what is ecotherapy?

According to Howard Clinebell, who wrote a 1996 book on the topic, “ecotherapy” refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. He also called it “green therapy” and “earth-centered therapy.” Although Clinebell preferred the term “ecotherapy,” which includes work with the body, to “ecopsychology,” the study of our psychological relations with the rest of nature, it is clear that ecopsychology provides a solid theoretical, cultural, and critical foundation for ecotherapeutic practice. For this reason we regard ecotherapy as applied ecopsychology.

As an umbrella term for nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing, ecotherapy points to the reinvention of psychotherapy as if nature and the human-nature relationship matters. It takes into account the latest scientific understandings of our universe and the deepest indigenous wisdom. This perspective reveals the critical fact that people are intimately connected with, embedded in, and inseparable from the rest of nature. Grasping this fact deeply shifts our understanding of how to heal the human psyche and the currently dysfunctional and even lethal human-nature relationship. It becomes clear that what happens to nature for good or ill impacts people and vice versa, leading to the development of new methods of individual and community psychotherapeutic diagnosis and treatment.

Ecotherapy is not a fad, nor a new marketing approach for the psychology profession, and not just more “green exercise,” although it does include fitness and wellness practices. It does not promote narrowly focused self-absorption, feel-good therapies, or thinking good thoughts as planetary panaceas. Nature-reconnection practices, animal-assisted psychotherapy, horticultural therapy, time-stress management, wilderness work, and various restorative methods represent only a few applications of the blending of two fertile fields. As is evident from this anthology’s essays, ecotherapy as applied ecopsychology employs many methods in disciplined and systematic attempts to reconnect the psyche and the body with the terrestrial sources of all healing.

— from the book Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (Sierra Club Press, 2009).

 


 

 

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