From Prof. John Davis
Director of the Transpersonal Psychology training, Naropa University, U.S.A
From Prof. Mooli Lahad
Director of international dramatherapy trainings in Israel, Britain, Denmark, Greece and Cyprus.
From Mary Jane Rust , a Jungian analyst, art therapist and ecopsychologict. Mary writes and teaches ecopsychology around the world.
From Prof. John Davis - February 27, 2007
I have read sections of Ronen Berger’s Ph.D. thesis along with several of his articles, and I am writing to express my appreciation for this work. I have seen this work over several years now, and I am glad to see it moving forward. I want to comment specifically on Chapter 7 of the Ph.D. dissertation and its contribution to the field of ecopsychology
I feel this dissertation gives a good sense of an ecopsychological perspective. It integrates the value of ecopsychology for human well-being with its value for ecological conservation. I feel this integration is central to ecopsychology. The dissertation does a good job of expanding this perspective into psychotherapeutic practice through what it calls “Nature Therapy.” I appreciated the overview of issues related to this form of therapy and the critical thinking in the dissertation. Importantly, the dissertation presents a central organizing framework for a variety of ecotherapeutic practices. This is an important contribution. While others have presented lists of such practices, they have often not had the kind of theoretical foundation or framework present in this dissertation.
Nature Therapy, as it is described in this dissertation, “places the personal benefits of the clients in the centre of the process (and not saving the planet).” While I disagree with this view, feeling that ecopsychology calls into question the duality of person and planet, Ronen states the position of Nature Therapy clearly and fairly, leaving the door open to further dialogue. This is the essence of academic discourse.
The dissertation applies Nature Therapy to Adventure Therapy, a recognized field of practice. This application was insightful and well-developed. Indeed, using nature as a “mere setting or backcloth” for adventure therapy can lead to further alienation from the natural world. At the very least, it misses a profound opportunity for reconnection. Promoting this reconnection in the context of Adventure Therapy is one of the contributions of Nature Therapy. While Nature Therapy does not seek to replace Adventure Therapy, it offers important new options for Adventure Therapy. I hope that those in the Adventure Therapy field will be exposed to Nature Therapy and expand their perspectives.
Personally, I am excited about the potential for expanding Nature Therapy into school settings. This dissertation describes, and gives examples of, such applications. It is so very important to provide such views to children and to connect a broader perspective of human-nature relationships with everyday life. In this area, Nature Therapy may be able to complement the good work already available in environmental education, natural history, and ecological studies.
While I am less familiar with the field of Drama Therapy, I found the discussion of this area informative and creative. Highlighting the value of ritual is exceptionally important. The deep structure of ritual mirrors the deep structure of many kinds of nature-based work (leaving familiar reality; being in a new, “as-if” world; and returning). I was glad to see this element of Nature Therapy articulated. This also provides a connection of Nature Therapy to rites of passage work, the basis for some important forms of nature-based therapy and growth work, such as wilderness rites of passage and “vision quest” work. This may be a fruitful area of expansion for Nature Therapy in the future.
In summary, Ronen Berger’s work, Nature Therapy, offers a well-thought out approach to ecopsychology and its therapeutic applications.
John Davis, Ph.D.
Director, Low-residency MA in Transpersonal Psychology
Boulder, Colorado, USA
From Prof. Mooli Lahad – February 2nd 2007
I followed through your chapter and arguments and I can definitely see the potential of nature therapy as a form or an option of Dramatherapy.
It is using the sacred space otherwise noted as "dramatic reality" (Jennings) "Fantastic reality" (Lahad 2005) and the fact that there is a dialogue between person and others person and oneself and person and environment and most of all that it is "action= drama " focused, certainly can be seen as Dramatherapy method.
Its uniqueness or innovation is by not only focusing on the mere experience of going out of home but the intention to do therapy the use of therapeutic methods and the focus on the therapeutic outcomes in a very broad sense.
In some of the founder of dramatherapy writings and especially in Jennings approach the outdoor potential is not just reproduction of the tribe ritual (by being outside like men in the old days did because they did not have another space to conduct their rites) but specifically the dialogue with nature the potential experimentation between body-soul and rituals as provoking of inner material ready for therapeutic work without the necessity to interpret the products as the dialogue in and with nature has it impact on the psyche
All the best
Prof. Mooli Lahad PhD.
Psych. PhD Dth. Head of the dramatherapy training at Tel Hai College. Israel.
Director of an international program for dramatherapy in Britain, Denmark, Greece and Cyprus.
From Prof. Mary Jane Rust – March 13th 2007
Ecopsychology is in its beginning stages of articulating a field of study crucial to us as this time of planetary crisis. One central theme of this broad field is how we mend the split between humans and nature – a split which ecopsychologists believe is at the root of our environmental crisis. How we mend this split is many and varied. For therapists, one way of doing this is to have a more direct relationship with nature, healing for both client, therapists and - arguably - culture.
Ronen Berger’s work and writing is timely since it describes how therapists can take their work out of the room, so that the therapeutic work is in relationship with nature. This challenges the long-held and cherished notion that the room is the container for the therapeutic work. Berger offers the idea that nature can be a partner in the therapeutic process. He points out that nature therapy relates to nature as “a partner in the shaping and setting of the process” (Beyond Words P1).
Berger also points out that inviting nature to be a partner in the therapeutic process (indeed, since we are part of nature, how can this not be so!) extends and challenges our current notions of healing, which are almost exclusively anthropocentric, i.e. built around human-human relationships. Ecopsychology acknowledges the important role nature plays in our development, and in our continuing well being as adults; it also recognises that a lack of contact with nature may cause psychological imbalance, and that reconnecting with nature can bring about well-being. Berger points out that these ideas are far from new, since indigenous cultures have always seen the imbalance between the human community and nature as the root of illness. (Incorporating Nature into Therapy P1).
Berger describes the process of Nature Therapy in some detail with a variety of client groups. He makes it possible for the reader to get inside this complex experience and then relate it to current thinking within several different fields of theory. In my opinion, this is the strongest point of his work. While there may be a number of therapists quietly working outdoors, there are extremely few who write it, and fewer still who are building a conceptual framework around the experience. Berger rightly makes the links between Nature Therapy, Drama and Art Therapy, Adventure Therapy and Play Therapy. There are many overlaps between these fields of practice and it is helpful to borrow ideas from the developing thinking in these areas to build a conceptual framework for Nature Therapy, and for Ecopsychology as a whole. Berger is therefore making an important contribution to the field of Ecopsychology with his writing on Nature Therapy."
Mary Jane Rust