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Buzzell and Chalquist have compiled this book with many valuable contributions from other
ecotherapists working in the field. As an early career’s researcher in psychology, I have
chosen this book to read with the intention of employing this when I teach applied
ecopsychological aspects on a Master’s in Integrated Urbanisms. I am familiar with the work
on ecopsychology which was a lens to help me understand some of my research I conducted
with sportspeople with asthma for my PhD. The book has a phenomenological attitude and is
divided into five parts bustling with difference voices (some of whom I am more familiar
with than others) in each section: (1) greening of psychotherapy; (2) ecotherapy in practice
working from the inside out; (3) Ecotherapy in practice working from the outside in; (4)
community as ecotherapy; (5) ecospirituality and ecotherapy. It seems ironic this idea of
disease (or as Leder (1990) would call it dys-ease
) stemming from the economy which forms
the need for ecotherapy; a theme emerging from the book.
The foreword from David Or lays the foundations for an intriguing read, highlighting
issues surrounding health, the role of nature, and the promise of ecotherapy which “lies in the
possibility that such work can initiate healing rooted in our affinity with the natural world and
can sponsor sanity in a world gone mad” (p.15). Similarly, Buzzell and Chalquist continue to
outline ecotherapy, also known as green therapy and earth-centered therapy” with a sense
that ecotherapy has encountered resistance in being accepted by mainstream
This sense is expanded in the first chapter of part 1 by Robinson who argues that
mainstream psychotherapy fails to address deeper, existential concerns and instead he drives
for an organic model where compassionate attention (as opposed to ‘fixing’ or changing or
reprogramming the soul) to a person’s entire being activates the healing process. Roszak’s
powerful tone radiates life from his chapter who argued for a mergence between
environmentalists and psychologists who seem to share a similar agenda; seeking to change
people’s behaviour with the environment. Part 1 of the book is about challenging other
psychotherapists to ‘let go’ of traditional modes of working with clients and discussing
various alternative approaches which can “foster a deeply experiences homecoming to a
world we have psychologically abandoned” (p.23).
Only when everyday bodily routines are interrupted, as for example when we become ill, in pain or when a
strong sensation suddenly overcomesus, does the body break into our consciousness. At such times, the body
‘dysappears’ (‘dys’ signifying abnormal, bad, difficult, ill) and ‘may be experienced as away, apart, from the
“I”’ (Leder, 199, p.90).
The common theme weaved throughout the comprehensive book by many therapists
is that therapists should listen with the earth in mind and that this approach has assisted
many clients with their healing. In part 2 and part 3, the focus is similar, but the approach in
part 2 is through a practice of working from the inside out. I particularly enjoyed
Morrison’s chapter on embodying sentience where she argues that we cannot have an
ecotherapy that does not include the body and refers to that way that doing body-centered
activities (e.g., yoga) often fosters greater connections with the environment (plants, animals,
nonhuman life).
The authors in part 3 approach ecotherapy by working ‘from the outside in’ where
practices involve learning how to see nature as a partner in human healing “going outdoors
and finding ourselves” (p.131). There appears to be a continuing theme in the book about
restoration which is particularly prevalent in this section. Scull offers some guidelines for
those wishing to practice nature-connecting therapies for their clients. He suggests that there
are three kinds of clients: those with pre-existing positive or those with negative experiences
with the natural world, and those who have attended the nature meditations. He gives some
significant examples of how to tailor therapies with these different types of clients in mind,
but also reiterates that it is important for clients to make their own discoveries. Other
chapters in this part focus on various different therapies: agrotherapy (visiting a farm), garden
therapy, animal-assisted therapy (e.g., horses). However, Bradshaw expresses caution about
using animals merely as a tool or a stage upon which humans act out life. This theme of
restoration appears to be about returning to our senses and returning to the environment as a
way of the restoring our mind-body.
Part 4 focuses on the vision of a community-based approach to enhance ecotherapy.
There is a focus on the “culture of connection” (Andrews, p.196) where the role of
communities, small groups, children, and communal experiences (e.g., collective PSTD and
trauma) are explored. Specifically, as opposed to a dominant cultural paradigm of the self
(individualism), Watkins argues for “an interdependent paradigm of the self which opens us
to a deeper and wider understanding of the cultural and ecological context of our
psychological disarray and suffering” (p.232).
