Image Credit: Howard Clinebell, Ph.D

What is Ecotherapy?

In 1995, the groundbreaking book Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind Editors Theodore Roszak etc. broadened the field of psychology to explore the psychological roots of the environmental crisis and its impact on the human psyche.   Ecotherapy has since become an emerging form of therapy that draws on the theory (s) of ecopsychology, ecology, and ecological health and nature based recovery and restoration work for people, and the earth.  In the United States, ecotherapy is an emerging field of healing that includes interventions and practices such as animal-assisted therapy, horticulture therapy/gardening therapy, eco-spiritual mentoring and ceremonies, nature based recovery and restoration work, nature based rites of passages, ecological justice healing work, multi-cultural practices of remembering and honoring ancestral wisdom, nature inspired and based rites of passage, and restoration work connected to therapeutic goals. Many Ecotherapy practices are evidenced-based adjuncts to traditional psychotherapy.  But more than just a set of practices, Ecotherapy as healing aims to enlarge one’s sense of self to bring a conscious awareness to the interconnectedness of all living beings through nature infused practices that bring about peace, healing and transformation.

My approach to ecotherapy includes highlighting connections for healing that include ecological and social justice issues, land use and abuse, racism, and spiritual and mental health as integral to the practices of Ecotherapy. I do this through providing presentations to psychotherapists, youth workers and counselors, and by facilitating nature based retreats through my work with Back to Earth Outdoors company.  I also serve as a mentor, coach and spiritual guide where I create and facilitate  ecotherapy practices designed to deepen one’s sense of connection to place, one’s ancestors, and the earth.

Below you will find resources on Ecotherapy that I have found informative:

• Manos, Jarid. Ghetto Plainsman. Fort Worth, TX Temba House Press, 2009.

• Peterman, Audrey and Frank. Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care. Atlanta, GA Earthwise Productions Inc., 2009.

• Ph.D Clinebell, Howard.  Ecotherapy Healing Ourselves Healing the Earth. Minneapolis, MN Fortress Press,  1996.

• Glave, Dianne. Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming The African American Environmental Heritage. Chicago, IL Lawrence Hill Books, 2010.

• Glave, Dianne and Stoll, Mark. “To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History. Pittsburgh, PA University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

• Buzzell, L. and Chalquist, C. Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind. San Francisco, CA Sierra Clubs Books, 2009.

• Gomes, M., Kannner A., Roszak, T. Ecopsychology Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind.  San Francisco, CA Sierra Club Books, 1995.

• Dungy, Camille T. black nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Athens, GA University of Georgia Press, 2009

• Louv, R. the Nature Principle Human Restoration and the End of Nature Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC, 2011.

• Gibson, J. A Reenchanted World The Quest for a New Kinship with Nature.  New York, NY Metropolitan Books, 2009.

J. Phoenix Smith Presentations on Ecotherapy and Ecospiritual Practices

• “Amplifying the Healing Aspects of the Natural World: A Multicultural Perspective”, Presented to Staff at Edgewood Family Services, San Francisco, CA 2011
• “Nature as Medicine”, Presented at the Black Women’s Media Project: Be Still Retreat 2010,2011
• “Lucumi Spiritual Tradition: Orisa as Spirits of Nature” and Orisa Earthhonoring Ritual with Dr. Michael Mason at Hunter’s Point, San Francisco, CA and West Oakland, CA 2010, 2011”, Presented at Earth Medicine Alliance Conference