Article

Ecotherapy: A Counter to Society's Unhealthy Trend?

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Abstract

We are facing a societal trend of lethargy in today's youth. Technology, fear, and limited green spaces keep our children inside and inactive. This article explores this trend and proposes ecotherapy, which promotes mental health in the context of the environment and through the use of green spaces, as a method the counseling profession can utilize to benefit our clients and society as a whole. A case example illustrates this concept.

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... Ecotherapeutic activities are examined within two categories: working in nature and experiencing nature. Working in nature includes various athletic activities defined as the green and blue gym [23][24][25][26][27][28][29], the most significant of which is walking [23][24][25][26][30][31][32][33][34][35]. Apart from athletics, this group comprises activities such as Sustainability 2021, 13, 4600 4 of 23 meditation/therapy [23,25,28,33,34,36,37], art [28,38,39], and production in/with nature (frequently gardening and horticulture) [36,38]. ...
... Ecotherapeutic activities are examined within two categories: working in nature and experiencing nature. Working in nature includes various athletic activities defined as the green and blue gym [23][24][25][26][27][28][29], the most significant of which is walking [23][24][25][26][30][31][32][33][34][35]. Apart from athletics, this group comprises activities such as Sustainability 2021, 13, 4600 4 of 23 meditation/therapy [23,25,28,33,34,36,37], art [28,38,39], and production in/with nature (frequently gardening and horticulture) [36,38]. ...
... Working in nature includes various athletic activities defined as the green and blue gym [23][24][25][26][27][28][29], the most significant of which is walking [23][24][25][26][30][31][32][33][34][35]. Apart from athletics, this group comprises activities such as Sustainability 2021, 13, 4600 4 of 23 meditation/therapy [23,25,28,33,34,36,37], art [28,38,39], and production in/with nature (frequently gardening and horticulture) [36,38]. Experiencing nature involves spending time observing and listening in nature [23,26,[28][29][30]32,36,38]. ...
Article
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The impacts of problems related to dense, unplanned, and irregular urbanization on the natural environment, urban areas, and humankind have been discussed in many disciplines for decades. Because of the circular relationship between humans and their environment, human health and psychology have become both agents and patients in interactions with nature. The field of ecopsychology investigates within this reciprocal context the relationship between human psychology and ecological issues and the roles of human psychology and society in environmental problems based on deteriorated nature–human relationships in urbanized areas. This approach has given rise to ecotherapy, which takes a systemic approach to repairing this disturbed nature–human relationship. This study aims to uncover the relationship between the physical attributes of urban green areas and their potential for providing ecotherapy service to users, first by determining the characteristics of ecotherapeutic urban space and urban green areas given in studies in the ecopsychology and ecotherapy literature, and then by conducting a case study in two urban parks from the Beylikdüzü District of the Istanbul Metropolitan Area. The impacts of these parks’ changing physical characteristics on user experiences are determined through a comparison of their physical attributes and the user experiences related to their ecotherapy services.
... A power imbalance that exists from a feminist perspective is that the counselor or researcher has more expertise on the client or participant's life and circumstances than the client or participant has (Brady-Amoon, 2011), thus we clearly placed the girls in the expert role in this exploration. As counselors are called by ethical code to "advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to address potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and/or the growth and development of clients" (ACA, 2014, p. 5), and since physical inactivity (Dixon et al., 2003;Sackett, 2010) and limited time spent in nature (Louv, 2005;Sackett, 2010) negatively affect clients' mental and emotional wellness, this is an issue that needs counseling professionals' attention. Therefore, we adopted a description of advocacy given by Toporek, Lewis, and Crethar (2009) as existing on a continuum ranging from empowerment to social action as a framework for our discussion and implications for counselors. ...
... A power imbalance that exists from a feminist perspective is that the counselor or researcher has more expertise on the client or participant's life and circumstances than the client or participant has (Brady-Amoon, 2011), thus we clearly placed the girls in the expert role in this exploration. As counselors are called by ethical code to "advocate at individual, group, institutional, and societal levels to address potential barriers and obstacles that inhibit access and/or the growth and development of clients" (ACA, 2014, p. 5), and since physical inactivity (Dixon et al., 2003;Sackett, 2010) and limited time spent in nature (Louv, 2005;Sackett, 2010) negatively affect clients' mental and emotional wellness, this is an issue that needs counseling professionals' attention. Therefore, we adopted a description of advocacy given by Toporek, Lewis, and Crethar (2009) as existing on a continuum ranging from empowerment to social action as a framework for our discussion and implications for counselors. ...