The mind-body-world-spirit seems to flow logically so that part five aptly finishes
with chapters on ecospirituality and ecotherapy which focuses on the notion that “humans can
regain spiritual grounding and come home to a world ensouled” (p.237). There is reference
to Buddhism in various chapters before, but in this section Macy discusses ‘the greening of
the self’ and how to deal with the psychic pain caused by environmental destruction from her
spiritual grounding in Buddhism (p.238). Eco-grief is understood as the grief over the loss of
so many animal and plant relatives at human hands and is discussed in terms of Gomes’
‘Altars of Extinction’. Sharmanism is also discussed in two chapters referring to ‘reflections
of water’ and the way Shamanic elements can be integrated into psychotherapy through
therapeutic rituals. The theme that merges these chapters appears to be about how we can
honour nature.
There are a lot of short chapters which provide a variety of approaches in this book
serving to deliver a very holistic overview of ecotherapy in different practices. Such
approaches from Ecotherapy challenge mainstream psychotherapy because “it cannot provide
simplistic pat answers to the questionnaires created by managed care” (Watkins, p.234)
Examples of evocative therapy sessions powerfully support their points (e.g., Rust’s client
Rosie, p.42; Rust’s bridging experience with a spider web, p.43; Harris’ own transformative
experiences in the Wilderness, p.84; Burn’s case of Belinda and Malcolm, p.93). It would be
interesting to have perhaps included a chapter on role of the sea with regards to some specific
examples, (e.g., surfing) and perhaps look at how others who engage in adventure activities
(e.g., rock climbing) find their connections with nature. It feels that this area has been a long
time coming and seems sad that two people who contributed to this book have since passed
away; Theodore Roszak and Lane Conn.
For those wishing to teach or learn more about ecopsychology, ecotherapy, this book
is brimming with applied ecopsychology knowledge and I intend to use this when I teach.
Yet it also touched me on a more personal level helping me to view the world through an
alternative lens and making me think much more deeply about the world, the environment,
rivers, plants, animals, restoration, my engaging (or sometimes dys-engaging) senses, and the
role of nature in my world.
Leder, D (1990) The Absent Body. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
Author Bio
Dr Helen Owton is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Northampton and will be
teaching on a Master’s course on Integrated Urbanisms. She completed her PhD in
Qualitative Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. Her research specialisms
lie in innovative qualitative investigations of sporting embodiment.
... Eco-anxiety and eco-grief are connected to helplessness about climate change and degradation of nature (Argus, 2018;Owton, 2013) Connectedness with environment/nature has also been related to pro-environmental behaviours (Klaniecki, Leventon, & Abson, 2018;Qasim et al., 2019) The Pakistani values, culture, laws, and infrastructure do not support pro-environmental behaviours (Shahid, 2015) The current comparative qualitative study aimed to find out the following among residents of densely planted versus thinly planted areas of Pakistan. ...
... The premise that eco-grief and eco-anxiety has the potential to stimulate pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours (Engstrom, 2019;Lu, 2016;Sjöstrand & Hansen, 2020) was not supported. The findings support the studies (Argus, 2018;Owton, 2013) showing that negative emotions such as eco-anxiety and eco-grief are connected to helplessness about climate change and degradation of nature. ...
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The first was a quantitative study on "Eco-grief, Eco-anxiety, environmental education, Pro-environmental behaviours in densely and thinly planted areas of Pakistan". The second one was a qualitative study on "Human-Nature Connection, Impact of Climate Change, Environmental awareness, and Pro-environmental Behaviours in Densely and Thinly Planted Areas of Pakistan".
... This increased community vitality and environmental quality can be continually improved through the active engagement of local citizens, community organizations, and environmental resources (Sobel, 2004 professionally trained and certified practitioners must be used, as issues can arise rapidly during sessions and may not only be far beyond the scope of the facilitator, but harm could easily befall clients, and with animal-assisted interventions, animals. However it is also important to be aware that ecopsychology has inherent explicit and implicit social & political implications; particularly the value and need for environmental stewardship, valuing and promoting sociocultural inclusiveness and the need for political, economic, and ecological issues to be approached holistically (Owton, 2013). Ecopsychology and ecotherapy are forms of green care that often focus on the ecological aspects of self, identity, and behavior undertaking psychotherapeutic activities with ecological consciousness or intent, often utilizing natural settings, activities or processes as an integral part of the therapeutic process (Jordan & Hinds, 2016;Roszak, Gomes, & Kanner, 1995;Chalquist & Buzzell, 2009). ...
