Holly Roland developed the mobile therapy brainchild in grad school. Her fellow soon-to-be therapist classmates didn’t exactly see her vision back then, of luring folks into a bus off the …
Holly Roland developed the mobile therapy brainchild in grad school. Her fellow soon-to-be therapist classmates didn’t exactly see her vision back then, of luring folks into a bus off the street.
But she held onto the idea: mobile outreach offering free- or low-cost therapy within communities, especially for underserved groups, like women, children, the elderly, and BIPOC individuals.
As a licensed counselor at her own practice in Quilcene, Roland recognized that many people have excessive barriers to accessing therapy or simply don’t have providers in their area. So, she wrote up a business plan in hopes of bridging the widening mental health care gaps around the Northwest in the form of a traveling bus that promotes guided letter writing as a means of therapy.
With a background in writing (Roland is a poet that specializes in expressive writing therapy with an impressive resume of tutoring and editing), she aims to put Luna Bus’ focus on wellness through composition, providing an accessible space where anyone can come in and experience the mental health benefits of expressive writing. She wants people to be able to see what it feels like to write as a means of healthy self-expression without having to become a therapy client.
“Writing is so powerful,” Roland said, adding that it’s been integral to her career.
She notes that writing as therapy is empirically supported, citing research that implies letter writing improves moods and that ruminative thinking can help shift perspectives, regulate emotional states, and help individuals recognize behavioral patterns.
It also helps, simply, to celebrate positive life events.
“Our society is individualist and we’ve been so isolated over the pandemic and I think people just feel alone,” Roland said.
She also discussed the ways writing can help build connections with friends and family.
“So that’s a hope, to us, that it offers that service,” she said.
The bus will give space for reflection and an opportunity to be witnessed in a safe, guided outlet.
Roland’s website, quilcounsel.com, explains the numerous benefits: “Letter writing is a tool for meaning-making, reframing life’s challenges and improving emotional and psychological health.” Roland believes letters give us permission to share.
But, she’s no stranger to questions like, “Why come onto the bus when I can do it at home?”
She wants the bus to be a kind of retreat space where people can find support for brainstorming.
“Sometimes [writing] can be really overwhelming, if it’s a difficult emotion to express or process or you’re reconnecting with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time,” Roland explained.
She’s going to be in the bus to help iron out those stressors and offer guidance, even if that’s just some validating feedback or reflective listening, which is one of the skills she has as a therapist, she said.
She’ll also offer bells and whistles to make the whole process a true experience, with aromatherapy options, a vintage typewriter, supplies to jazz up letters.
“This is their space,” Roland said, clarifying that she’s there for as much or as little hands-on guidance as the visitors may prefer.
While the main goal right now is to be in the midst of the community, meet people where they are at, and offer comforting therapeutic services, she hopes to expand eventually, with things like facilitating pen pal connections, where people can explore what it’s like to connect with someone in some other part of the world, or starting a podcast where, if people want to, they can share their work.
“It can be really healing cause then it goes from internalizing to external witnessing and I can invite people to be part of that,” Roland said.
She hopes someday to offer a similar open-mic experience as well and start regular writing groups.
For now, the Luna Bus remains a dream as Roland seeks $8,000 in grassroots fundraising to purchase and convert a bus.
For now, most of the money is coming from her own pockets and small gifts from her community. She hopes to have raised enough money to open Luna’s doors after mid-June.
To contribute to the effort, visit gofund.me/afbb93b2.
For more information on Holly Roland, her practice, and Luna the Letter Bus, go to quilcounsel.com.
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