Berger, R. (2008). Nature Therapy – Developing a Framework for Practice. PhD thesis
School of Health and Social Sciences. University of Abertay, Dundee
The relationship between human beings and nature has played an important role throughout history, as part of traditional medicine and curative rituals. The Shaman, the healing man, incorporated nature into rituals aiming to help both the individual and the community heal from misfortunes and make the transition from one life phase to another. However, the development of industry and urbanization put a distance between human beings and nature. The new healing methods that were constructed in the 20th century largely overlooked the relationship with nature, working mainly through cognition and verbal communication, relating to the relationship between people as the core element. In the last decade, along with the development of post-modernism, new therapeutic approaches emerged. Some of them, like the expressive-art therapies, seek to expand cognitive and verbal techniques to non-verbal and creative modes of working, emphasizing people's creativity and imagination abilities. Other approaches seek to expand the process by relating to 'the larger then self', inviting transpersonal and spiritual work to widen the person-to- person discourse. Ecopsychology invites people to expand their relationships beyond the 'person-to-person' relationship into one which will include nature. Despite its nature-oriented philosophy, however, Ecopsychology has not yet articulated into a therapeutic form, that specifies practical methods for therapeutic work. The present study aims to develop a therapeutic approach taking place in nature, using non-verbal and creative methods to extend common therapeutic practices in ways that can include a dialogue with nature. Using a reflexive Action Research strategy, the study examines the experience of both practitioners who used Nature Therapy in practice and who took part in training courses, and uses these data as a basis for the conceptualization and development of an innovative therapy theory. The implications of the study, for theory, research and practice in psychotherapy, are discussed.