Attachment Theory suggests interaction with caregivers in childhood impacts relationships and health throughout our lives (Bowlby, 1965, 1969, 1971), leaving many who have experienced insecure attachment with an inability to form healthy relationships or cope with stressors throughout their lifespan (Holmberg, Lomore, Takacs, & Price, 2011). Horses have interacted with humans for over 12,000 years (Hintz, 1995), holding multiple roles in human society, most relying on observation by humans of equine behavior, and formation of a human-equine bond (Hamilton, 2011). More securely attached humans tend to more readily decipher non-verbal cues, positively affecting their felt security and internal working model of Attachment (Bachi, 2013). Interacting with horses, who provide significant non-verbal cues, may provide an opportunity to enhance this process, providing useful feedback and insight. This study aimed to evaluate if a single ground-based encounter with a horse could bring about changes in women participants’ reports of Attachment and Emotion Regulation. It was hypothesized that participants would move towards more secure dimensions of Attachment and Emotion Regulations after the encounter with the horse and that behavioral interactions with the horse would differ for those with differing dimensions of Attachment or Emotion Regulation. This study incorporated a repeated measures mixed methods design, one twenty-eight year old Standardbred mare, “Wicky” Long Wick, interacted with 22 female university students with minimal prior equine experience aged 18-30. Participants completing a demographic and screening questionnaire along with the Experiences in Close Relationships –Revised (ECR)(Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998) and Emotion Regulation Questionnaires (ERQ)(Gross & John, 2003) at baseline, then the ECR and ERQ again both immediately prior to and immediately following encounter with the horse. The encounter was videotaped and included meeting, grooming, leading, and goodbye. Statistical analyses were completed using SPSS including paired t-tests and correlations. Videotape was evaluated, coded, and included in both quantitative and qualitative data analyses. Participants were recruited and participated in the study over the period of one calendar year. A significant decrease in Attachment anxiety was shown after encountering the horse (t(21)=2.915, p=.008 (M .237364, SD= .381941)), and significantly less time was spent between the horse and participant at goodbye than at meeting (t (21)=2.751, p=.021 (M 42.045, SD= 71.67)), particularly for those with insecure dimensions of Attachment (t (15)= 2.814, p=.013 (M= 45.75, SD=65.03)). Participants with insecure dimensions of Attachment showed significant increases in cognitive reappraisal after encountering the horse (t(14)= -3.732, p=.002 (M -.411, SD= .4266)), and the greatest decreases in Attachment Anxiety (t(14)=3.364, p=.005 (M .307, SD= .354)). The findings suggest interaction between horses and people differs along Attachment dimensions and show some support for positive changes in humans for both Attachment and Emotion Regulation dimensions after interaction with a horse.
... However, the benefits of nature can be reaped while traveling, and using green spaces for well-being enhancement may be termed as an indirect form of ecotherapy. This study explained people"s functioning, green spaces or nature, and healing or enhancing multidimensional well-being together as a system that addresses the menace of mental health crisis amongst working-class youth of urban or cosmopolitan cities (Olsen, 2011;Owton, 2013). This study adds to the existing literature on transformational tourism and ecotherapy and opens vistas for further research. ...
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.
... Following a review of this increasingly impressive body of evidence, the mental health charity Mind (2007) strongly supported the benefits of “ecotherapy” and called for the “greening” of mental health provision. This has lead a number of therapists, including those coming from traditional psychoanalytic backgrounds, to explore the possibility of “ecotherapy,” which covers a wide variety of approaches, including taking psychotherapy outside the traditional consulting room into the outdoors (Buzzell, 2009). Jodran and Marshall (2010, 345) explore the various complex clinical factors involved in such a shift, in particular focusing on its impact on boundaries and the therapeutic frame (as both emotional and geographical space) from a relational perspective. ...
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Neuropsychoanalysis explores experimentally and theoretically the philosophically ancient discussion of the relation of mind and body, and seems well placed to overcome the problem of a "mindless" neuroscience and a "brainless" psychology and psychotherapy, especially when combined with a greater awareness that the body itself, not only the brain, provides the material substrate for the emergent phenomenon we call mind. However, the mind-brain-body is itself situated within a complex ecological world, interacting with other mind-brain-bodies and the "non-human environment." This occurs both synchronically and diachronically as the organism and its environment (living and non-living) interact in highly complex often non-linear ways. Psychoanalysis can do much to help unmask the anxieties, deficits, conflicts, phantasies, and defenses crucial in understanding the human dimension of the ecological crisis. Yet, psychoanalysis still largely remains not only a "psychology without biology," which neuropsychoanalysis seeks to remedy, but also a "psychology without ecology." Ecopsychoanalysis (Dodds, 2011b; Dodds and Jordan, 2012) is a new transdisciplinary approach drawing on a range of fields such as psychoanalysis, psychology, ecology, philosophy, science, complexity theory, esthetics, and the humanities. It attempts to play with what each approach has to offer in the sense of a heterogeneous assemblage of ideas and processes, mirroring the interlocking complexity, chaos, and turbulence of nature itself. By emphasizing the way the mind-brain-body studied by neuropsychoanalysis is embedded in wider social and ecological networks, ecopsychoanalysis can help open up the relevance of neuropsychoanalysis to wider fields of study, including those who are concerned with what Wilson (2003) called "the future of life."
