Hi there! I want to "Thank you" for taking the time to attend to the underserved clients who attend my therapy practice and read about the potential benefits of an ecotherapy office for the Neurodivergent. - Kim Z
It was 2019, and a therapy client had just left my office following a successful suicide prevention therapy session. The office had a big window facing a tree that had a squirrel’s nest. As I usually do, I looked out the window while I was waiting for the next client to arrive. I envisioned my previous client walking and waiting for the bus, when I noticed deep longing to be outside too. This longing wasn’t unfamiliar to me, however, asking myself this question was: “WHAT AM I DOING?!”. Clients come to me for therapy where we engage in out of the box problem solving and talk about nature as impactful self-care, however we continue to meet in this office that feels like a stifling box. This didn’t feel like the full potential of living or accessing the possibilities of creative healing, and I definitely didn’t feel like the enthusiastic role model I am.
Working with many neurodivergent clients, I thought about how they often feel trapped and unfulfilled in typical conventional settings presented to them. As clients sat in the chair across from me, they would talk about how nature is one of their best coping skills that they just don’t seem to have time for or haven’t indulged in lately. I began to ask…. If my client and I were truly on this journey, growing together, what would therapy look like? How am I following the typical setting that is provided to me and what would it look like if I directed the therapeutic environment? My therapy environment would be creative, inspiring, and actively integrate the therapeutic practices discussed in sessions. It was time to GET OUT OF THIS BOX, and I began to imagine my ecotherapy urban farm home office.
In the Oregon 2020 Census, only 5% of the population identified themselves as having a cognitive disability, however the current statistic is that 1 in 4 children are diagnosed as being somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. Considering these two statistics, I notice a gap in the projected number of people on the Autism Spectrum who would be residing in Oregon. I have worked with Autistic individuals for 15 years. I have observed the transition from fears and unknowns regarding an Autism diagnosis, into the increased understanding and value for someone identifying with the Autism Spectrum, including increase recognition of Neurodiversity to describe the Autistic brain.
I have had my private practice, Filtering Light Counseling since 2015. My specialty has grown to support Neurodivergent adults, young adults, teens, and their families. Many of my clients are recognizing later in their life, that their brain functions differently than projected, or what is described as “typical”. They are recognizing how living without reference of Neurodiversity, has caused challenges throughout their life. Late diagnosis usually means that as a youth they had differences in processing that weren’t addressed, and many have not been able to understand themselves as they reference models that never truly fit well for their needs. The Neurodivergent teens that I work with are actively responding to not fitting into conventional systems presented to them. Often, they are avoiding school, requesting for accommodations that are being denied, or questioning what their future will be like if they don’t want to follow the typical high school-college-job track for adulthood. What happens when people don’t feel their environment is a good fit, is it creates the idea that they don’t belong, or they need to change. When this occurs regularly, mental health starts to weaken, and often suicidal thoughts can surface.
There is a projected statistic in the studies by Simon Baren Cohen that 2/3rds of individuals on the Autism Spectrum report history of suicidal ideation. Supporting individuals who are suicidal for 8 years, I have come to recognize that often suicidal ideation is rooted within exhaustion from trying to fit into systems that don’t uplift an individual’s personality, needs or characteristics. To save the lives of the Autistic individual, we need to change the environments that they are expected to conform into.
Let’s save the Neurodivergent with Diversity in their therapy!
I perceive my therapeutic approach to save lives by encouraging success through creative options, with a result that increases understanding of themselves and development of feelings that they belong. Together, we identify how their brain works, respond to the unique needs, then nurture individual value and goals. I view this business to promote a counseling model that fosters successful integration of skills from the therapy setting into daily home life.
Starting my solo entrepreneur journey, I purchased a quaint home in 2020. Using my personal resources, knowledge, and design skills, I have been preparing the home to be a safe space that will host my therapy clients in an urban farm setting. The building permit is actively processing, and we are expecting it to be fully approved. The outdoor setting will be conducive for the neurodivergent due to the natural lighting, softer shapes, and choices in spaces to sit and talk. The backyard space includes several garden beds designated as food, flower, or medicinal plants. The fence also has been moved over to optimize land for the office. Finally, there is an extensive chicken run for my flock of sweet chickens.
I am now reaching a point in my build where I am asking for help in making this vision come true. I am seeking funding for the build of a Deck with a 16 ft Geodesic Dome.
I am requesting to raise $25,000.00 in support for:
Cedar Deck, 18ft x 18 ft, winterized for office space to sit on top: Estimate $5,000
Office Space: Geodesic Dome with wood burning fireplace: $8,297.00 https://www.redwoodoutdoors.com/products/milky-way-geodesic-dome-tent/
Rough estimate of Deck Labor and Geodesic Dome Labor $4,000
Office Building Permit $1,065 (every three years)
There is a lot of potential to build up Filtering Light Counseling.
If I am blessed to have additional funding come through this campaign, other projects that I do not currently have estimates for include: a greenhouse made of vintage windows, bee keeping, outdoor compost toilet, sitting areas, additional animals, and resources to increase platforms for reaching more youth and their families.
The office space will be used for individual therapy and groups. As able, I will also donate the space for others to host workshops. This type of an office will get us away from the industrial indoors that is often painful to a neurodivergent human, which has contrived lighting, and unnatural shapes. The Geodesic Dome has a window which will face the gardens and chicken run. It will actively bring clients into self-care and mindfulness practices with the soft qualities of nature, and activities of the garden (growing plants, harvesting plants, winterizing the garden) that will reconnect to the natural world. I hope to inspire clients to integrate nature into their daily practices, making it easier to choose outdoors over a screen, and shed away insecurities about trying to grow their own foods. Another goal within this project, is that I hope to influence a shift in philosophies within the mental health system and inspire other therapists and healers to follow the opportunities in caring for self just as much as they care of others. I am happy to report that I am already receiving feedback that these inspirations are happening!
I have developed each reward offering to keep all of my donors celebrating this space coming together. This special community is stepping up to transform therapy for the underserved neurodivergent a reality. I will have a scroll with names of my supporters of $200 and above, that future clients can look at and see representation of the community that came together to create space for them.
We appreciate any donation offerings you can provide, with just as much importance with sharing this campaign and passing it on to reach a wider audience of support.
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support, and we hope you find inspiration through our story!
Kim Zeszutek LPC
Luna the Cat, Buddy Bean the Cat, Justice the Hen, Cleo the Hen, Gemma the Hen, Rebel the Hen, Alfredo the Rooster
…and all of the clients who will experience this unique office space.