H&S Vision and Plan

The Goal of the Heart and Soul group is to support the person as they transition to the new way of living. 


Goals set on 2/22/2010, updated on 3/24


Short-Term Goal 1: Research

Research Boulder heart and soul.  Check out Transition Times, Boulder Webinars

Define the scope for H&S group


Short-Term Goal 2: Peak Oil Counseling

Everyone to reach Chapter 6 of the Transition handbook

Early Transition meetings were essentially group therapy.

Have a recurring "circle process" meeting for people to share peak oil worries.  How often?

Heart and Soul should follow-up after Intro to Peak Oil talks.

Lessons to be learned from cold war nuclear angst?

Once you actually confront Peak Oil and start doing something about it, it mitigates feelings of helplessness and guilt, which are just as big a part of eco-angst as actual fear for our well-being.


Short-Term Goal 3: 

Establish a monthly meeting for breakout groups to share notes on progress

Important for morale and keeping energy high


Mid-Term Goal 1: 

Synergize with local religious groups

Contact Sally Bingham

Environmental evangelism is big news these days (see also The Green Pope)


Mid-Term Goal 2: 

Come up with creative outreach ideas and link Heart and Soul with overall

Transition Buddy Program

Transition "messaging" of enthusiasm for a low-energy future

Example: Values Exchange Booth -- Consult with people on how to turn material losses into spiritual and social gains (eg, lose your mobility, but gain a neighborhood that you can be directly involved in) 

Also, get kids involved (Transition Families?)


Mid-Term goal 3: 

Figure out what Heart and Soul can do for those already active in Transition

It is hepful to read Chapter 6 from the Transition Handbook to understand more about the purpose and goals of the Heart and Soul groups.

Transition Handbook free edit version is released under GFDL and Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike.

By contributing to or editing these pages you agree to release your work under these terms.

Chapter 6: Understanding the Psychology of Change

Enabling change has always been the Holy Grail of environmentalists, but it has largely remained frustratingly elusive. Although there have been successes, overall the environmental movement has failed to engage people on a large scale in the process of change, certainly not on the scale of the wartime mobilisation now necessitated by peak oil and climate change. It could be argued that one of the reasons for this is that we have never really understood change, how it happens and what it entails. There are other disciplines that have a much better understanding of change, how it works and how to bring it about. One of these is the field of addiction.


A year ago I came across a book which transformed my thinking on this. Indeed, if it had had a different cover, and had been called something like Peak Oil and Change for Communities, I would have thought it a work of genius. It was Addiction and Change by Carlo DiClemente.  DiClemente developed what he calls the 'Transtheoretical Change Model' (TTM), which sets out to explain how change happens. He states that the process by which an individual gets into and out of addiction is the same as any process of change. The TTM emerges from a synthesis of various previous approaches, as well as from longitudinal studies into how people change. Rather than change being just a process of deciding to change and then changing, DiClemente argues that the process is more subtle and sophisticated than that. I found his insights enormously illuminating, and around the same time I met Dr Chris Johnstone, an addictions specialist who has done a lot of work with the Stages of Change and applying them to social and environmental change work.  Chris is author of Find your Power, and also edits The Great Turning Times, as well as running workshops on 'The Work That Reconnects' around the UK. I find his take on change very inspiring and insightful, and the Transition approach is, in many ways, informed by some of these insights. Rather than trying to explain this to you myself, when I have no background in psychology or addictions, I have delegated this to Chris, and what follows is a dialogue we had exploring these issues.


An interview with Dr Chris Johnstone

What are the Stages of Change, and where did they come from?

The Stages of Change model was developed by psychologists Carlo DiClemente and James Proschaska in the early 1980s. They wanted to map out a framework for understanding change that could apply to many different types of behaviour and that could also be used by people from varying theoretical backgrounds. For this reason it became known as the 'transtheoretical approach'.


At the core of this model is a simple, and even obvious, idea: change doesn't happen all at once. Rather it occurs in increments or stages. You can apply this to pretty much any type of change. For example, if you're moving home, the actual moving is referred to as the Action Stage. But before you move, there's some planning that's needed - that's the Preparation Stage. And before you plan, you make a decision that comes after a period of thinking about it - that's the Contemplation Stage. There was also a time, further back, before you even started thinking about moving - that's the Pre-contemplation Stage. There are two other important stages too, but I'll come on to these later.


