mental health and therapy yourself? Are there things around this topic you’d like to discuss with us, share, ask about, criticize? Let us know in a comment below the post.