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  • Shailie Dubois

What Is Eco-Therapy and How You Can Incorporate It Into Your Life

Have you ever noticed that counselling offices often feature elements of nature? There may be a few indoor plants or a soothing nature soundtrack softly playing in the background. Although, the design choices are on “trend,” these design elements represent a growing field known as eco-therapy. Eco-therapy explores how our connection to nature impacts our health and well-being. If you're interested to learn more about eco-therapy, then keep reading as we unpack what exactly eco-therapy is and how to incorporate it into your life.


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What is Eco-Therapy?


Eco-therapy draws on the principles of eco-psychology, which is a field that explores the relationship between human psychology and the natural environment. In today's modern lifestyle, there is often a disconnect from nature. Eco-therapy acknowledges how this disconnect contributes to stress, anxiety, and various mental health challenges.


“In nature, nothing exists alone.” – Rachel Carson

Numerous studies have found that nurturing a deeper connection with nature can significantly improve overall health and well-being. A therapist who offers eco-therapy will collaborate with you to discover meaningful ways to connect with nature, regardless of whether you reside in a busy urban centre or have regular access to natural environments.  


What are the Benefits of Eco-Therapy?


Incorporating nature into therapy has garnered significant attention in recent years, giving rise to the practice of eco-therapy. This approach harnesses the healing power of the natural world to promote mental well-being. By immersing individuals in natural environments and engaging in eco-conscious activities, eco-therapy offers a holistic approach to mental health.


So, what are the benefits associated with eco-therapy?


Well, numerous studies have demonstrated that spending time in natural environments can yield significant improvements in stress, anxietydepression, as well as symptoms associated with ADHD.


Immersion in nature also nurtures a profound sense of connection among individuals and encourages environmentally responsible behaviour, including stewardship of green spaces. In contrast with manmade surroundings, natural settings have also been shown to enhance the efficacy of mindfulness practices, underlining the therapeutic potency of nature.


“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

What does eco-therapy look like in a counselling session?


The spectrum of eco-therapy activities spans from traditional office-based approaches to immersive outdoor experiences. From visualization practices to walk-and-talk therapy sessions, eco-therapy offers opportunities for clients to connect with nature’s healing power while engaging in meaningful discussions.


Within the walls of a therapy office, a therapist may incorporate elements of eco-therapy in several ways. You will notice, many of these practices can be experimented with at home!


  1. Visualization: Guided imagery exercises can transport you to natural environments and allow you to experience the soothing and rejuvenating effects of nature through imagination. Can you recall one of your favourite nature memories? Or is there a landscape you are particularly drawn to?

  2. Nature-Inspired Artwork: The office may be decorated with images of natural landscapes, plants, or calming nature scenes. What nature scenes do you find calming?

  3. Nature Sounds: Playing recordings of birdsong, ocean waves, or rain can promote relaxation and stress reduction during sessions. Perhaps you can recall the sounds from one of your favourite places in nature.

  4. Indoor Plants: Live plants can help create a connection to nature and provide a calming presence, as well as improve the air quality. Whether you are tending to a plant within the therapy office or at home, this is a wonderful and simple way to connect with nature.

  5. Mindfulness Practices: Present-moment awareness practices can help you cultivate a deeper connection to yourself and your surroundings. There are many mindfulness practices that can be done in under 5 minutes! Here is an article with several easy, practical mindfulness exercises.

  6. Nature-Based Metaphors: You can share your experiences with your therapist by using nature-inspired metaphors. Nature metaphors can be helpful in processing emotions, challenges, or life experiences.

  7. Reflective Discussions: With a therapist, you can reflect on your relationship with nature and how you can incorporate nature-based activities into your self-care routine.

Outside of the confines of a traditional therapy office, eco-therapy can take many forms. It’s important to note that certain eco-therapy modalities may require consultation with professionals specialized in each specific approach.


  1. Forest Bathing (Shinrin-yoku): This is a Japanese practice that involves immersing oneself in the forest atmosphere to promote relaxation and stress reduction. Trained forest therapy guides can lead individuals or groups through structured forest bathing experiences, facilitating a deeper connection with nature, and promoting overall well-being.

  2. Walk-and-Talk Therapy: Walk-and-talk therapy involves conducting therapeutic sessions while walking outdoors, often in natural settings such as parks, trails, or gardens.

  3. Structured Challenges/Outdoor Adventures: Adventure therapy incorporates outdoor adventure activities such as rock climbing, kayaking, and ropes courses into the therapeutic process.

  4. Animal-Assisted/Equine-Assisted Therapy: Incorporating animals into the therapeutic process can provide emotional support, companionship, and opportunities for social interaction.


The Bottom Line


Eco-therapy taps into nature’s healing power to improve mental well-being. It can be as simple as bringing nature into therapy sessions through imagery, sounds, or plants. Eco-therapy also extends beyond the therapist’s office with activities like forest bathing, walk-and-talk therapy, and outdoor adventures. Remember, for some eco-therapy activities, it is best to consult professionals specialized in those areas.

“I believe that the natural world offers profound opportunities for healing and growth, and ecotherapy provides a framework to harness these opportunities in diverse and innovative ways.” – Howard Clinebell

 

Our team of online and in-person Barrie counsellors provide quality and effective counselling services in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.

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