This model has been enthusiastically embraced by the addictions treatment field because it provides a useful map of where people can be in their journey of change. Some clients are in the action stage of taking steps and engaging in treatment. But many people in hospital for alcohol- or tobacco-related problems haven't reached the point of deciding to tackle their habits. Understanding about these different stages makes it easier to see what might be blocking change. Someone in the Preparation stage might want to change but not see how to. Someone in the Contemplation stage may be stuck in ambivalence, where part of them wants to change but another part isn't so sure.


This model can also be applied to the way we think and act in response to climate change and peak oil. Ten years ago, most people weren't even thinking about climate change. Now there's been a big shift; most people have moved at least into contemplation, and many into action. But people may be at different stages with different behaviours. They can be in the action stage of using low-energy light bulbs, but at the thinking stage when considering flying or car use. With peak oil, much of the public are still in the pre-contemplation stage of responding to this. There is a much lower level of public awareness about oil depletion. This is changing fast, though.


The other two stages are Relapse and Maintenance. With any change, movement can be backward as well as forward. There may be initial good progress, but then people lose heart or become complacent, leading to a relapse back to a former stage. That's why the Maintenance stage of change is important - that we look at how to consolidate gains and keep going in the long term.


How do insights from the addictions field help the environmental

movement understand how change happens?

A common idea in environmental campaigning is that if people only know how awful things are, then they will change. So the focus of many campaigns is on delivering information, often with disturbing graphic images and horror stories. Awareness-raising is of crucial importance - but you only have to look at a packet of cigarettes to see the limits of this approach. The information "Smoking Kills" in big letters isn't enough to discourage many smokers. What the addictions field is good at is understanding and working with resistance to change. Approaches like Motivational Interviewing have been developed as ways of working with people who have mixed feelings about change. There is massive resistance to tackling environmental issues, and we need to start being more creative in how we respond to this. There are important lessons here to learn from the addictions field.


To what extent is it possible to say that we are 'addicted to oil'?

As an addictions specialist, I'd say that industrialised societies are hooked on oil in a way that shows significant features of addiction. Many people accept this, including George W. Bush! But the term addiction can be a difficult one because it has no universally agreed definition. I still think it is a useful term though, as addictions refer to stuck patterns of behaviour that can be difficult to change even when we know they're causing harm. That's exactly what we've got with our current pattern of fossil-fuel use.


Many of my alcoholic clients find the term 'addiction' useful, because it helps explain why they find it so difficult to stop drinking. It needs more than just a conscious rational decision. Even when they do that, deeply ingrained habits can be hard to shift and temporary gains can be easily lost through relapse. But once they've accepted there's something called addiction in the way, they can give it their attention and learn strategies to tackle this.


Why might it be useful to say we are 'addicted to oil'?

In industrialised countries, a lifestyle that depends on very heavy oil use is seen as normal. The first stage in tackling a problem is to recognise it, and when we apply a term like 'addiction' to oil, it questions the way we use it. When looking at 'problematic substance use', it is useful to recognise three types of problem: hazardous use, harmful use and dependent use. Each of these can be applied to heavy oil consumption. Hazardous use is when someone's consumption of a substance generates risks for the future. Many heavy-drinkers do not think of themselves as having a problem, but if they continue to drink at high levels, they increase the risk of medical complications. In a similar way, if we continue heavy use of fossil fuels like oil, we're likely to run into two main hazards - dangerous climate change and an energy famine when oil reserves run low. There's a saying in the addictions field: "If you carry on the way you're going, you'll end up where you're headed." Our current pattern of oil use is hazardous because of where it is taking us. Harmful use is where consumption of a substance has already started causing problems. Climate change can be thought of as a toxic effect of heavy use of fossil fuels. In many parts of the world, people are already experiencing disturbed weather patterns. In Europe, heatwaves have killed thousands of people. In Africa, droughts have fuelled conflicts and famine. And in North America, an increase in the intensity of hurricanes has led to massive urban damage, most notably in New Orleans. While the future risks are much greater, the harm from climate change is already here. If someone recognised their use of a substance was a threat to life, then in normal circumstances this would be enough to motivate change. But when someone is dependent on something, the idea of stopping use, or even reducing, is threatening. So in dependent use, someone may either block out information that suggests their favoured substance is harmful, or they may continue using it, even when they know it could be killing them. Dependent use is when someone is hooked liked this. The value of recognising dependence is that it allows you to anticipate, and deal with, the additional obstacles to change this brings. Recognising oil dependence makes it easier to understand why it might be difficult to wean ourselves off our oil habit, while also pointing us towards proven strategies from the addictions field that might help us move forward.


So how can addictions treatment help?

Climate change tends to be thought of as an environmental issue, and peak oil as a resource issue: both might be seen as having distant causes that we can do little about. But oil dependence is to do with human behaviour; that's much closer to home and within our power to change. The Stages of Change model is useful here because it maps out the journey needed for recovery.


