Tag Archives: ecotherapy

MBE Program Coming this Spring

Click here for an overview of the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy(MBE) Program

I’m pleased to announce that I have partnered with the Stress Management Center at the Fernview Center for Wellbeing in Anderson, South Carolina to present the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy program. This 12-week program will begin in the spring of 2019.

I will also be offering therapy appointment services for individuals, families, and couples at the Stress Management Center starting in the winter of 2018. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, please contact Judith Herring at the Fernview Center for Wellbeing.

For more information on what Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy is and how it works, see the information below.

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE)

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a blending of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology. MBE uses nature to facilitate mindful awareness. MBE is used as a framework for helping individuals and families to find deeper connections in their own lives, and to give more meaning and enjoyment to the activities of daily living.

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a 12-week nature-based program. Each session meets outdoors for about 90 minutes and is guided by a trained MBE facilitator. The Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook was designed to accompany the 12-week program. A facilitator manual is also available for mental health professionals interested in training in the program.

For more information, please complete the contact form below.

What is Ecotherapy?

For most of its existence homo sapiens has lived in harmony with nature as hunter/gatherers. Such a lifestyle requires a vast knowledge of the seasons, and of the patterns and habits of wildlife, and of plants and herbs and their healing powers. Industrialization and urbanization are fairly recent phenomena on an evolutionary scale. We still carry the genetic memory of our ancestors who lived in untamed nature. Our brains are wired for the outdoors and nature. A growing body of research demonstrates that not only do we feel better when we make time for nature, it is actually a requirement for good physical and mental health!

The field of ecopsychology studies how humans interact with nature. Ecopsychology is a philosophy combining elements of psychology and ecology. It is the philosophy that mental health is contingent upon the health of the environment. Humankind and the environment are part of an interrelated system. We are not separate from nature. We are a part of nature.

At its core, ecopsychology suggests that there is a synergistic relation between planetary and personal well-being; that the needs of the one are relevant to the needs of the other. In short, what we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. Ecotherapy is the practical application of this knowledge. In ecotherapy nature is the “therapist.” In practicing the techniques of ecotherapy, we allow the healing power of nature to work its magic on us. Hölzel et al (2011) demonstrated that meditative states of mindfulness stimulate neural growth in the cerebral cortex in the areas of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, good judgment, insight, and impulse control. Nature experiences have been demonstrated in several studies to produce meditative states (fascination, relaxation, and mindfulness).

Experiences in and with nature, or natural experiences, are ways in which we consciously choose to allow nature to work its healing magic on us. Some types of natural experiences include:

Facilitated Wilderness Experiences

In these types of experiences, a trained facilitator takes you into the woods for an adventure. These events can be anything from a wilderness experience in ecotherapy led by a therapist or counselor, to a hunting trip led by a wilderness guide. Kuo & Taylor (2004) demonstrated that therapy and other activities conducted in outdoor settings reduced symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Whittington (2006) found that wilderness skills training gave adolescent girls increased self-esteem and self-confidence and helped to shatter gender stereotypes.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal therapy in the form of contact with pets and/or wild or domesticated animals enhances self-actualization and can lessen symptoms of depression. Antonioli & Reveley (2005) found that simply swimming with dolphins can greatly reduce symptoms of depression. Other studies have shown that owning pets, or even just watching fish in an aquarium, can greatly reduce stress. Equine Therapy uses horses to facilitate mental and physical wellbeing. There are many other ways that animals can help us lead happier lives, as any pet owner can tell you!

Therapeutic Gardens

Sempik & Spurgeon (2006) demonstrated that therapeutic gardening reduces stress and lessens symptoms of depression. Blair (2009) discovered that gardening can be used as a means of helping school children to enhance self-sufficiency, social identity, meaning, and self-integration. There’s just something very healing about planting something and nurturing it as you watch it grow.

Vacations

Sponselee, et al (2004) discovered that outdoor activities reduce stress and restore energy. If you’ve ever had to miss a vacation, you’re probably painfully aware of the regenerative power of taking a week or so off to spend time in nature. Roggenbuck & Driver (2000) found that you don’t need a facilitator or guide to enjoy health and well-being benefits from the use of wilderness areas. There’s a reason we’re attracted to beaches and national parks!

