• The Life of Things: Therapy and the soul of the world

The Life of Things: Therapy and the soul of the world

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ISBN 978 1 906254 46 9 (2012)
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What would psychology look like if we took the planet seriously? Ecopsychologists are, on the whole, more interested in our relations with the earth than our relations with each other.  They find little inspiration in conventional psychology, and generally have little to say about individual counselling and psychotherapy, finding it at best irrelevant and at worst a wasteful indulgence in a situation which demands a focus on stopping the damage we are doing to the earth. Meanwhile, counsellors continue to work as though counselling is essentially an exercise carried out in private between two individuals, irrespective of our place in the wider ecosystem.

These two points of view rarely meet in discussions of the human predicament, but they are brought together lucidly and coherently in The Life of Things. Bernie Neville takes both personal counselling and the planet seriously. He gets his inspiration from philosophers and psychologists who have puzzled over our relationship to the planet and each other. Arne Naess, Alfred North Whitehead, Jean Gebser, Carl Rogers and Carl Jung have had a significant influence on his thinking. All five thinkers have enthusiastic followers, but they don’t talk to each other very much. The Life of Things may be unique in bringing the five together under the same cover. However Neville’s real achievement is dealing with these rich, diverse and complex ideas with eloquence and clarity.

Foreword by Godfrey Barrett-Lennard


1  Imagining therapy

2  Healing the planet

3  The client-centred ecopsychologist

4  Rogers, Whitehead and the evolving universe

5  Counselling the five-minded animal

6  Self-realization and the ecological self

7  Entwined and entangled




The Life of Things is compelling for those practitioners who want to understand further the ecological significance of their work, and it will interest those concerned with the political scope and social responsibilities of counselling. Equally, Neville's broad-ranging exploration will appeal  to a wide range of readers who are curious about the philosophy bases of therapy. It stimulates thought around ecologically aware, person-centred therapy and contributes to the emerging integral consciousness that it heralds. Neville's passion for the potential of person-centred approaches is engaging and thought-provoking for anyone interested in the actualisation of the approach and the future of therapy. Peter Chatalos, reviewed in the February 2013 edition of Person-Centred Therapy.

This is a wise, wise book. It delves into profound areas of understanding about the interconnectedness of life, therapy, relationships, and nature. Whilst the reader or therapist can benefit from refining their understanding of Rogerian therapy, Jungian therapy, and others, the real beauty of this book lies in its humility and reverence for nature, the mystical and the profound. I found it a life affirming and profound book. At its subtle core it inspires the sacred within us and without. Well worth a read and slow contemplation of its gifts. Amazon reviewer.

Bernie Neville

Bernie Neville was introduced to counselling as an untrained school counsellor in the 1960s.  He soon discovered Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach and this has framed his approach to both education and counselling ever since. As a university teacher in both of these fields he has had a keen interest in applying Rogerian and Jungian thought to the practicalities of teaching and counselling. His previous books include Educating Psyche: Emotion, imagination and the unconscious in learning and Olympus Inc.: Intervening for cultural change in organizations. He is currently Professor of Holistic Counselling at the Phoenix Institute of Higher Education of Australia.

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Bernie Neville