The first stage of change is becoming aware of the problem. This starts us thinking about the issue, moving us into the Contemplation Stage. But it is easy to get stuck here if a conflict develops between the part of us that sees the need for change, and the part accustomed to using the substance and not wanting to go without it. Just think of all the things in your life that you appreciate that you wouldn't have if we didn't have oil. There are so many! And they become reasons for going slow in tackling the problem.


The approach of Motivational Interviewing developed as a way of dealing with such mixed feelings. By providing a listening space where someone can voice both their concerns and their resistances, ambivalence is brought into view where it can be dealt with. This helps people get clearer about what they really want, and so move into the next stages if they want to tackle the issue.


How can insights from addictions be utilised practically by Transition


I've boiled this down to three principles that are already being applied within the Transition movement:


a) Pay attention to the steps of change that happen inside people.

One of the lessons of addictions recovery is that information giving, by itself, isn't enough. In the Stages of Change model, becoming aware of an issue is only the first step; this moves someone from Pre-contemplation to Contemplation. It is easy to get stuck at this 'thinking about' stage, and this is where insights from the addictions field are helpful. By having 'Heart and Soul groups', Transition Initiatives pay attention to the steps of change, and the blocks to change, that happen inside people. This allows them to address issues like motivation,


b) Create spaces for people to feel heard in making their own arguments for change.

A core insight of Motivational Interviewing (MI) is that when people make their own argument for change, they talk themselves into tackling an issue. Rather than trying to persuade people, the focus of MI is on creating a listening space that supports people to express their hopes and concerns. This is a way of cultivating the motivation needed to work through ambivalence and move through resistance.


Most political meetings have an active speaker talking to a relatively passive audience. A motivational interviewing approach might also add an opportunity for the audience to feel heard in making their own arguments for change. Several Transition events have done this through the use of paired listening exercises. At the launch of Transition Initiatives in Totnes, Lewes and Bristol, hundreds of people divided into pairs, with one as listener, the other as speaker. The speaker had two minutes of listening time for each of the following open sentences.


"When I think about Peak Oil and Climate Change, concerns I have include . . ."

"My positive vision for what I'd like to see happen in this town/city is . . ."

"Steps I can take to help make this happen include . . ."


The listener's role was just to give full attention to what was being said. The roles swapped after the three sentences, so that everyone got a chance to speak. This process took about twenty minutes, and visibly raised the level of energy and enthusiasm amongst those present. After the Bristol meeting, one participant said: "When we spoke in pairs, something happened in the room. That was when we became a community."


When we express our concerns, we talk ourselves into addressing them. When we give voice to our visions, we identify the destinations we want to move towards. And by describing the steps we can take, we prepare ourselves for action. This simple tool is an example of a 'motivational nudge'; it can help provoke the inner steps of change.


c) If a change seems too difficult, have a preparation stage for training ourselves.

Changing an addictive behaviour can be so difficult that people sometimes give up, believing it to be impossible. In my clinical work I've found it helpful to think of recovery as a journey that may move through a 'phase of disbelief'. I draw inspiration from adventure stories that often begin from a similar place of gloom. When the main characters rise to the challenge and begin looking for a way, they are more likely to find one. The quest for a way forward usually involves seeking out mentors and guides, who pass on the skills and insights needed to turn the impossibility around. By including a Preparation stage, the Stages of Change model offers an alternative to giving up when challenges like peak oil or climate change seem too difficult to address. The Preparation phase is where we train ourselves to strengthen our capacity to respond.


Transition Initiatives don't just involve telling people about the problem and campaigning. They also involve practical training in the skills needed for a post-oil society. But as well as practical training, psychological training is also needed in how to cultivate positive visions and find ways of dealing with inner 'dreamblockers' like fear, cynicism and disbelief. Disbelief can be challenged by seeking out inspiring examples: addictions recovery, adventure stories and Cuba's bounce-back from energy famine are reference points that support the possibility of turnarounds from oil-dependence. In my book Find Your Power I offer a toolkit of strategies for turning around feelings of impossibility and finding ways through inner blocks to change. Such inner training is part of the preparation needed for creative transition out of the oil age.


What strengths might the integration of these tools and insights add to

Transition Initiatives?

