- Are you someone who feels a special connection with nature or animals?
- Are you wanting to reduce stress in your life?
- Are you feeling stuck and wanting to live a more happy, authentic, and inspired life?
- Are you feeling anxious or despairing about the state of the environment or climate change?
- If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may benefit from nature therapy (also known as ecotherapy).
Nature heals. Nature soothes. Nature restores. Nature connects. Research now confirms how powerful and important nature is in regulating our nervous systems, fostering both mental and physical health, and helping us be more connected to other people and the larger world. As both an experienced naturalist and outdoor guide, and a psychotherapist with extensive training in eco-psychology and earth-based ceremonies, I am uniquely prepared to use nature as a healing partner in our work together.
Outdoor Sessions and Nature Prescriptions
At its simplest, nature therapy involves conducting our counseling sessions together outdoors or me prescribing outdoor nature-connecting activities for you as part of your ‘homework’ between sessions. Such prescriptions could be as simple as taking the time for a daily walk outdoors, or finding a ‘sit spot’ outdoors where you can regularly have time outdoors alone to observe and connect with nature.
Walk and Talk Therapy
Some people find that they feel more comfortable in the therapeutic relationship talking about their problems and issues when they are walking. This parallel way of interacting, as opposed to sitting across from each other and making eye contact, can lead to a more open and relaxed session (and therefore a more productive session). The walking can also stimulate endorphins (the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our bodies). Walking outdoors in a natural environment enhances further the healing and calming process for mind, body, and spirit.
Mindfulness in Nature
Mindfulness and nature support each other powerfully. Nature can help enhance our practice of mindfulness (being present in the here and now) because of its calming aspects and its endless beauty and variety. Mindfulness can help enhance our connection to nature and therefore, our healing of whatever it is we are working on. The practice of mindfulness outdoors in nature is regularly included on meditation retreats. Mindfulness practice outdoors can involve a variety of different activities that I can facilitate. These include guided nature meditations, body radar exercises, focusing on one sensory input at a time (for example, noticing what birds you can hear while listening silently), ‘fox walking’, or walking meditation.
The Japanese have developed a practice they call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. A forest bath involves being alone in nature, wandering with no particular goal and no fixed destination. Forest bathing is a form of mindfulness practice because we focus our attention on what’s coming in through our senses, what we see, hear, smell, touch and feel. Forest bathing has been researched extensively as an effective health intervention for our increasingly urbanized and stressed-out lives. I can guide you in forest bathing or teach you how to do it on your own.
Working with Eco-anxiety or Climate Grief
As Earth continues to warm due to the activity of humans, as climate catastrophes mount, as increasing amounts of toxins and plastics are being spewed into the environment, and as a massive extinction crisis proceeds, more and more people are experiencing what have been described as ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’. Are you feeling anxious or fearful about the state of the future for humanity and other living beings? That’s eco-anxiety. Are you feeling sad, depressed or despairing about climate change or other human impacts on the environment and other species? If so, that could be called climate grief.
If you bring these issues to most psychotherapists, you will likely be directed by the therapist to ponder what personal or family issue is being reflected by the larger world – thus denying the reality of the feelings coming up. The reality is we are in the midst of a human-created sixth great extinction wave and a rate of climate change that is way beyond natural and is clearly dangerous to both humans and other species on Earth. It is natural to feel fear in the face of a grave danger, or sad at the prospect of a future that looks bleak and hopeless – that’s not crazy, what we are doing to the Earth is crazy. I will validate your feelings about these changes, support you in truly grieving the losses, and assist you in finding ways to both calm and balance your nervous system and find motivation and empowerment to act in ways that can contribute to positive change.