What is ECOTHERAPY?
Ecotherapy uses the intrinsic healing benefits of nature in combination with research-based clinical interventions. While every Ecotherapy experience is unique, frequently used techniques include:
- Use of nature as a metaphor
- Nature as a holding space for emotions
- Deeper connection to self through nature
- Reciprocity with nature
What are some examples of how ECOTHERAPY can be used?
Ecotherapy can enhance working through many types of issues or problems. Examples of include:
- Processing grief
- Reducing anxiety and/or depression
- Difficulty with relationships/attachment
- Healing from trauma
- Emotional Regulation
- Recovering from Addiction (including addiction to technology)
Where does ECOTHERAPY take place?
One of the benefits to Ecotherapy is that is allows for a great deal of creativity and flexibility, depending on clients’ needs and abilities. For some, that may mean bringing nature into an office space or simply sitting outside during a session. For others it is walking or hiking outdoors, standing in a body of water, laying in the grass, kayaking or a multitude of other outdoor activities. Like any therapist or counselor, each Ecotherapist has their own approach to offering ecotherapy, and you can talk with a local Ecotherapist about what specific options they offer.
Who can benefit from ECOTHERAPY?
Ecotherapy is a treatment modality that can be used to benefit most clients seeking mental health services. You do not need to have any outdoor experience or special knowledge (or even like being outside!).
Is there any research on ECOTHERAPY?
There is a rapidly growing body of research exploring the effectiveness of Ecotherapy and nature exposure on physical, mental, and emotional health. In fact, research on the effects of nature on our physical and mental health has been going on since at least the early 1980s in many different countries, including the United States. The list of documented benefits is long and include:
- Calms the nervous system
- Reduced stress and better resiliency during times of stress
- Strengthens immune system
- Can help lower blood pressure
- Possible preventative effects on cancer
- Decreases loneliness
- Reduces symptoms of ADHD in children
- Helps ease depression and anxiety symptoms
- Improves attention span and attention restoration
- Helps manage chronic pain
Are there any limitations for participating in ECOTHERAPY?
Individual sessions can be modified to meet client needs however group sessions may not always be able to accommodate some physical limitations. Please speak to your provider about any concerns you have. As Ecotherapists our goal is for Ecotherapy to be accessible to all.
What kind of therapist can provide Ecotherapy?
Clinical Ecotherapy can be done with any LCSW, LMSW intern, LPC, LPC intern, LMFT intern, or other licensed mental health professional that has also trained in or studied Ecotherapy or a related field such as Adventure Therapy, Wilderness Therapy, Outdoor Therapy, or Nature Therapy. All of these areas have some variance of focus but share principle tenants.
What is the (brief) history of ECOTHERAPY?
Benefits of the outdoors for improved mental health can be traced back to over 100 years ago. Around the same time period asylums both in New York and San Francisco were for forced to house patients outdoors in tents (due to a fire and overcrowding, respectively). Rather than chaos and decline in mental health, patients on both coasts demonstrated marked improvement which was attributed to exposure to the outdoors. Decades later, Kurt Hahn started the groundbreaking “Outward Bound” program. This program was designed to help “troubled” teenagers and continues to help adolescents and adults around the world. This was the first outdoor-based program to have research-based evidence demonstrating positive mental health effects including improved self- confidence and team building skills.
In the 1960s the term Ecopsychology was coined by Robert Greenway. This term came out of the idea that in order to promote care for the environment, people needed to feel connected to nature and acknowledge a reciprocal relationship. Greenway’s writing didn’t garner significant attention until the 1990s when research in this area became more prevalent. Meanwhile, Theodore Roszak, wrote his seminal book, Ecopsychology, which helped introduce a wide audience to this field.
Since that time, there has been a gradual increase in societal consciousness of the importance of nature in our daily lives. One of the most visible changes has been in hospitals. No longer are they the bright white sterile environments of the past; every new facility seems to incorporate more color, decoration, indoor plants as well as ample green space.
Ecotherapy can be viewed as the clinical side of the study of Ecopsychology. Current research shows the physical, emotional and mental health benefits of therapy that incorporates nature including lower blood pressure and glucose, increased immune function, decreased sense of loneliness, decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety and improvement in stress recovery. Clinical Ecotherapy can also be effective in helping clients increase awareness, develop helpful insights, experience self-compassion, explore solutions for making positive change.
While Ecotherapy has become quite popular in many other countries, it has only recently started to receive attention and recognition in the United States. It is our belief that working to educate clinicians, clients and the general population about the benefits of Ecotherapy is our ethical obligation.
How much does an Ecotherapy session cost?
Like traditional psychotherapy, session cost varies based on your provider but is generally similar to what a “traditional” session would cost.