An Ecotherapy Practice For All Seasons to Expand Experiences of Intimacy

February is the time of year where the holiday hustle has passed, and the cloudy days may be starting to catch up with us.  You are not alone if those outdoor self-care activities have taken a back seat to your busy life.  And with the lack of sunshine and lack of activity, it is common to experience feelings of depression.  There are many outdoor activities which can help improve our health and help us feel physically active, but let’s talk about an activity which can goes beyond getting our hibernating bodies outside. 

I want to share an Ecotherapy practice that helps our experience of the blues, by getting us outside in all the seasons and allowing us to experience our world in a uniquely intimate way.  The book “Awaken In The Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self Discovery” by Mark Coleman has a medication titled “Developing Intimacy in a Favorite Place (p36)”.  It invites you to find a spot in nature that you are drawn to.  Honor this place as your own special spot, and take the time to get to know this spot intimately. 

Intimacy can be hard enough to learn in relationships, but what does it mean to be intimate with nature?  Intimacy addresses that spending time with something you can experience it on a deeper level.  When we spend time in nature, ecosystems tend to become more comfortable with us and life comes out of hiding.  Intimacy with nature refers to connecting and understanding the deep facets of the life that lives there and the process of the environment. 

Some examples of intimately experiencing a space are: Knowing the birds which frequent the area.  What bugs find refuge in this place?  Hearing the sounds of the animals or the sounds of the human activity.  Experiencing the different smells of each season.  What shrubs or plants grow?  What colors are present?  How are the leaves different in the Summer, as they fall in Autumn, and how the branches stand during the Winter.   It is also observing the transition from life to natural decay. 

The practice is about taking the time, to sit in silence, and experience one space with all of your senses.   You may find an emotional or spiritual connection can develop with your nature spot, as this space in nature is also intimately getting to know you as you grow.  With the development of a relationship with your nature space,  you can observe how the separateness for you as an individual shifts to you becoming a regular living presence in the natural scene.

I encourage you to make this nature spot and activity your own.  Something that can be easily accessible and works with your lifestyle.  This may be a time to be alone, but you can also modify this with family.  It is also a time to connect with your inner child, and be creative.   Maybe your spot earns a name, or it is your space for a verbal diary. 

I’d like to introduce you to my tree.  Through all the seasons, I regularly run to this tree.  I am always excited to spend time and experience it….and I think it likes me visiting too.


Empowering the Cognitively Diverse in Counseling

Article originally published in the Oregon Counseling Association newsletter.

"For those experiencing cognitive differences such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, cognitive disabilities, or developmental disabilities, mental health counseling is beneficial, but often overlooked. Typical programs for these populations often focus on behavioral changes and interventions but leave out emotional support. Counselors can promote inclusivity by recognizing the emotional impact of a diagnosis, and recognizing the support available through mental health counseling. When connecting with my clients who have cognitive differences, they regularly express emotional reactions to being told that they must change and their self-esteem is often negatively impacted. Often the person who receives these corrections develops the perspective that their natural state does not fit in to the rest of society..."

Article found on Page 4.