... This finding has support in the existing literature as well. Sackett (2010) spoke to the societal trend of physical inactivity and limited time spent in nature, while Louv (2005) attributed children's lack of activity and time spent outside in today's world to societal fears of strangers, violence, kidnapping, and traffic, along with a decline in natural areas for children to play. On the school front and compounding this issue, Flom, Johnson, Hubbard, and Reidt (2011) reported that schools are under pressure by legislation and policy to increase time spent in the classroom, and therefore less time outdoors. ...
Article
Physical inactivity and limited time spent in nature are major societal concerns that affect the mental and emotional health of youth in the United States. As such, this study explored girls’ perspectives of barriers to outdoor physical activity using a qualitative participatory action research method called photovoice. Six themes emerged from data representing the girls’ perspectives of barriers to outdoor physical activity through photovoice: Very Busy Schedule, Social Media, Health Concerns, Indoor Activity Instead of Outdoor Activity, Electronic Devices, and Way of Life. Researchers address how counselors can use these findings to advocate on this issue, given that counselors are called to advocate at multiple levels to address barriers that inhibit the growth and development of clients.
... The ecological approach to integrating nature within counseling emphasizes the relationship between humans and nature (Stigsdotter et al., 2010) and the therapeutic value of having a relationship with nature (Miles, 1987;Sackett, 2010). With the industrialization of western society, people have become disconnected from nature. ...
... This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. Engagement in activities indoors (i.e., watching TV and playing video games), without spending time outside, may negatively affect a child's mental health (Sackett, 2010). Participation in nature may foster social and emotional development (Swank & Huber, 2013;. ...
Article
Nature-based child-centered play therapy (NBCCPT) is an innovative counseling approach that expands upon child-centered play therapy (CCPT) to emphasize the child's relationship with nature in addition to the relationship with the counselor. NBCCPT sessions occur within the natural environment with natural materials provided instead of man-made toys. This article includes a description of the components of NBCCPT, a discussion about considerations and cautions of using the approach, a presentation of 3 case illustrations, and a discussion of implications for practice and research.
... Several researchers in the pediatric field have noted that unstructured play leads to increased brain development, social relationships, and creativity (McCurdy, Winterbottom, Mehta, & Roberts, 2010). Nature and natural environments Play Therapy in a Natural Setting 63 have been found to increase physical and mental health and reduce many of the health problems with which children are faced in their lives (Davis & Atkins, 2009;McCurdy et al., 2010;Sackett, 2010). Louv (2005) described children's lack of exposure to natural settings as a nature-deficit disorder. ...
... 275). Sackett (2010) agreed that ecotherapy, as a method of counseling clients, serves as another means to address client and societal issues related to obesity and other medical and mental health issues. Even though researchers are encouraging both medical and mental health professionals to promote unstructured play and the inclusion of natural settings, little has been done to explore the use of natural settings in play therapy and other counseling modalities. ...
Article
Play therapy is commonly used when working with children in counseling. Play therapists work at a developmentally appropriate level to assist children with a variety of mental health and behavioral concerns. Traditionally, play therapy and many counseling methods occur in office settings. We propose that play therapists and other mental health professionals working with children integrate nature and natural settings into their work. The use of nature has been shown to be effective in helping people cope with mental health and physical ailments. In this article, we explore the benefits of the use of nature in mental health and provide a case example of the use of nature and natural settings in counseling.
... These interventions represent the integrated use of nature, where the relationship with nature is an active explicit component of the program and is used as a learning tool. In therapeutic contexts, nature has been integrated into practice by extending the counsellor-client relationship to include the human-nature relationship and using nature and natural materials as props (Davis & Atkins, 2009;Sackett, 2010;Swank & Shin, 2015). Case studies with young children (6-8 years old) report behavioural improvements, improved on-task behaviour, reduced negative attention-seeking and mood improvements associated with nature-based therapy (Swank & Shin, 2015). ...