Architecture Incorporating Natural Spaces

Nature can be incorporated into the home environment through the use of plants, an aquarium, or even recorded nature sounds. Alvarsson et al (2010) studied the positive mental health effects of listening to nature sounds.

Outdoor Classrooms

Purcell, et all in 2007 revealed that outdoor classrooms enhanced many critical factors of the educational experience, including: Enhanced retention, better focus, more attention to detail, less hyperactivity, more relaxation, increased confidence and self-esteem, and better cognitive functioning

What is Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE)?

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Do you enjoy nature? Have you ever been camping, hiking or canoeing? Do you enjoy hunting and fishing? If so, you are probably already aware of nature’s power to relax and heal. A large and growing body of research demonstrates that nature is good for the mind as well as the body.

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the moment in which you find yourself by focusing on your immediate experience rather than on ruminations that may be producing stress depression, or anxiety. The benefits of mindfulness as a tool for stress reduction and self-improvement have been thoroughly researched. Mindfulness works so well in this capacity that it has been referred to as the “penicillin of mental health.”

Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy (MBE) is a blending of Mindfulness and Ecopsychology. MBE uses nature to facilitate mindful awareness, the first skill of MBE.

MBE is used as a framework for helping individuals and families to find deeper connections in their own lives, and to give more meaning and enjoyment to the activities of daily living. By re-integrating ourselves with nature, we are able to tap into nature’s healing power and to heal the earth as we heal ourselves.

Think about the last time you were stressed out or depressed about something. Hold that thought in your mind and ask yourself, “Was the stress due to something that happened in the past? Was it about something that may or may not happen in the future? How much of what I was anxious about has to do with right now, at this very moment, as I read this sentence?”

Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what is happening right now, in this moment.

By focusing on our experiences in the now, from moment to moment, we come to realize that we are free to choose which thoughts and feelings to pay attention to, and which thoughts and feelings not to focus on. This doesn’t mean that we’re trying to stop thinking or feeling. It means that we’re just making a conscious choice on how much attention to focus on those thoughts or feelings.

The past only exists in our memories. The future is only a projection of the past. Anxiety about future events is the result of playing the odds based on past experiences and expecting similar occurrences to happen in the future. Mindfulness is a way of using the present moment to choose what to believe about the past and the future. We can choose which memories to pay attention to, and which projections about the future to focus our attention on. Mindfulness isn’t about trying to make anxious or depressing thoughts and feelings go away. It is about choosing whether or not to dwell on such thoughts and feelings.

Try this: Imagine that everything that has ever stressed you out or depressed you is written on a sheet of paper. Now imagine holding this sheet of paper about six inches from your nose, or as close to your face as you can while still being able to read the words on this page.

With the page this close to your face, how much of your surroundings can you see? If you’re like most people, you probably can’t see much of anything in the immediate environment. If your stressful thoughts and feelings were written on this page, they’d be in the way. They’d be blocking your view. When we let our stressful thoughts and feelings occupy all of our attention, then like this page, they tend to block our view of anything else that might be going on in our lives.

Now instead of having all your stressful and depressing thoughts written on this page, imagine that they’re written on a boomerang. If you tried to throw that boomerang away, it would eventually come back to you. If you weren’t careful, it might actually smack you in the head on its return trip!  The harder you try to throw this boomerang away, the faster it comes back to you. When we try to “throw away” stressful and depressing thoughts and feelings, they tend to come right back at us as well. That’s because, like it or not, stressful and depressing thoughts and feelings are just as much a part of us as happy thoughts and feelings. Trying to throw them away is trying to throw away a part of ourselves.

What if, instead of trying to throw that boomerang away, you simply set it in your lap? If you did this, those negative thoughts and feelings written on the boomerang would still be with you, but they wouldn’t be blocking your view. You could still see and interact with the world, but you also wouldn’t be trying to throw away a part of yourself.

Mindfulness is a way of setting that boomerang of stressful and depressing thoughts in your lap so you can see the world around you. It’s not a way of trying to throw those thoughts and feelings away. Remember, if you try to do that, the boomerang may come back with a vengeance! Instead, mindfulness is about learning to accept that such thoughts and feelings are a natural part of existence, and accepting that we don’t have to let them keep us from interacting with the world unless we consciously choose to do so.