Ecotherapy is a broad term that identifies human-centered nature therapy, which simply stated is utilizing nature in therapy and benefiting from its healing capabilities. It can be applied in multiple ways such as wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, nature-based therapy, equine and animal-Assisted therapies, garden and horticultural therapies, nature, sensory integration, and pediatric occupational therapy, surf therapy, and forest therapy. These therapies all have multiple ways to be facilitated in different environments.
My personal vision has been to combine my two passions of nature and therapy. I am not the only therapist who sees and understanding the value of reconnecting with the natural world. Incorporating nature with therapy is growing in popularity with recent research on its therapeutic powers. Studies have shown that exposure to nature has vast benefits such as improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation (Weir, 2020).
Walking therapy, or the walk and talk model, is one of the ways ecotherapy can be facilitated. It is simply going outside and walking while doing therapy. It can be around town, a neighborhood, or inner city parks. It can be considered a gateway to more integrative outdoor therapeutic practices. Walking therapy is currently what I am integrating into my services. It is in no way required to receive services by me, but I hope to have clients see the value of going outdoors.
Even if it is not during a therapy session, I hope to help clients reengage with something they used to be or can be passionate about that connects them back with nature. It can simply be activities such as going hiking, to the beach, dusting off the old bike, simply going for a walk in a park, birding, wildlife photography, stargazing, kayaking, or anything else that gets you back in touch with nature.
As more opportunities arise within naturalistic counseling, I hope to expand on the ecotherapy opportunities that can be provided to improve mental health and overall wellbeing. If you have something in mind that you feel like would benefit you in your healing journey we can discuss the possibilities of including it in your therapy sessions.
Weir, K. (2020, April 1). Nurtured by nature. Monitor on Psychology. Find it here