Article
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Health care providers are increasingly prescribing nature exposure to treat emotional, behavioural and cognitive difficulties of children who experience challenging personal and social circumstances. Correlational studies suggest these prescriptions have short-term potential. The capacity for nature exposure to promote long-term change is unclear. This paper presents the results of a systematic review exploring the ability of the natural environment to promote behavioural, cognitive or emotional change in young people. A systematic review of CINAHL, Medline, Scopus, Embase, PsychInfo produced 59,221 papers. Six met the review criteria. Synthesis suggested that passive nature exposure promotes positive changes in attention, memory and mood; little is known about behavioural changes and long-term outcomes. It is unknown how these changes translate to real world outcomes for children and how the effect of nature varies across different age groups. Overall, prescribing nature exposure for children appears advantageous. Randomised control trials and diverse qualitative methods using reliable outcome measures are needed to draw definitive conclusions.
... Ecopsychology integrates tenets from ecology and psychology and focuses on the connection people have with nature (Raja, Carol, Stella, Anthonyraj, & Muthulakshmi, 2013). Generally, humans instinctively connect with the natural environment (Raja et al., 2013) and a healing power exists within our relationship with nature (Miles, 1987;Sackett, 2010). Researchers have reported that connecting with the natural environment may positively affect children (Greenleaf, Bryant, & Pollock, 2014). ...
Article
This research study focused on the use of a garden group counseling intervention to address the self-esteem of children with emotional and behavioral problems. The researchers found higher self-esteem among participants (N = 31) following the gardening group. Additionally, participants discussed feeling calm and happy and learning to working together through the group experience.
... A smaller number of respondents reported interactions with wildlife (31%) or other animals (15%) as a reason for their enjoyment. The physical and mental health benefits of getting outside and engaging with nature are being increasingly recognized and promoted through initiatives such as ecotherapy [36,37] and green and blue social prescribing [38,39]. Reconnecting with the natural world in this way is only likely to gain momentum as we move on from the pandemic. ...
Article
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There is growing evidence that the changes in human behaviour resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have had positive and negative impacts on the natural world. This study used an online survey to explore how the first UK lockdown affected human exercising behaviour, with particular focus on the role of wild and domestic animals. The survey was completed by 308 respondents. There was a significant increase in the frequency that respondents went for walks outdoors during lockdown, in comparison to pre-lockdown levels (p ≤ 0.001), and this was sustained (albeit to a lesser extent) once lockdown ended (p = 0.005). Engaging with the natural world was an important feature of walks outside for 81% of respondents. A small proportion of respondents reported physically interacting with the animals they encountered and/or feeding them, which may have implications for their welfare. The findings suggest that those who value animal encounters during their time outside always seek these interactions, while those who do not, did not tend to change this behaviour following lockdown. Should the changes in human exercising behaviour be sustained, it is important to balance the benefits of walking outdoors for human health and wellbeing with the health and welfare of the animals they encounter.
... Children on average are now only spending 4-7 min engaging in outdoor play, compared to seven and a half hours spent indoors using technology (Rideout et al., 2010). Increased media usage indoors along with low levels of active play are contributors to negative developmental outcomes such as decreases in executive functioning, negative mental health outcomes, and increased risk for attention disorders (Sackett, 2010;McHarg et al., 2020). The need for children to experience nature has become essential for children's cognitive functioning and wellbeing (Wells and Evans, 2003;Flouri et al., 2014;Hand et al., 2017). ...
Article
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Playtime in urban cities has become an indoor activity for children due to limited access to natural outdoor environments. This product of urbanization makes the case for the introduction of biophilic design. However, playrooms are often neglected as a possibility in designing a natural space indoors. Interior designers and other specialists lack a reliable tool to identify and incorporate biophilic features into the design of these indoor environments in urban settings. The Biophilic Interior Design Matrix (BID-M) developed by McGee and Marshall-Baker quantifies 52 of Kellert’s biophilic design attributes to assess their presence and absence within interior spaces. We expanded its use by testing the matrix in a new type of space, urban playrooms, and coded images of 45 children’s playrooms within Manhattan residential buildings in New York City, including assessing a larger sample and reliability rate compared to McGee and Marshall-Baker’s research. Inter-rater reliability of the overall design matrix and individual matrix items was measured with percent agreement and free-marginal multirater kappa. Reliability testing showed overall good reliability of the overall design matrix. Several matrix items had low reliability between raters. Our findings show that the BID-M needs to be modified to better assess urban interior spaces for children.
