Surf Circle Adapts to 2020

When Surf Circle held its first session in February of 2019, founders Nathan Greene, PsyD, and Adam Moss, PsyD, were excited to hold in-person sessions with groups of adolescents navigating issues in their lives. After a successful first year, Wright Institute Clinical Psychology Program graduates Greene (class of 2017) and Moss (class of 2016), alongside their former mentors Christopher Arrillaga and Roberto Lascano have had to change their strategy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As they told the Washington Post this month, Greene and Moss held sessions via Zoom from March through September of this year. After speaking with the group members and their parents, the therapists decided to resume socially distanced meetings on the beach.

"We began by standing in the knee-deep water of the ocean. Then we sat on the beach (six feet apart) and reflected on the strangeness of the pandemic," Moss told the Washington Post. Several group members expressed their feelings of sadness and isolation, and the group members felt a sense of closeness and community from each other. Moss and Greene plan to continue conducting outdoor sessions as long as it's safe to do so.

Greene and Moss have both found surfing as a source of mindfulness through the years. "When you're out there, it's very hard to focus on anything other than what's in front of you," Greene told the Wright Institute in January of 2019. Now that they've experienced the same, Surf Circle's group members feel similarly. "The ocean, like life, is powerful and unpredictable," one group member recently told Greene and Moss.

Surf Circle's work was also recently featured in the International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology., where Josh Dickson discussed the group in his piece "Surf therapy as a means of deepening connection in a group therapy process." Dickson explores how the setting that surf circle provides can assist the healing process for each group member. "We're passionate about creating an expansive therapeutic healing space that extends beyond what is accessible in a therapy room" says Moss. "We're engaging during a process that supports the individual growth also because [of] the social engagement of each participant."

One of Surf Circle's central goals is to explore the development of healthy masculinity. "We're all male-identified clinicians who are really interested by working with older boys or young men who are battling what it means to become an individual in our current context of toxic masculinity," says Moss. "Male identity development [is] often quite challenging and quite nuanced, also as rewarding."

Greene and Moss have heavily relied on the ocean to assist in their work. "The water really can teach you calm, patience, trust, and acceptance," Greene said in 2019. "It's a remarkable modality and it's easy for me to see why." While they haven't been able to surf with the group for most of the year, they hope to do so again soon.

"With Surf Circle, we get to work in a variety of untraditional contexts that emphasize the importance of maintaining a therapeutic relationship," said Moss last year. Through the challenges that 2020 has presented, the Surf Circle team has maintained that therapeutic relationship and hopes to get back in the water soon.
Instagram: @the_surf_circle

Read about Surf Circle in the Washington Post and the International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology.