Some years ago I attended a UPA sponsored workshop in St. George on Ecopsychology, which I had never heard of before. The workshop was a lot of fun (my husband came too) and I gathered the following ideas for incorporating consideration of the natural world into my therapy practice. Most of the ideas below are from presenter Patricia H. Hasbach. I’m saving them here for my own use and the benefit of readers.
In the initial assessment ask where home is and what natural setting feels like home.
- What has happened to that home? Can you return to it, recover it, or recreate it?
- What are your memorable childhood experiences in the natural world? Did you tend a garden or keep food animals? Pets?
- Did you enjoy or fear and avoid the outdoors?
- How do your early experiences affect your relationship with nature now? What were your family attitudes toward the natural world?
- As a part of the initial small-talk at the beginning of a session, comment on the weather and consider it mindfully.
In the office
- Keep a basket of natural objects for use as touchable metaphors and signifiers, chosen by therapist or patient
- Keep an informal shrine for offerings by therapist or patient – a gratitude or blessing space
- Create an natural environment in the office with plants, a water feature, nature photos and art
- Collect stories/metaphors of nature to use in regular talk therapy
- Draw a genogram which includes places and pets
Create and allow ritual or ceremony
- Celebrate events and mark passages
- Use drawing, mask-making, poetry- or journal-reading
- Use incense, a candle, or a smudge pot
- Create a place map for patient’s childhood home and/or adult journeys
Take people outdoors
- Create a therapy or meditation garden in conjunction with your office
- Go on a walk or visit a nearby natural space with a patient
Assign experiences with nature to the patient
- Sun (moon, tree, bird, sky, stone, etc.) mindfulness. Garden mindfulness.
- Use transition times (sunrise, sunset, moon, weather) to consider specific questions
- Go to a special natural space, consider assigned question
- Bring a natural object to the session that means something to you (patient and/or therapist)
- Plan an outdoor retreat – report
- Participate in environmental restoration e.g., planting, cleanup
- Assign conscious consumption for a week
- Assign a news fast and/or a technology fast
- Find or create an all-season outdoor sitting space
- Create an indoor natural space at home with plant, water feature, etc.
- Consciously care for a plant or animal as a part of therapy
- Walk the edges – beach, cliffside, forest-to-meadow – and consider transitions
- Move away from settlement and back again
- Immerse self in wild water
- Note the periodicity of nature
Other presenters included Utahns Stephen Goldsmith, David Ranks, Patrick Barickman, Sumner Swaner, Lance Owens, and Glen Rogers. Arvol Looking Horse discussed the white buffalo calf and led a sunrise service.