Orientation – indoor and outdoor professionals

The repression of the ecological unconscious is the deepest root of the madness inherent in western industrial society…..we need to heal the fundamental alienation between humanity and the earth  –  Theodore Roszak

If you are new to ecopsychology then you may be wondering what it has to do with your practice, or curious about how it can help your work with people.

A knowledge of ecopsychology can improve the work of many who work with people. This includes therapists, counsellors, social workers, teachers and occupational therapists who want to do some work outdoors. It is also for those who already work outdoors — for example, outdoor educators, rangers, conservationists, horticulturalists and youth and community workers who want to deepen the healing aspect of their work.  It can also improve the efficacy of those whose work can only happen indoors.

It is relevant to all of us because the there is unadressed illness in western culture that is symptomatic in the people we care for. It is hard to see because we are all involved and all relationally disconnected from nature to some degree. We did not talk of stress and trauma before awareness of those issues was raised and a language developed.  So it is with the issues that ecopsychology is addressing.  New pathologies like games/social media addiction and nature deficit disorder have emerged – these are just the beginning.  An ecopsychological perspective may be helpful to those already working with addictions and eating disorders.  In simple terms, these can be seen as hungers for meaningful contact with self, others and the environment.  Another new concept is solistalgia – this is the distress produced by destructive changes to our home environments, e.g. deforestation or the construction of coal mines. Other new terms are biophobia, ecocide and speciesism.  Attachment theory has also been extended to include attachment to place and the its distortions.

A knowledge of ecopsychology can help psychotherapists/counsellors, social workers and others who work with people in the following ways:

  1. without either you or your client/service user/ patient / student going outdoors it can inform and change the way you work indoors;
  2. your client/patient/service user/ student can experience support/self-care/growth by using techniques outdoors in their own time;
  3. you and your client can spend therapeutic time together in the outdoors once you have done some preparation / training. On making that transition therapists are often surprised at the benefits to their work;
  4. you can learn to use the outdoors for self support and personal development in creative ways that are more fulfilling than recreation or sport.

We predict that there will be a new raft of disorders as the next generation grows up. Statistics on how little time people spend outdoors and how much time is spent interacting with computers, televisions and phones are cause for great concern.

Climate change is inevitably going to get worse and as it does there will be more people experiencing anxiety, depression and grief in response to the global situation. As therapists we have a responsibility to be ready for the challenges ahead – to do this we need first to deal with how these challenges manifest themselves in us.

Common Ground is a place to face these challenges on a personal level, to get some training to support others and also where clients /patients can be referred – see the Referrals page.

The individual retreat is also an option for professionals who need to take some time out from their practice in a relaxing rural environment with professional support as needed.


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