... Lethargic lifestyle in urban areas infused mounting physical and mental health issues in the general population. People spend most of their time working inside built premises, sitting at a particular place for long hours, and the rest of their time commuting in crowded public transport in a polluted atmosphere (Sackett, 2010). Ecotherapy or ecopsychology is applied psychology, which promotes mental health and well-being with the intervention of nature. ...
Article
The fast pace of city life and the zeal to excel and secure comforts and luxuries have compromised the people’s well-being. A significant number of studies highlighted the deteriorated mental health and well-being states of people, particularly of working-class youth settled in metro or cosmopolitan cities. This study aims to provide insights into the emerging area of research ecotherapy that can be explored as a potential complementary and alternative medicine for enhancing people’s multi-dimensional well-being. This study presents a conceptual model describing traveling to a nature-based destination and experiencing ecotherapy that generates positive psychological effects for mental and spiritual well-being. To support the arguments, the authors presented narratives of cosmopolitan working-class youth collected through informal conversations based on a fixed set of questions. Discussion on existing literature provides evidence proving the healing power of nature, creating nourishing effects on human minds and how it leverages individuals’ minds, bodies, and souls.
... The field of ecopsychologyof which nature therapy is a partrecognizes the health benefits of nature and seeks to apply them to various mental health problems. According to Sackett (2010), 'Ecotherapy is systemic and promotes the interconnectedness of all things. Essential to ecotherapy is the belief that healing takes place in the context of relationships, including relationships between human and nature. ...
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Chapter
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Chapter
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The increase in childhood obesity over the past several decades, together with the associated health problems and costs, is raising grave concern among health care professionals, policy experts, children's advocates, and parents. Patricia Anderson and Kristin Butcher document trends in children's obesity and examine the possible underlying causes of the obesity epidemic. They begin by reviewing research on energy intake, energy expenditure, and "energy balance," noting that children who eat more "empty calories" and expend fewer calories through physical activity are more likely to be obese than other children. Next they ask what has changed in children's environment over the past three decades to upset this energy balance equation. In particular, they examine changes in the food market, in the built environment, in schools and child care settings, and in the role of parents-paying attention to the timing of these changes. Among the changes that affect children's energy intake are the increasing availability of energy-dense, high-calorie foods and drinks through schools. Changes in the family, particularly an increase in dual-career or single-parent working families, may also have increased demand for food away from home or pre-prepared foods. A host of factors have also contributed to reductions in energy expenditure. In particular, children today seem less likely to walk to school and to be traveling more in cars than they were during the early 1970s, perhaps because of changes in the built environment. Finally, children spend more time viewing television and using computers. Anderson and Butcher find no one factor that has led to increases in children's obesity. Rather, many complementary changes have simultaneously increased children's energy intake and decreased their energy expenditure. The challenge in formulating policies to address children's obesity is to learn how best to change the environment that affects children's energy balance.
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This study was designed to determine whether the characteristics of the neighborhood environment are related to the substitution of physical activity for sedentary behavior among youth. Fifty-eight 8- to 15-year-old youth were studied in a within-subjects crossover design with three phases: baseline, increased sedentary behavior, and decreased sedentary behavior. The relations between changes in physical activity and design, diversity, and density attributes of the neighborhood environment were determined using random coefficient models. Compared with girls, boys showed greater increases in physical activity when sedentary behaviors were reduced and greater decreases in physical activity when sedentary behaviors were increased. Greater access to parks was associated with greater physical activity when sedentary behaviors were reduced.
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The present study examined whether self-efficacy mediates the relationship between family social influence and physical activity among youth who have experienced a recent lapse in their physical activity participation. Using a prospective, longitudinal design, participants completed measures of social influence, self-regulatory efficacy and physical activity. Only those participants whose physical activity declined were retained for further analysis. Self-regulatory efficacy partially mediated the relationship between family social influence and physical activity, with self-efficacy mediating 36 percent of the total effect. The results provide support for self-regulatory efficacy as a mediator and provide preliminary insight into the potential mechanisms for preventing lapses in activity from developing into prolonged periods of inactivity within this population.
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