Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy, which is the application of Ecopsychology, is a therapeutic modality that emphasizes the importance of the human-nature relationship. In mainstream psychology, it is nearly universally recognized that the environment influences individuals to a considerable degree, impacting how our psyche and sense of self are formed, particularly in relation to others. In ecopsychology, the emphasis is on the evolutionary reality of the human species, and the reality that we are animals who have evolved within the context of a human-nature relationship, and a deep relationship with more-than-human nature. Thus, our psyches are biologically and psychologically adapted towards connection with the natural world, and without this connection, our psyches, sense of self, and sense of the world develop in distorted and less than ideal ways. From time immemorial, our ancestors have had profoundly deep connections to the natural world, and even a generation ago, the opportunity to maintain this connection was far greater than it is today.

 

Given that many modern people (especially those living in cities) are especially separated from the natural world, and that our separation from the natural world has happened rather rapidly, ecopsychology recognizes that this separation can be traumatic and have adverse consequences for our wellbeing. Moreover, since we have developed as a species to have a relationship with our environment and more-than-human nature, the loss of our natural environment, the loss of other species, and climate change give rise to eco-anxiety and eco-grief, because we are losing vital connections that sustain our wellbeing. It is healthy and natural to experience suffering as one senses an unraveling of one's environment, especially when one recognizes the beauty and significance of the natural world. Yet, like other experiences that bring about a sense of loss and anxiety, psychotherapy holds an important role in the healing and transformation process, and ecotherapy, in particular, is especially valuable in the context of suffering related to concerns about the environment and climate.

Ecotherapy specifically addresses these concerns by delivering therapy within the context of a natural setting. Instead of taking place in the therapy room, the ecotherapist and client meet in an outdoor space (such as a park or nature trail) where we can specifically address ecological concerns in a setting that is more environmentally intimate. As we find ourselves face to face with the natural world that we care so deeply for, we discover therapeutic opportunities that would otherwise be absent. In mainstream therapies, it is not uncommon for a family member to be brought into the therapy room to provide more direct opportunities for healing, as inter-relational dynamics enrich the possibilities for a transformative experience. In a similar manner, in ecotherapy, by conducting therapy in a nature-based setting, the possibilities for healing and transformation are enriched as the inter-relational dynamics between the client and nature are evoked. Ecotherapy is a great adjunct therapy for those already undergoing therapy, especially when the client is especially concerned with environmental and climate-related issues. Ecotherapy is also a great option for those who have never had an opportunity to develop intimate relationships with the natural world, and for those who once had profound connections to the natural world but feel they now lack quality opportunities to connect with nature.

© 2019 by Whole Health KC, LLC