In the therapy room: A Time to Grow

During Spring in my local woodland, the bracken (Pteridophyta) starts to grow. The word bracken is of Old Norse origin, related to Swedish bräken and Danish bregne, both meaning fern. It starts off as a really tightly curled ball of leave fronds shaped like a fiddlehead. Every Spring, I look forward to seeing the fiddleheads appearing on the forest floor, the sunlight glinting through the tree’s highlighting the bright emerald green colour of the bracken fronds.

The fiddleheads in the woods resonate with my experiences of clients who attend therapy. Some clients appear to start therapy as tightly curled up, protective of themselves. What is there is a will to change, they want to grow, to uncurl and stretch out their self, to become who they really are.


As the sun starts to shine, and the daylight is longer, the leaves start to uncurl, it is like they wait for the perfect moment when they are receiving what they need to grow, that they start to open up.

Whether we are speaking of a flower or an oak tree, of an earthworm or a beautiful bird, of an ape or a person, we will do well, I believe, to recognize that life is an active process, not a passive one. Whether the stimulus arises from within or without, whether the environment is favorable or unfavorable, the behaviors of an organism can be counted on to be in the direction of maintaining, enhancing, and reproducing itself. This is the very nature of the process we call life.”

Carl Rogers
Fiddlehead uncurling

Gradually, as the weeks go by, the fiddlehead starts to really change shape, stretching its leaves, opening up towards what it needs.

Fiddler Uncurling

Each individual fiddlehead grows and uncurls at its own rate, which suggests to me, it is not just the sunlight or environment that encourages the leaf to grow, it does so in its own time, when it feels ready. The will to change is there.

Finally, the leaf is completely uncurled and reaching up towards the sunlight. It is transformed into a new shape.

Fern Leaf fully grown

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