Author Archives: Rebecca Lexa

Book Review: The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook by Charlton Hall

The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook
Charlton Hall, MMFT, LMFT
Self-Published, 2015
242 pages

I’ve enjoyed the older version of this book, The Mindful Ecotherapy Handbook, for a number of years, so I am happy to now be reviewing an expanded text with even more exercises, structure and more overt ecopsychology-based material.

Read more here.

When Ecotherapy Isn’t a Good Fit

So you’re interested in seeing an ecotherapist. You’ve done the research to find a practitioner in your area, you’ve made payment arrangements, and you’re eagerly awaiting your first session with someone you hope will help you use nature to heal what ails you mentally and/or emotionally.

Read more here.

Eco-Poetry: Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

There are a number of poems that I’ve read over the years that I feel encapsulate some of the spirit of ecotherapy. It’s not just the nature-based imagery, though that is certainly an important element. I also look for poems that speak to healing and solace, and perhaps a bit of unconditional positive regard. After all, ecopsychology in action is meant to improve someone’s overall mental health, with nature as a crucial guide along the way.

When I was thinking of poetry to share on Watershed Ecotherapy, Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” was the very first one I thought of.

Read the rest here.

Guest Post: Wilderness As Healing

Our first guest post here at Watershed Ecotherapy certainly sets the bar high! Michael Gallo, PsyD, MSc has graciously offered his doctoral dissertation, Wilderness as Healing: A Comprehensive Survey of the Literature and Critical Analysis, for public view. The abstract is as follows:

This comprehensive survey of literature with critical thematic analyses was conducted by Michael Gallo to form a contemporary perspective of Wilderness as Healing. Understanding existing perspectives of therapies integrating wilderness experiences was a pertinent foundation for this review. The dearth of prior literature and limited population-specific research necessitated focusing on underlying theoretical constructs as well as the author’s personal experiences as a foundation for new perspectives regarding the potentials for treatment applications incorporating wilderness experiences within clinical psychotherapies. This study facilitated answering three guiding research questions, generating a comprehensive perspective of wilderness as healing benefitting clients by using (a) wilderness therapy, (b) experiences in nature, and (c) relational psychology combined with the philosophies of both transpersonal ecology and ecotherapy practice. This work stands as a foundation for furthering understanding. The potential implications for use within treatment for at-risk youth, women, and families are vast. Additional research is required to develop specific recommendations for practice with these and other populations. Definition of the field through further research is the most critical recommendation for future study.

Read the entire dissertation here in PDF format.

If you would like to contribute a guest post to Watershed Ecotherapy, please read the guidelines here.

Why Be an Ecotherapist?

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.

Read more here.

Ecopsychology and Self-Care

Next Monday, July 24, is International Self-Care Day. Self-care is the act of attending to your health needs, mental as well as physical, and particularly those practices that do more than just address the most rudimentary, survival-oriented parts of our health. When you take time out to rest and relax, or give yourself nourishing food instead of junk food, or make sure you get plenty of sleep, you are engaging in self-care.

According to the International Self-Care Foundation, there are seven pillars of self-care. I’d like to take a bit of an ecopsychological approach to each of them. In ecopsychology we tend to focus on the mind quite a bit because that’s the general bailiwick of psychology, but the supposed divide between the mind and body grows narrower with each study that shows that the two are closely linked. This is especially pertinent to ecopsychology because it posits that we are intimately linked to the ecosystems we live in both through our experiences (mind) and ingestions (body).

Moreover, our bodies are the most immediate part of our ecosystem that we experience every single moment of our lives. By caring for our most personal piece of nature, we create habits of responsibility and awareness that we can then also turn to the rest of nature and our relationships with it. If you tend a vegetable garden every day, not only are you making yourself feel better with outdoor time and exercise and good food, you’re also tending to a cultivated bit of nature that supports soil fungi, tiny animals and a host of plants.

Read more here.

How to Be Hopeful in the Time of Climate Change

My last few articles have dealt with the distress that climate change and other environmental disasters often cause, and how ecopsychology is at a good place to address those feelings of fear, despair, anger and more. Today I want to offer you some ways in which you can promote feelings of hope and optimism in yourself and others, not just to assuage your fears, but to make you better prepared to act in ways that can reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet and ourselves.

Read more here.

Ecopsychology in Defiance of Fear

Fear, like any emotion, has its uses. It tells us when something is a danger to us so that we avoid it and hopefully save ourselves. It’s our internal warning system, and it is likely one of the very oldest functions of the animal brain. But like anything, it can be overused and overstimulated to the point where it becomes maladaptive–no longer the best way to respond to a situation.

A few days ago saw the publication of a scare piece from New York Magazine about all the horrible ways we’re going to die due to climate change. Now, I am fully on board with the fact that climate change is happening, and that it’s caused by us. And yes, I have my pessimistic moments where I look at how many forces are perpetuating the causes of climate change out of greed and ignorance. It can be tempting, in the light of this worst-of-the-worst case scenario, to just roll over and give up.

That’s why I appreciated this retort from Grist (complete with links to fact-checking) that, while it acknowledges that climate change’s worst outlook is pretty bad, shows that the NYMag piece is way over the top.

Read more here.

Book Review: Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Paul Hawken (editor)
Penguin Books, 2017
234 pages

My last couple of articles here have dealt with allowing ourselves to grieve for losses in nature, and discussing trauma and resilience in the time of climate change. I wanted to round out the trifecta with a more concrete set of solutions, and these come in the form of one of the best books I’ve read this year.

97% of scientists who are actually studying climate change (as opposed to making armchair claims) have found enough evidence to be convinced that climate change is anthropogenic–caused by humans. And the rate of climate change is so rapid on a geological scale that it’s set to seriously disrupt every system on the planet, from ocean currents to animal migrations to weather patterns. As I’ve mentioned before, this impending scene of doom–which we’re already seeing the first signs of–has a lot of people scared, anxious, angry, even hopelessly nihilistic. Much of that is because we don’t feel empowered to actually do anything, especially when government officials and corporations both seem hell-bent on continuing the trend in the name of money.

This book, then, is a serious antidote to that.

Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

In my last article, I talked about how we need to create space to grieve for environmental losses. No loss is greater than that of the entire planet, and while we’re not likely to have the Earth obliterated by the Death Star any time soon, several times throughout its history it has experienced mass extinctions and devastating climate shifts. Our species has existed for the past couple hundred thousand years in a relatively stable period, save for a few ice ages. But as adaptable as we are, it remains to be seen whether we’d survive the sort of extreme climate shift that preceded something as great as the Permian Extinction, which killed off over half of all species.

No one knows for certain how bad our current anthropogenic climate change will be, and whether we’ll be able to reverse our trajectory in enough time to avoid the worst. But as the only known species that can be aware of our future, we have the burden of knowing in just how many ways something can go very, very wrong. And then we get to thinking about it, and worrying over it, and anxiety sets in, and that will do a number on just about anyone’s mental and emotional health.

In fact, climate change is possibly one of the most urgent and critical topics for ecopsychology to address. Yes, it is good for us to work toward reconnecting people with the rest of nature. But we also need to address our feelings toward nature, to include those less pleasant ones like the worry and fear.

Everyone’s method for doing so is different. But one of the key factors that everyone can draw from is resilience.

Read more here.