Ecotherapy is the practice of the new field of ecopsychology founded by Theodore Roszak, also known as nature therapy or ecological therapy. In certain instances, ecotherapy derives from the idea that people are part of the web of life, and our psyches are not disconnected or removed from our surroundings.
Ecotherapy is used to describe a rather diverse range of therapeutic modalities. These range from individual clients’ counselling within a psychotherapeutic context to ‘green care farms’, ‘green exercise’, and green gyms. Unfortunately, ecotherapy is also frequently associated with terms such as animal-assisted therapy, adventure therapy, and wilderness therapy.
Green Impact on Emotions
Researchers at the University of Essex demonstrated the basis for Mind’s afore-mentioned “green agenda for mental health” report. They have also highlighted the link between broader environmental ethics and human health, claiming that the emotional benefits of green spaces can be utilised as an argument for environmental conservation.
It is not shocking that nature has a calming impact when you know that for our entire life, the human race–and all our evolutionary forebears–have been closely related to it. It is only in recent times that many of us have been limited to environments created by man. Therefore interaction with green spaces is like returning home for us and fills us with the same sense of comfort and belonging. They crave nature in the same way as a child needs a mother, and derive from it the same sense of satisfaction.
Perspective of Therapy
Ecotherapy takes a distinctly more instrumental or functional perspective on the therapeutic value of nature. Its usefulness or value in promoting the health or alleviating the mental suffering of individual human beings, rather than from a vision of the interdependence of personal, community and planetary health. From such a perspective, nature is perceived more or less pragmatically as providing an optimal environment to enhance human psychological growth, restoration and healing. These approaches include horticultural therapy/social and therapeutic horticulture, healing gardens various schools of wilderness and adventure therapy animal-facilitated therapeutic practices, green care and green farms, health-promoting environments, evidence-based health design, not to mention the salutogenic use of urban green spaces, such as parks and gardens.
However, the main reason that nature can heal and transform us is because of its calming and mind-settling effect. Our minds process much less information than usual in life, and by concentrating, they do not wear themselves out. Most importantly, the beauty perhaps wonders of nature in meditation works a bit like a mantra, slowing down the usual ‘thought-chatter’ that runs through our minds chaotically. It fills us with inner stillness and strength, producing a glow of being and intensifying our perceptions.