What Is Ecotherapy?

Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy connects psychotherapy, social justice and environmental sustainability, and it’s based on the idea that people and nature aren’t separate from nature–we are part of it.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I help people improve their relationships. As an ecotherapist, I recognize that those relationships include human beings, other animals, plants, rivers, forests, deserts, flowers, mountains–everything that belongs to Nature. That is to say, everything.

What does ecotherapy have to do with psychotherapy?

Good question! Science is now documenting what we know from experience: bonding with our natural world is good for us and, in turn, good for the natural world of which we are a part.

Here are just a few ways that ecotherapy and psychotherapy connect.

Morning walks outside

Exercise is linked to physical, mental and emotional fitness. Add morning sunlight, and you have a recipe for lowering depression and improving cognitive functioning.

Time in nature

Going for a walk in the woods can improve your mental-emotional state and immune system functioning. Even proximity to a trees and parks can make a difference.

Animal companions

Bonding with a companion animal or participating in equine and other animal-assisted therapies can be good for us as well as for the animals.

Gardening

Organic gardening is not only enjoyable, it has real benefits on mood and cognition.

Time away from artificial light

More studies are pointing to the detrimental effects on physical and mental health from constant exposure to artificial light as opposed to natural light.

Climate change, overconsumption and environmental grief

Our isolation from nature and denial of how our behavior affects it (and ourselves) has led to massive environmental destruction through overconsumption, pollution and overpopulation.The science is clear. We are facing more extreme weather due to climate change. We have more toxins in our bodies from plastics, pesticides, fossils fuels, food additives, toxic cosmetics and industrial pollutions. Those who suffer the worst are the most disenfranchised: people of color, people in poverty, indigenous peoples, women and children. The rest of the planet suffers as well: our collective behavior is responsible for the endangerment and extinction of numerous animal, insect and plant species.

We are irreparably damaging the very planet on which we rely for our survival. And we are finally beginning to realize it.

More people are recognizing climate change and environmental devastation as a source of anxiety and depression. It seems too big to do anything about, and yet it looms so large.

We can heal our relationship with Nature and each other.

As a relational therapy, ecotherapy encourages a deeper connection between ourselves, others and our natural environment. Ecotherapy offers a variety of healing practices to do just that.

The more we understand, appreciate and care about our environment and see ourselves and each other as part of it, the more we’re likely to take care of the environment, ourselves and each other.

Want to know more?

I’m happy to talk more about ecotherapy and how you might find it helpful. Until then, here are a few ecotherapy resources.

Ecotherapy Heals website
“Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind” by Linda Buzzell and Craig Chalquist, Eds.
“Ecotherapy/Nature Therapy” on the goodtherapy.org website.
“Active Hope” website for the book “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone