Growth Outside the Counsellor's Office: Theoretical and Practical Approaches to Ecotherapy

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Gibson, Jennifer
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While considerable research within the larger health sciences field now concludes that spending time in nature has measurable mental and physical health benefits, counselling psychology seems to have marginalized ecotherapy as a treatment modality. In this non-traditional manuscript-style thesis, I explore the potential of ecotherapy in individual and group counselling and provide practical and theoretical frameworks. I review the literature and use metaphor analysis as my methodology. I aim to situate my academic writing within my own lived experience by including creative writing excerpts. I evaluate the research on ecotherapy within the psychology field and find that the benefits of involvement with nature are significant to mental health. I present key ecotherapy principles and practices for therapists. I show that the relationship between self, other, and community can be enriched through a mindfulness informed ecotherapy practice. I attempt to bridge the knowledge gap between researchers and practicing counsellors around the benefits and practice of ecotherapy. I argue that ecotherapy is not prescriptive, rather it is heuristic and expands the possibility of counselling outside of the office setting for counsellors and their clients. This work emphasizes that the protection of publically accessible nature is central, and that the integration of environmentalism and mental health is necessary.
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