wild therapy: an ecopsychology training

5th to 13th May 2018

This course will help you to develop a deeper understanding of ecopsychological practices – both experientially and theoretically. You will be supported to deepen a nature-based practice and appreciate its therapeutic value and applications. Aimed at trainee or practising therapists and those who are interested in the relationship between therapy and nature-based approaches, we will explore how ecopsychological approaches can be resourcing and supportive in working one to one, as well as within other settings and groups. This event is part of our Nature Based Practice and Learning series.

Wild therapy has grown from the emerging field of ecopsychology, with its roots in Embodied-Relational therapy, a form of body psychotherapy originated by Nick Totton and Em Edmondson in the early 1990s.

Ecopsychology practitioners come from a range of backgrounds: wilderness guides, horticulturists, psychotherapists, through to environmental artists, film-makers and photographers, amongst others. What they share is an interest in exploring and healing the relationship between human and other-than-human life or ‘nature’, as we call it.

Ecopsychologists work at the interface of ecology and psychology. They explore how our psychology and psychological practices contribute to understanding and addressing the ecological crises we face. They claim that psychological and therapeutic practices need to include a greater understanding of ecology and the environment – an earth perspective rather than an unquestioned human perspective in the anthropocentric times we are in.

Therapy conventionally takes place within four walls, frequently in an urban setting, often in a neutrally-decorated room. Wild therapy takes place closer to nature – working outdoors in the elements, as well as outdoors in spaces like yurts and barns. It is concerned with the polarised themes of wildness and domestication which run throughout human history and culture. It makes the point that mainstream psychotherapy and counselling, like other professions, have become increasingly over-identified with domestication and associated concepts such as boundaries, objectivity and control. It seeks to rebalance therapy – and in the long run, human culture – re-inviting wildness, spontaneity, playful wisdom, boundlessness and passion.

In this training we take therapy outdoors, encountering the other-than-human and the more-than-human: animals, birds, plants, trees, hills, rocks, rivers, insects, winds, dreams, ghosts, and ancestral spirits. Spending time ‘in nature’ can help us appreciate that we are never anywhere else, always inhabiting and encountering our own nature in all its wondrousness. An important part of the therapeutic relationship and ‘container’ as it is sometimes known, is being witnessed by the therapist in our realisations and transformations. In Wild therapy the witnesses extend to the many other-than-humans species we meet doing the work, framed by earth below and sky above.

We then bring the outdoors back indoors, allowing it to reshape our therapeutic practice and group process in sometimes unexpected ways. This movement between the inside and out can echo our constant movement between inner and outer experience, bridging between ourselves and others in how present we are in our bodies, and in how we communicate and relate. Creating community for the time we are together is a vital aspect of Wild therapy: cooking, eating, working, and hanging out together are all part of the practise of exploring our own wild and tamer edges and the parts of us which have become domesticated.

In the course of this week we will:

  • Engage in Wild therapy through solo, small and whole group work
  • Use process-oriented approaches in deepening our communication and connections with ourselves, the other-than-human world, and each another
  • Practice simple meditations. The invitation of these will be to gather our energies so we are able to be as present and as resourced as possible, learn mindfulness tools, develop emotional resilience and to notice what is emerging at the liminal periphery of our experience
  • Have the chance to tell our 'earth story', perhaps marked by a co-created ceremony
  • Pay attention to our process of embodying as a way of understanding dynamics which have shaped us (family, society, culture), our styles of being and relating, and contacting our dreaming body
  • Learn practices which bring fresh ideas and support to our nature-based practice or practice of the wild, both alone and with clients, for example, the process of ‘soft fascination’ as named by Kaplan and Kaplan
  • Become more familiar with life in all its forms in the wildness of Ecodharma’s valley; taking time to appreciate its particular history
  • Have space to notice the constant flux of life both within us and in the weather, seasons, and moods between us

This week will support participants to:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of ecopsychology practices; experientially and theoretically
  • Establish or deepen their nature-based practice or practice of the wild
  • Deepen their reflection practice, developing resources to support emotional resilience, sensitivity, courage and new insights in work and life
  • Co-create and experience living in community based on ecopsychological ideas
  • Pay attention to the need for their own re-wilding and supporting that in others and the wider world
  • Realise even more fully the political significance of qualities of wildness, spontaneity, playful wisdom, boundlessness and passion in resistance and taking action
  • Reflect on notions of selfhood from both a dharmic and ecopsychological perspective and plan accordingly in what this means for the shaping of our work and life as we return home

Who is this aimed at?
This week is suitable for those who are either trainee or practising therapists and those who are interested in therapy and nature-based approaches, particularly in how it can be resourcing and supportive in working one to one, as well as within other movements and groups. It is also suitable for those who have a strong nature connection and who enjoy meditating in peaceful surroundings.

Suggested contribution in the Dana Economy €300/€600/€800. Make a booking.

The team:

Emma Palmer (formerly known as Kamalamani) is a Bristol-based body psychotherapist, ecopsychologist, and writer. She has been practising meditation and dharma since 1995. For 21 years she has worked as a facilitator, for example: teaching postgraduate international development studies at Bristol University, with NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa, offering Wild therapy in remote corners of the UK, leading retreats, and women’s dharma study group. She has been a practising therapist since 2003 and is particularly interested in the interface between therapy and social, ecological, and climate justice and power dynamics in the therapeutic relationship. She has been a steering group member of Psychotherapist and Counsellors for Social Responsibility and editor of its journal Transformations. Emma is author of two books and is currently writing her third as well as writing a regular piece for the US journal Somatic Psychotherapy Today. www.kamalamani.co.uk

Justin Roughley will be supporting Emma on this Wild Therapy week. He has been a practising Buddhist for the past 23 years and is an experienced meditation and Dharma teacher and a qualified carbon conversations facilitator. He loves witnessing people consciously stepping into the unknown in their learning. Trained in both Embodied-Relational therapy (a form of Body psychotherapy) and Wild therapy, he particularly values the dance of Wild therapy between working with the other-than-human and more-than-human, returning to the circle to listen and digest, before returning to everyday life to make changes. Over time his engagement as a Wild therapist has grown his resilience, broadened his perspective and catalysed his political engagement. In his therapeutic work he particularly values working relationally with trauma through body awareness, attunement, and imagery.

Please note that whilst this work is likely to be therapeutic, it will not be a formal therapy group and is not a replacement for therapy.

Useful background reading:
David Abram (1997) The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, Vintage Books.
Jerome S. Bernstein (2005) Living in the Borderland: The Evolution of Consciousness and the Challenge of Healing Trauma, Routledge.
Theodore Roszak (2002) Ecopsychology: Restoring the earth/healing the mind, University of California Press.
Gary Snyder (1990) The Practice of the Wild, North Point Press.
Nick Totton (2011) Wild Therapy: Undomesticating inner and outer worlds, PCCS Books.

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