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In his book, Clinebell outlines five distinctive steps that are used in ecotherapy. The first is to invite people to tell their ecological story, either positive or negative. The next step is to help clients, students and family members become more fully aware of and express both their painful and good feelings about their natural environment p.

The third step is to encourage people to strengthen their sense of organic connectedness with the natural world by letting themselves be nurtured by nature often and deeply p. Roszak's equivalent is his idea of an ecological ego The fourth step takes place as the energy and motivation of persons is generated by ecobonding p. Clinebell encourages persons to reciprocate this bonding by earth-caring action to heal the earth, which elicits hope in the persons.

The last step is to encourage people to develop a "self-care fitness plan" including an earth-caring dimension. This is also called a "self-earth care plan" Clinebell, , p.

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Ecopsychologists vary in the type of treatment they prescribe once the steps have been started. Each person must decide for him or herself which type is the best. Ecological Consciousness Raising is one type of treatment p. Reading a book, watching a video or any other environmental education resource can provide this consciousness raising Clinebell, On the opposite side of the spectrum are the unique healing rituals.

These vary from traditional Chinese medicine to Native American dances and sweatlodge rituals. A very typical psychological approach can be taken through projective methods. These methods include telling a story, drawing pictures, taking photographs, writing poetry, performing music, or any other Thematic Apperception Test which can be analyzed p. One of the simplest, yet most effective types of treatment is horticultural therapy. This method outdates ecopsychology and many other disciplines, originating in ancient Egypt Clinebell, Clinebell states four areas of growth while participating in horticultural therapy: Gardening constitutes one small part of horticultural therapy, yet it is the most common.

Organic gardening provides goals and is process oriented, thereby helping many persons learn how to work toward and complete goals Aeppel One advantage of horticultural therapy is that it also works well in urban settings where nature is often not readily accessible. A solution for small apartments is growing small plants and herb gardens Aeppel The small plants and gardens have been used for years in helping many types of persons such as those who are mentally or physically ill, geriatric patients, alcoholics, drug addicts and prisoners Clinebell, , p.

Both graduate and undergraduate programs now exist that focus soley on how to help persons rehabilitate themselves through contact with nature Clinebell Another type of popular treatment does not have such a long history. Wilderness treatment has only been described as a "treatment" after the establishment of ecopsychology. This treatment enlivens the five senses by exposing the body to nature for an extended period of time, and often shocks persons to their cores Aeppel Guides take groups of persons into the woods for a week or two with the bare minimum of supplies.

Tarkan reports that persons first talk about cultural things, such as jobs and families, but then "come to their senses" by "smelling the earth, seeing sunlight and hearing the babbling brook" Many sites on the internet describe ecotrips, as they are normally called, describe various types, lengths and locations for these wilderness excursions. Two other types of therapy use specific parts of nature: The use of trees ranges from identification to touching, hugging or planting Clinebell Possibly the easiest use of trees in healing is to take walks in the woods and establish a relationship with a tree; "treat it as a dear friend" My Shrink, My Sequoia, , p.

This simple task helps humans to relate to all of nature through one intermediary, the "tree friend. Relating with animals helps increase cognitive, motor and social skills in persons because bonding with animals helps them meet a challenge Clinebell Research shows that animals, specifically pets, decrease loneliness and increase play in humans Clinebell This evidence indicate that all people can benefit from some type of ecotherapy. Not all people may want to participate in an ecotherapy session.

What is Ecopsychology?

However, there are other less structured actions and ideological changes that can be done daily to help ourselves and the environment. Roszak simply suggests that each person develop a theory and practice which promotes sustainable and enhancing relationships among humans as well as with the world. One simple way to help the earth is to first have better self-care which enhances ability to care for the earth Clinebell Since humans cannot change evolutionary processes, humans have to change their culture s to become more earth friendly Howard Howard believes that in order to change humans must start with the "inner self and work out.

In order to take action on these changes, persons must have a daily or weekly practice of mindfulness to the environment. Roszak suggests that finding a place near home with something natural rock, tree or creek and spend time with it on a regular basis Maggie Spilner suggests persons "experience" nature on a regular basis p. She suggests standing with eyes closed, attempting to "see things with your hands" such as rocks or trees.

After awhile, the ability will develop to identify the rock or tree purely by touch. Another very effective way to change is to be involved with ecoteams in local neighborhoods. These groups can examine resource consumption, conduct tours of trees in the neighborhood or have potlucks to link the community to the environment Strubbe Lastly, the way most persons are involved with ecospychology is through ecoeducation.


