The newly emerging field of ecopsychology offers a news lens through which we may view the human psyche in an interconnected/interdependent relationship to all of nature, all beings, (human or otherwise), and place our experience in the vast fields of natural patterns and archetypes. It is a new way of understanding the human psyche in the intricate context in which we all co-exist. Ecopsychology is a novel approach to healing psychological wounding as it expands the understanding of the individual to the broad eco/cultural context in which we are all embedded. The field is becoming more and more prominent as the realities of climate change set in and as we begin to examine our behavior and reactions in the context of our relationship with the environment.
Applied ecopsychology, sometimes called “ecotherapy” is a practice that aligns our human selves with the natural world. It is a path of re-connecting the human with an essential, rooted connection to place, a restoration of comfort in nature as well as a remembrance of our inherent (“in the bones”) wisdom.It is a facilitation of restoring human nature to a grounded, soul-full connection to our-selves and all of our relations.It can be as simple as talking time to be in nature, be it an urban park or a wilderness setting.It can also mean applying mindfulness practices, somatic exercises or ritual in the natural world.
In practice, as an ecotherapist, I consider how one has been shaped by their environment or what the relationship is to the natural world. I might suggest practices that engage with nature in a restorative way. For some clients this could mean having the option to have our session meeting in a beautiful space outdoors. This is to be discussed beforehand once the relationship is established.
I also offer numerous retreats and workshop experiences that employ various eco-therapy practices and offer participants a facilitated connection with both their own inner and outer landscapes. Under the auspices of Holos Institute and in collaboration with Mary Good, MFT, I offer a 100 hour ecopsychology certificate training program for therapists and anyone working with people toward deep change. These are listed on the events page.
Eco-Shamanism and Shamanic Practices
Original peoples from around the world knew (and know) a way of living in harmony that promotes optimal health and well-being. The premise is simple and yet quite elegant – if we relate to ALL that we encounter in our world as alive and sentient, we naturally seek out “right relationships” with everything/one that we encounter. Imagine a world where we are all respectful and consciously in relationship to every aspect of our community both human and non-human, near and far! Imagine a world where an individual treats every aspect of their inner landscape with deep care and respect and in turn, treats every aspect of their outer landscape with the same integrity. In the greatest expression, this creates a life and world in balance. There are lessons in these original cultures that can inform our modern day lives. The most basic is a practice of respect and kindness toward all beings, both sentient and (what some might call) non-sentient. These nature-based cultures also valued the power of connection with the “spirit world” – what some might also call the “imaginal” , or the unseen dimensions of life that our human minds and souls engage in more creative explorations. It is exactly in these creative explorations where the deepest healing can sometimes take place.
I have had the great honor to study with a number of healers and teachers from traditional indigenous cultures as well as some respectable translators of original cultures – all of whom offer a unique approach to health, healing and living a life in balance and one that is grounded in loving kindness. Some of the practices they teach may be folded into a western psychotherapy model. With great respect to the original cultures, I offer some of these practices in my clinical practice, and most certainly in my retreats and workshops. These are wonderful ways to empower the client to access their inner wisdom and find resources in their own inner landscape. These techniques help ease the suffering of the “dis-spirited”, create a sense of true belonging and also inform life decisions and behaviors in a sustainable manner.
The process is simple. I offer guided journeys into one’s inner landscape to explore all of the textures of resource, wisdom, shadow and resolution. The wisdom and answers come from the client’s own Self. This is typically in the form of a trance state induced by a sonic-driving technique – much like a hypnogogic state with clearly shaped intention. These journeys also help to dissolve the barriers to connecting with the people, “things”, and places in our outer landscapes. In psychotherapy, this process has been invaluable for reducing anxiety, alleviating depression and informing life transitions. When combined in an ecotherapy process, it expands one’s worldview, supports resilience, and ushers in a new sense of participation in the greater community.
I offer these experiences with great care and caution as needed and requested. I also teach the integration of these techniques into psychotherapy practice to mental heath professionals.