Der Aufenthalt in der Natur hat viele positive Effekte auf den Körper und die Seele des Menschen. Wissenschaftliche Studien belegen, dass Aktivitäten in der Natur unter anderem den Stressabbau unterstützen und die kognitiven Fähigkeiten verbessern können. Daher wird Naturtherapie auch zur Behandlung von Menschen mit psychischen Erkrankungen eingesetzt. Ähnliche Effekte zeigt die tiergestützte Therapie. Sie kommt in vielen klinischen Bereichen zum Einsatz. Untersuchungen zeigen, dass die Interaktion mit Tieren eine Stressreduktion sowie eine Verringerung von Ängsten und depressiven Symptomen bewirken kann.
This small-scale study looks at how different urban public spaces affect and contribute to recovery from acute mental health problems. It reveals findings from in-depth interviews with eight Sheffield service users in June 2013. The occupational therapy (OT) ‘Model of Human Occupation’ framed the research so it was applicable for mental health professionals and service users. Paths to recovery were narrated through a user-focused and inclusive research process that included an Experiential Landscape Mapping workshop. This participative approach adds diversity to existing studies that are primarily quantitative, based in environmental psychology. Results suggest the significance of overarching social and symbolic themes for material preferences in landscape design, and highlight how opportunities for graded exposure to outdoor social environments can aid recovery, in accordance with the OT model. The methods employed for this study gave a longitudinal perspective, highlighting that different places can be beneficial and detrimental at different points of recovery.
This article explores the role of anxiety in neoliberal regimes of self‐governance, arguing that anxiety has become a technique of governance. Discourses of anxiety produce anxious subjects who undertake a range of self‐governing projects to manage and mitigate the experience. I explore anxiety governance in the environmental context of “eco‐anxiety,” motherhood, and the controversy over Bisphenol A in baby bottles. Maternal toxic vigilance, in which individual mothers assume responsibility for the environmental health of their children through better consumer choices, is a classic example of this anxiety governance. The regulatory failure of the neoliberal state reinforces this self‐governance; governments cannot be trusted to protect children from the toxins that are poisoning them, so mothers must do it themselves. Finally, notwithstanding the depoliticizing tendency of these self‐governing projects, I consider the political potential of this maternal toxic vigilance, exploring whether anxiety governance might more productively engage the political.
The body plays a central role in shaping our experience of the world. Why, then, are we so frequently oblivious to our own bodies? We gaze at the world, but rarely see our own eyes. We may be unable to explain how we perform the simplest of acts. We are even less aware of our internal organs and the physiological processes that keep us alive. In this fascinating work, Drew Leder examines all the ways in which the body is absent—forgotten, alien, uncontrollable, obscured. In part 1, Leder explores a wide range of bodily functions with an eye to structures of concealment and alienation. He discusses not only perception and movement, skills and tools, but a variety of "bodies" that philosophers tend to overlook: the inner body with its anonymous rhythms; the sleeping body into which we nightly lapse; the prenatal body from which we first came to be. Leder thereby seeks to challenge "primacy of perception." In part 2, Leder shows how this phenomenology allows us to rethink traditional concepts of mind and body. Leder argues that Cartesian dualism exhibits an abiding power because it draws upon life-world experiences. Descartes' corpus is filled with disruptive bodies which can only be subdued by exercising "disembodied" reason. Leder explores the origins of this notion of reason as disembodied, focusing upon the hidden corporeality of language and thought. In a final chapter, Leder then proposes a new ethic of embodiment to carry us beyond Cartesianism. This original, important, and accessible work uses examples from the author's medical training throughout. It will interest all those concerned with phenomenology, the philosophy of mind, or the Cartesian tradition; those working in the health care professions; and all those fascinated by the human body.