Ecotherapy is an amalgamation of the ideas of ecopsychology and psychotherapy. At its core, ecotherapy claims that personal human distress can be alleviated by developing a connection with nature. It can include a variety of techniques from “horticulture therapy, wilderness excursion work, time stress management and certain kinds of animal-assisted therapy” (Chalquist, 2009). In the emerging sub-field it is often acknowledged that human emotional ailments come from the industrial world in which we live. Humans are evolutionarily wired to react and respond to nature in a way that manmade settings are not currently fulfilling. This disconnect is what allows many mental illnesses to thrive. It is not suggested that a reconnection with nature is a cure-all; however, it has been found through a meta-analysis of human and nature-relations studies, that exposure to nature, “whether through gardens, animals, nature-walks outside, or nature brought indoors, not only alleviates symptoms but also brings a larger capacity for health, self-esteem, social connection and joy,” (Chalquist, 2009).
Psychotherapy Practiced in Nature
With nature proven beneficial to the human psyche again and again in cross-disciplinary research it only makes sense that it could be used to supplement traditional psychotherapy. As it turns out, this has been the case for some time; ecotherapy is a relatively new term for a much older practice. During the early days of psychotherapy “it would not be unusual for Freud to analyze his patients while walking through the streets around his home in Vienna,” (Jordan and Marshall, 2010). The stereotypical couch in the therapist’s office did not come until later in the history of the practice. With both the ther...
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... evolved from simpler to more complex. The material was set up in a very structured way as to ensure each participant received the same amount of stimulation and contact with nature throughout the program.
After the program concluded and analysis was conducted, the following results were observed in the experimental group: “improved positive emotional background; lower anxiety levels; increased observational keenness, self-reliance and creativity; better communication and collective work skills; vocabulary enrichment; increased speech structure complexity,” (Kalashnikova, Gontar, Zhirov, and Kalashnikov, 2016). Most interestingly, the researchers go on to note in discussion that the results suggest that their ecotherapy course promotes “benevolence, empathy and peacefulness” among its participants (Kalashnikova et al, 2016). ***say something about that for therapy??
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