ECOPSYCHOLOGY & ECOTHERAPY
Ecopsychology is an emerging discipline that brings together psychology, ecology, environmental philosophy, politics and spirituality, with the aim to remedy human’s alienation from nature and facilitate a more intimate relationship between humans and the more-than-human world (nature) that promotes both personal and planetary health and well-being. The ecopsychological movement emerged partly out of necessity and despair in light of the environmental crisis. The over-exploitation of the Earth’s resources, combined with climate change – now an undeniable fact with its effect witnessed around the world – has been fuelling economic crises and social unrest in many countries around the globe. Ecopsychology is aiming to raise awareness of the destruction of the Earth and empower humans to take action and lead more sustainable and natural lives. Fundamentally, ecopsychology is an active inquiry, oriented toward promoting tangible change in the way we humans grow our food and consume, how we deal with waste and, most importantly, how we relate to other animals and the natural world. Implicit in this inquiry is the questioning of human supremacy over the more-than-human world.
Ecotherapy is the applied field of ecopsychology, where the principles and theories of ecopsychology are put into practice. Ecotherapy practices include horticultural therapy, green exercise, animal-assisted therapy, wilderness therapy, natural lifestyle therapy, community ecotherapy and counselling and psychotherapy in nature (one-to-one or group therapy).
As an ecopsychologist and ecotherapist, I use ecotherapeutic and experiential practices, in combination with contemplative inquiry (meditation), to try to bridge the theory-practice dualism and find ways to help humans, organisations and the more-than-human world to heal and flourish. In my opinion, healing and flourishing are directly related and depended on a connection and relationship with nature. The philosophy of my ecotherapeutic interventions is heavily influenced by modern environmental virtue ethics that aspire to cultivate good moral and ecologically conscious humans that are ecocentric rather than egocentric. The services that I offer are:
- Ecopsychological consultation for organisations and institutions (policy, strategy and staff education and consultation)
- Facilitation of retreats (collective and personal) and experiential workshops
For the past five years, I have been running Nature Encounter Group retreats. These are week-long retreats that utilise mind and body methods to facilitate a congruent meeting between human and nature, which goes beyond the bounds of language and intellectualism. The retreats offer an experiential, embodied, and integrated way, to reawaken communication, and foster an empathic and intimate relationship, between humans and nature. Through immediate, sensual and non-verbal experience, the human-nature divide fades, and one is “coming to his/her senses” both figuratively and practically. From this, develops heightened, experiential sensitivity, which often results in new ways of seeing and being with nature and, most importantly, with oneself. These retreats are designed to fundamentally provide a framework outside of language to assist you to find your own way to encounter and connect with nature and yourself. The experience is deeply personal and self-directed. In this context, nature becomes truly the main therapist. The retreat, is a highly practical and adaptable, ecotherapeutic tool, that can be applied in various group settings and contexts, often in the form of a short workshop. I have presented Nature Encounter Groups at the annual Edge Of the Wilde Ecopsychology Conference, where the retreat was adapted as a workshop titled: Coming To Our Senses; Encountering the Ecological Self and Nature.
Another aspect of my work in the field of ecopsychology and ecotherapy is to facilitate consciousness and awareness raising workshops regarding environmental issues (such as ecological destruction and animal’s rights). My approach is based on compassion and understanding, instead of blaming and shaming. I believe that, in principle, humans have the capacity for empathy and care towards the more-than-human world, and that this capacity can be cultivated to help create more interconnected, sustainable human and nature communities. Additionally, through active scholarship, I research and put forward theories into the causes of human-nature alienation. Recently, I have been developing a theory on the concept of eco-amnesia, to account for human alienation from the more-than-human world, while I also explore methods to address this alienation through practical behaviour change.
One to one ecotherapeutic counselling, psychotherapy and coaching in nature
For many years I have been facilitating client's requests to have psychotherapy and coaching sessions in natural settings (e.g., in parks, the botanic gardens or the mountains and forests of the Scottish Highlands). Working in a natural setting can significantly help to foster qualities such as presence, mindfulness and receptiveness, which in turn can positively enhance the outcome of healing or growth work. Sessions can last anywhere from a few hours to days (personal retreats), and I am always happy to facilitate requests for outdoor psychotherapy or coaching.
If you would like to explore whether ecopsychology and ecotherapy are the right approaches for you to heal and grow, please get in touch so we can arrange our initial meeting either locally in Edinburgh or via Skype.
I look forward to helping you.