If you’re a mental health care practitioner, you probably already have a pretty good toolkit for working with your clients. The good news is that no matter what your preferred modalities are, you can likely add ecotherapy to your practice. I’d like to offer a few reasons why you might like to become an ecotherapist:
- Rather than being a specific modality like CBT or humanistic psychology, ecopsychology/ecotherapy is a green lens through which psychology and therapeutic practice in general can be viewed. You can get certificates and degrees in ecopsychology to increase your competence in it, and there are also a growing number of books on the subject.
- Ecotherapy allows you and your client to explore a whole new dimension of their lives: their relationship to nature. Many people have strong emotions and experiences with nature that they may not realize have affected them so deeply. For example, the loss of a favorite childhood tree or creek may have been traumatic for them, but they felt they had nowhere to go to talk about it and so it affects them to this day.
- This also means that nature can be used to help clients heal. Just being out in nature is good for us on multiple levels. But for those working through more difficult situations, whether trauma or mental illness or addiction, time spent in nature could be a crucial part of their healing process.
- Ecotherapy offers a wide variety of tools clients can use both in session and at home to improve their mental health. This can be as simple as taking a walk outside a few times a week in between sessions, to planning a more intensive weekend retreat for personal restoration and stress relief. Activities like gardening, forest bathing and animal-assisted therapy all overlap with ecotherapy’s focus on using nature to heal.
- Ecotherapy is also good for ecotherapists! Every time we help a client reconnect with nature, it’s a reminder to us to not neglect our own self-care and nature time. If you lead any nature walks or therapy retreats in wilderness areas, you get the same physical and mental health benefits from being out in nature that everyone else does.
- By helping your clients reconnect with nature, you could be helping them discover (or rediscover!) a sense of care for our planet, and the more people who share in that responsibility, the more everyone benefits. Some clients even choose to volunteer with conservation groups as a form of self-care and socializing.
- Ecotherapy doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes it’s as simple as including a few questions about a client’s relationship with nature in the intake form, and then discussing their responses with them.
If this sounds like something you’d like to incorporate into your practice, look through some of the links I’ve included in this article, as well as those up in the menu at the top of this page. There’s always room for more ecotherapists, and plenty of people out there we can help as they create a healthier life for themselves.