Before starting ecoeducation programs, leaders must begin deepening their own relationships with the natural world and examine their lifestyles to see if they express or contradict ecofriendly living. Only after they are secure with this can they educate others. It is interesting that Roszak believes that ecoeducation is not necessary for children. He believes that children come with a built-in love for nature.

Only when they become part of our mainstream education system is their ecological unconscious muted.

Therefore, the goal is to keep children as sane as when they were born, and as adults to strive to be like them. Clinebell is a proponent of ecoeducation for all persons, including children, arguing that it is the "primary way of preventing earth-alienation, the cause of destructive ecological lifestyles" p.

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He defines ecoeducation as any learning experience that increases "earth-literacy and earth-caring, rooted in earth-bonding" p. It brings in a wide range of academic disciplines and helps students discover and adopt earth-caring values that encourage earth-caring actions and lifestyles Clinebell Clinebell ends his discussion on ecoeducation with two lists that seem quite helpful for encouraging persons to change. The first list of key issues addresses the need to help the earth:. The first step towards developing psychological resilience is becoming aware of our emotional responses to climate change.

Find a friend or colleague with whom you can talk openly about your feelings. Spend an hour together and take it in turns to complete the following open sentences:. The feelings I find difficult to tolerate are e. For a summary of this book, see Joanna Macy's website. Becoming more aware of our emotional responses to the world can raise our anxiety levels.

What is Ecopsychology? - Best Counseling Degrees

It is then tempting to return to the comfort apparently offered by modern industrial society, which can disconnect us from the alarm signals of a world in distress. This means we attribute our own difficult feelings to someone else. This can actually deepen our own anger and so the dynamic can continue and cause considerable pain for both parties.

It is interesting to explore which feelings might be difficult to tolerate, and why. This means that there is a culture in Britain of not wanting to express strong emotions. This tendency will be moderated by the particular family we are brought up in, as well as our personality. Disconnection, projection and repression are all emotional responses that help us cope, but often in a way that is personally, socially and ecologically damaging. Ultimately these responses make our situation worse.

We find such psychological processes at work in social oppression. For example, during the time of colonial slavery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, white people were taught that black people were less than human. This enabled them to treat black people as objects that did not have feelings. Similar processes were at play in the Nazi holocaust. The process of dealing personally with such projections is painful, because it forces the perpetrators to come to terms with their own destructive tendencies.

Wild nature is often feared as dark and dangerous or, conversely, romanticised and idealised. Exploring our projections onto the natural world, and finding a way of respecting all life, is a difficult process because it challenges deep-seated notions about modern human identity, which is, in part, created by seeing ourselves as separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature. Resilience is derived from ecology although it is a widely used term and refers to the ability of a system personal, social, ecological, political, cultural to transform itself in order to adapt and survive.

As was mentioned above, the Transition Movement suggests that we need to create local community resilience to withstand the shocks of global social and ecological threats, as old institutional structures fail. This involves strengthening local resources so that we can rely, once again, on local food, energy supply, waste management, healthcare, recreation and livelihoods, for example. This transition process makes human communities more resilient and strengthens our relationship to ourselves, between each other — and to the rest of nature.


In psychology, becoming more resilient means we are equipped to act meaningfully when challenged by changes around us. Finding resilience can be likened to finding the eye of the storm, the calm place inside ourselves that helps us think carefully when all around is chaotic. This type of resilience is often also derived from many forms of spiritual practice, both within and beyond organised religion.

You can find out more about Chris Johnstone on his website and on YouTube. The paper was published in in the American Psychologist vol. Think about a time when you felt anxious about climate change or another ecological issue. For example, when you see flooding or environmental refugees on the news, when you hear predictions about the effects of sea level rise on coastal communities, or when you see evidence of the impacts of climate change in the area where you live. Bearing this in mind, explore these questions. Can you identify times when you have denied, projected or repressed difficult emotions about ecological issues?

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Please see Terms and Conditions. In short this allows you to use the content throughout the world without payment for non-commercial purposes in accordance with the Creative Commons non commercial sharealike licence. Please read this licence in full along with OpenLearn terms and conditions before making use of the content. The only peer-reviewed journal that places psychology and mental health in an ecological context to recognize the links between human health, culture, and the health of the planet.

The Journal seeks to reshape modern psychology by showing that it cannot stand apart from an intimate human connection with the natural environment. We need that connection with nature to do well mentally and physically, let alone to flourish, as individuals and as a species.