How do I become an Ecotherapist?

“How do I become an ecotherapist?”

This is a question I hear a lot.  And I love it.  I am always delighted to hear from folks curious about this work.  People reach out to me frequently asking questions about ecotherapy.  I enjoy and am inspired by these conversations…and I need to find a way to consolidate the time they take.  Thus, a few blog posts covering my most common conversational themes.

What is ecotherapy, anyway?

People have been writing and thinking about this for many years and there are far more eloquent answers available out there!  My very simple answer is that I see ecotherapy/nature based therapy as tapping into and bringing back to awareness a human relationship with the earth that has existed for all of human history.  I believe this relationship is integral to well-being for humans and the earth.  I am no expert, particularly coming from a settler/colonial culture whose own ancestral relationship with the land was severed more years ago than I can trace.  Nor is this work only possible from a therapeutic lens–there are countless people, traditions, cultures, and practices engaged in such work.

But I happen to be a therapist, as I assume you are if you’re reading this.  So this particular conversation is about exploring and experimenting with how to ethically expand the traditional clinical model to include relationship with the earth as a critical part of human and planetary well-being.  I have so much to learn and the longer I do this, the more questions I have.  So I am not writing this as a master of anything, simply a learning practitioner.  But I do have more practice at integrating the human relationship with the natural world into therapy than many in the clinical community.  So here’s what I can feel confident offering at this point in my own explorations.  I can share a handful of values that seem critical to this work, some logistical considerations, and some encouragement.  If you’re looking for specific books, trainings, interventions, etc., there are so many great options.  My bookshelves are overflowing and I plan a future post on favorite reads on this topic.  An internet search will turn up several options for trainings, and there are more and more journals publishing relevant research.  Just start exploring and see what resonates for you.  If you have a passion for these ideas and a deep belief that well-being has to include all residents of the planet, not just human ones, you will find your way!

Quick note–English is a very limiting language to describe anything related to the natural world and meaningful relationship, so it is no surprise that ecotherapy and nature based therapy are terms that unfortunately mirror those limitations.  (For example, ‘nature’ is in itself a problematic word as it implies that humans are separate from nature.)  Since English is the only language I know, though, and the one you are seeking information in, we will do our best to communicate within the limitations of our shared language!