Exerpt from EcotherapyHeals.com, the website for the anthology Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, edited by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist. You can read more about this over of the field on the website for the book at www.ecotherapyheals.com.
“According to Howard Clinebell, who wrote a 1996 book on the topic, “ecotherapy” refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. He also called it “green therapy” and “earth-centered therapy.” Although Clinebell preferred the term “ecotherapy,” which includes work with the body, to “ecopsychology,” the study of our psychological relations with the rest of nature, it is clear that ecopsychology provides a solid theoretical, cultural, and critical foundation for ecotherapeutic practice. For this reason we regard ecotherapy as applied ecopsychology.
As an umbrella term for nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing, ecotherapy points to the need to reinvent psychotherapy and psychiatry as if nature and the human-nature relationship matters. It takes into account the latest scientific understandings of our universe and the deepest indigenous wisdom. This perspective reveals the critical fact that people are intimately connected with, embedded in, and inseparable from the rest of nature. Grasping this fact deeply shifts our understanding of how to heal the human psyche and the currently dysfunctional and even lethal human-nature relationship. It becomes clear that what happens to nature for good or ill impacts people and vice versa, leading to the development of new methods of individual and community psychotherapeutic diagnosis and treatment.
Ecotherapeutic work as Clinebell conceived it takes guidance from an Ecological Circle of three mutually interacting operations or dynamics:
• Inreach: receiving and being nurtured by the healing presence of nature, place, Earth.
• Upreach: the actual experience of this more-than-human vitality as we relocate our place within the natural world.
• Outreach: activities with other people that care for the planet.
Closing the circle keeps ecotherapy from narrowly focused self-absorption, further nature exploitation for human purposes, feel-good maneuvers, or thinking good thoughts as planetary panaceas. Ecotherapy as applied ecopsychology employs many methods in disciplined and systematic attempts to reconnect the psyche and the body with the terrestrial sources of all healing.”
Our View on How Ecotherapy Works
We have found that thinking and talking more about life issues does not necessarily lead to the lasting change one desires, even if we gain new insights into these concerns. Instead, the greatest facilitator of change is direct experience felt in the body and validated by the meaningful reflection of other people and Nature. To help facilitate this process, our therapeutic approach is body-oriented, mindfulness-based and weaves in a personal, intimate relationship with self, other and Nature. Sessions may be indoors or out on the land and may combine Ecotherapy with numerous other approaches.
Hallmarks of Our Ecotherapeutic Approach
There are many kinds of ecotherapy, or applied ecopsychology, including animal-assisted therapies, horticultural therapy and more. We have developed our own approach that integrates these elements:
- Somatic (Body-Oriented)
Our bodies are the aspect of Nature with which we’re most familiar and within which we experience most of the phenomena of our lives. Additionally, it is through somatic, or body, awareness that we are most able to achieve powerful and lasting therapeutic and spiritual growth. It is here that we experience our emotions, beauty, conflict, doubt, pleasure and so much more of what it is to be human. And so it is through our bodies that we have the greatest access to our deeper selves, and, significantly, to the parts of ourselves outside of the control of our busy, thinking mind (or ego).
Modern neuroscience is confirming what many have perceived for eons: The more we can be awake to and aware of the myriad layers of our experience, the more we can influence and change how we feel and how we live our lives. It is through compassionate awareness of the many channels of experience that we can help undo old, stuck patterns and birth new ones. This is an essential component to facilitating gentle, potent and lasting psychological and personal change.
- Understanding Human Attachment and Foundational Attachment
It’s well-documented that many of the templates of personality and healthy functioning are created through our early childhood relationships with our primary caregivers, our basic Human Attachment. Naturally, the healing of attachment wounds endured from this life phase must be addressed in a healing human relationship. We facilitate this healing relationship through the therapist-client relationship and through relationships between members of the groups, couples and families in our programs.
From so many perspectives, it is becoming clear that our personal, intimate relationship to Nature is also crucial to healthy functioning. How can you be at home in yourself or your life if you don’t feel at home or at ease in Nature? If you haven’t made peace with death and its place in the cycles of life? If you can’t ever embrace the dirt or feel fondness for a tree or rock? We call this bond or fundamental sense of belonging our Foundational Attachment. And, most contemporary westerners are suffering from profound and comprehensive disconnection from Nature and its natural rhythms, elements and aspects. It is time for psychology to embrace Nature and the undeniable fact that humans are a part of Nature. Our trainings and sessions facilitate healing on this plane that is largely overlooked by traditional therapies.
Along with the primacy of the Human-Nature Relationship in healing, relationship between client-therapist and with other group members, when applicable, is a key vehicle for supporting growth and transformation.
Our staff work as therapists and mentors and are available for private sessions. Learn more about our background and therapeutic work on our Who We Are page or click on a name below to be directed to a practitioner’s website. Or, Contact Us for more information.