Nature as Co-Therapist: An Intro to Ecotherapy for Act Clinicians
Over the last few months, I’ve been having a series of conversations with my colleagues Robyn Walser and Martin Wilks. We’ve been talking about Contextual Behavioral Science (CBS) and the environment. The focus of our conversations has been on psychological barriers to taking effective action to protect the planet. Martin also introduced his idea about adding ecological valuing to our work on values clarification with clients in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT).
In our last conversation, we explored how nature can be a resource for growth and healing as well. I recorded this 20-minute presentation to introduce ACT therapists to the field of ecopsychology. The basic concept is that our psychological distress is not simply the result of intrapsychic dynamics, but also of our ruptured connection with the natural world. After providing a theoretical overview, I raised some possibilities about how CBS perspectives could contribute to this conversation.
The full presentation is posted below. I hope this will spark conversation and inspire others in the CBS community to integrate nature-based practices into your work. Following the presentation, I had a discussion with Martin and Robyn about these ideas. These conversations are part of the Praxis Many Voices project, and I’ll post links as they become available. Special thanks to Jon Haug at Praxis Continuing Education and Training for recording and sharing the video file!
Special note: As I gave this presentation and wrote this post, California has been covered in smoke from the fires on both sides of the state. I’ve been having trouble with asthma and sinuses this week, and nearly all of my clients made the same complaint. It occurs to me that this is another expression of our relationship with nature: in our bodies, we are feeling the suffering of the forests that are burning. It literally makes it hard for us to breathe. With this post, I am sending blessings for an end to these fires and for safety and support to everyone who has been affected.
Kip Williams is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (#93170) with private practice offices in San Francisco and Oakland. He specializes in mindfulness-based therapy for LGBTQ+ clients, and he offers outdoor therapy sessions at Lake Merritt and throughout the East Bay Regional Parks in Oakland and Berkeley. He is currently a PhD student in Psychology with a specialization in Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health at Saybrook University.