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  • M. Guy

What's in a Name: Why Acorn & Anchor?

Updated: Oct 11, 2019




The Ideas of Imagery, Symbolism, and Metaphor :

What is in a name, well, when the name Acorn & Anchor Mental Health Services was conceived, it was with symbolism and metaphor in mind. In counselling and therapy, people may look at the ideas, thoughts, and feelings behind images and use these to create metaphors that explain their emotional state or what they need.

“What we call a symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning.” (Jung, 1964).

From a very early age, symbols are used for communication tools in our development. They are also tools our brains use that help develop the concept of ourselves, and our social-emotional world. (Vallotton, C. D., & Ayoub, C. C. (2010). When you look at an image it becomes embedded in your brain.

People tend to remember the images that bring positive emotions. Images that are seen as strong, powerful, representing potential and growth, and those that represent support, grounding, hope, and stability. These merge with language to create a person’s personal view of the images and therefore, a reflection of a person’s thoughts and inner experiences.

That being said, these two symbols together mean something to me. There are good reasons that I decided on them. Oh, and also, they make an awesome logo.

The Acorn:

Throughout history, the acorn has been a symbol of growth and potential. The acorn as a seed is dormant, resting, and as it grows, it experiences change and growth into a beautiful, strong tree. People also require restful periods in life, as well as times to change and grow. When I think of the acorn in relation to a client/therapist relationship, I see the acorn as both client and therapist as both experience learning and growth together in sessions.

The acorn can also be seen as a ‘child’ of the oak, representing human relationships. It is expressed in the proverb "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow." The acorn’s life begins within the oak tree (parent) and develops it’s own roots and individuality as it grows. Children and families are a specialty in my own practice and I think the little acorn is a perfect symbol of the growth and achievements of therapy and counselling.

The acorn is also a symbol of strength and power. "Because the acorn only appears on a fully mature oak, it is often considered a symbol of the patience needed to attain goals over long periods of time. It represents perseverance and hard work." (Wigington, 2019).


The Anchor:

The anchor has also been used as symbolism in many cultures throughout history. It is used as a representation of stability, security, hope, and safety. It is used in insignias and emblems all over the world to indicate support, strength and honour. Anchors represent feeling grounded and having a sense of our place in the world. In a counselling relationship, the anchor may also represent the support of a therapist.

The Cambridge Dictionary describes an anchor not just in a traditional nautical sense but also as “someone or something that gives support when needed: ‘She was my anchor when things were difficult for me’”. An anchor in that sense, could also describe a parent and other family members who are meant to support and regulate a child’s growth and emotional responses. They may also be viewed as the foundation for a child’s sense of self.


The anchor is a versatile image; it may also reflect the sense of movement, growth, and new beginnings. For many, this metaphorical symbol may help describe our feelings when making difficult changes to our lives and “setting sail on a new journey.” Services such as therapy are a way for one to experience personal growth and movement through; understanding the ways that our lives are shaped, the neuroscience behind our behaviours, the development of personal goals, and the sense of achievement when goals are met. For a person who is going through difficult times, struggling with mental health or emotional wellness issues, or has had a tumultuous past, “the anchor can be a representation of their safe place. It indicates their desire to move forward to better seas with a brighter future” (Karma and Luck, 2016).

In my own private practice, as Michelle Guy MSW, RSW, CYC, I often use “Practice Anchors” or anchors for attention and focus. These may include mindfulness-based techniques like imagery, breathing and self/body awareness. All of these are ways to help one feel grounded in sessions and will help develop lifelong coping skills. With these thoughts in mind, the anchor is another perfect symbol for a mental health and wellness service.


So, That's What's in a Name...

In short, I love the thoughts, feelings, and metaphors that these images tend to invoke in the minds of people in many cultures, and throughout history. I decided that they each work on their own, but that they work better together to represent what I believe mental health and wellness is all about. They can represent a service and provider, therapist and client, parents and children, couple relationships, and individual mind and body connection.

I also see them as a clear symbol of the growth, support, and learning that comes from a solid therapeutic relationship. I feel like they work perfectly with my own professional and personal philosophies and are a true representation of the kind of practice I have established over the last 25 years. They also represent the kind of people, professionals, and services that I wish provide access and services to through Acorn & Anchor Mental Health Services.




Fun fact: The acorn and anchor were used as an insignia for the American Navy Nurse Corps. (1941). The nurses were considered strong and supportive and represented safety and security to those in need of care. The insignia was worn on uniforms for several years and was made up of an acorn and oak leaf over an anchor.





References:

Anchor Definition: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/anchor, retrieved Oct. 8, 2019.

The Anchor Symbol and What it Means. (November 14, 2016). In Karma and Luck. Retrieved from https://www.karmaandluck.com/blogs/news/the-anchor-symbol-and-what-it-means

Jung, C.G., (1964). Man and his Symbols. Anchor Press, New York, U.S.A.

First published in the United States of America in 1964. Retrieved from https://monoskop.org/images/9/97/Von_Franz_Luise_Marie_Jung_Gustav_Carl_Man_and_His_Symbols_1988.pdf

Vallotton, C. D., & Ayoub, C. C. (2010). Symbols Build Communication and Thought: The Role of Gestures and Words in the Development of Engagement Skills and Social-Emotional Concepts during Toddlerhood. Social development (Oxford, England), 19(3), 601–626. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2009.00549.x

Wigington, Patti. "Acorns and Oaks." Learn Religions, Jun. 25, 2019, learnreligions.com/acorns-and-oaks-2562305.


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