Environmental campaigns tend to focus on awareness and action. But between these there's a series of internal steps, and change can become blocked at any one of these. Transition Initiatives are strengthened when they take account of both the inner and outer dimensions of change. Without this, when we encounter resistance to change we're in danger of falling into complaint and blame, rather than developing understanding and insightful responses. There is a close parallel to what happens when someone has a drinking problem. Nagging responses in relatives are understandable, but they can deepen the resistance to change. We need to accept that when people are dependent on substances, as we are with oil, there are resistances to change that we need to take into account. The addictions field has been working with such resistance for decades. Models have evolved for understanding and working with blocks to change. Effective tools have been developed. The challenge we face is

about transition and using the tools and insights from one field in another.


The FRAMES model

One model from the addictions field that I have found to be particularly useful, and which offers a way of pulling together the threads of this chapter - indeed of the book thus far - is something known as the FRAMES model, devised by Miller and Sanchez. In the context of this book, the FRAMES model offers a template for how we can apply insights from addiction to practical responses to energy descent. The overlapping of these two fields is very exciting. In essence, the FRAMES model comprises six elements commonly included in brief interventions to addiction that have shown to be particularly effective. We could think of them as being best practice for responding to addiction.


The acronym FRAMES stands for:




Menu of options



(Not in any kind of chronological order).


Feedback of personal risk or impairment

In the drug and alcohol field, this relates to offering the client an honest assessment of their addiction problem and its potential consequences in order to raise awareness of the problem. In relation to peak oil, many groups begin by showing the film The End of Suburbia, a frank assessment of the peak oil challenge. An essential element of initiating successful responses is making the level of the problem clear in stark terms. There is clearly a balance to be struck between the potential sense of disempowerment and trauma that may be generated and a positive solutions-focused programme.


Emphasis on personal responsibility for change

For Miller and Sanchez, this relates to making an alcoholic/addict aware of the degree of personal responsibility that breaking the addiction will require. In the energy descent field, this relates to emphasising that the creation of the problems of peak oil and climate change is the result of many individual actions, and that the solution requires taking responsibility for these actions. Clearly, a response akin to a 'wartime mobilisation' will require the large majority of people taking on some of this responsibility. The emphasis here is on individual responsibility and choice, rather than merely telling people what they should do.


Clear advice to change

Clear advice needs to be offered to break an addictive pattern. Advice has been shown to be effective, but it needs to be given as a recommendation not as a prescription. It can come in two forms: firstly advice to individuals for modifying their own lifestyles, such as energyefficiency advice, and secondly, as community-scale strategies for energy descent. Indeed, one could see an Energy Descent Plan as being clear advice to change on a community scale, setting out a plan for responding to what is rapidly becoming seen as a disastrous addiction with potentially catastrophic results.


A menu of alternative change options

In order to feel ownership and a sense of responsibility for an Energy Descent Action Plan, people need to feel that they have explored the alternatives. To arrive at the recommendations this plan would contain requires a process of exploring what the different options might be. Here the use of scenario planning is very useful, as it enables people to project forward and explore different possible outcomes (some of these scenarios were explored in Part One). Other tools that are useful here are visioning and backcasting, and one of the forms of this being explored by Transition Initiatives is the Transition Tales project (see pp.118 and 200) being developed in Totnes, which invites people to tell stories through a variety of media, making a power-down future feel like a tangible reality.


Therapeutic empathy as a counselling style

In the field of addictions, the idea that aggressive, authoritarian or coercive approaches are effective tools is increasingly being discredited. What is now accepted as better practice is for the role of the counsellor to be supportive, friendly, encouraging and empathetic. Similarly, any approach that seeks to engage a significant proportion of the population in responses to energy descent has to skilfully engage with people and instill a sense of optimism regarding the possibility of change, rather than berating them for their planet-wrecking ways. This creation of a sense of embarking on a collective journey which Chris Johnstone refers to may well be key to this.


This principle also implies that the dialogue is a two-way process, that the person imparting the information is open to receiving information as well as giving it. Rather than telling people what they should be thinking and/or doing, an empathic approach seeks to engage as well as educate.


Enhancement of client self-efficacy or optimism

This is key to the success of this process. The term self-efficacy refers to an individual's estimate or personal judgement of his or her own ability to succeed in reaching a specific goal, such as giving up alcohol or reducing their degree of oil dependency. Building this sense of 'can do' is essential in catalyzing change on the scale we are talking about. You will see in Part Three some of the ways in which Transition Initiatives are building this sense of optimism and working, through various approaches, to build self-efficacy - a community-wide belief that we can actually do this. This is one of the key areas that goes beyond the familiar approach to environmental campaigning with which we have become most familiar, that is about disseminating information. There is a real challenge too, in terms of how to create that sense of self-efficacy in diverse populations and how to design an approach that engages the diverse range of people that make up our communities.