During the first sessions, the therapists receive the patients in their practices. The therapist listens to the patients, giving them time to talk about their concerns and needs. The patients can share their most painful emotions in the safety of this relationship.
Then session after session, the patients learn more about themselves. At this point, the therapist will suggest an itinerant session in natural spaces.
Outdoors, the psychotherapy session will unfold in the same way as in the practice, albeit with a third actor: the living world. The therapist-patient face to face becomes a side by side: the therapist suggests the patients wonder freely in the park, answering the call of places that move them or inspire them. When the patients explore this landscape, they discover themselves.
When a connection to the outside becomes an inner connection
For example, this tree with gnarled branches reminds the patients of their own wounds, and becomes a facilitator in the unveiling of their own story. But there is also that other tree, which looks like what the patients want to be: so the patients move towards it, are inspired by it. Lying below the tree, the patients find paths to their own roots. These experiences help patients grow aware of their own bodies and of all the vitality they contain. They progressively reestablish a contact with a dormant sentiment: their vital energy.
Sometimes the patients wish to return to the intimacy of the practice, to discuss a sensitive question… before choosing to return to nature, transformed with each change of seasons. The patients themselves define rich and complex therapeutic journeys, over the course of months, alternating indoor and outdoor sessions.
Experiencing one’s place in the living world
Sometimes, patients confront their fears through contact with certain animals, plants, materials or situations… The therapist accompanies the patients as they overcome these feelings or uneasy emotions: meeting living elements also means conquering their fears to achieve greater freedom. Whilst journeying through these landscapes, patients might question their place in the universe. By listening to birdsong, while being caressed by the breeze, the patients recreate bonds that give them a sense of belonging to this world: They no longer feel held back by this life, by their lives.
In order to make their social relationships evolve faster, patients might wish to take part in therapeutic sessions with a group that regularly meets in the forest. There, with other participants, they will explore the forest, the river, beneath the sun or round a fire: they will experience the way a contact with nature can revive relationships with other human beings. As a matter of fact, ecopsychotherapy is strongly indicated for group sessions, as other participants can give them their bearings to establish a greater intimacy with nature; however, the opposite is equally true: solitary revitalisation in nature can help reach out to other human beings with more authenticity.
The self, the other, the world
Concretely, the patients learn to trust what they feel, whether in their body or their heart, and become bolder in expressing this. They create a new way of connecting to others.
During the year which has just passed, the outdoor sessions contributed to help the patients find what was deeply concealed within: a deep-rooted attachment to life and their identities.
Each psychotherapy process is unique and full of discoveries. But the example of this “standard” journey defines a psychotherapeutical approach that relies on secure human relations, and opens a space for contact with the living world at the patient’s rhythm.
– What happens to the psychotherapeutical framework in outdoor sessions? Is the patient safe?
The framework for the outdoor sessions, in parks or forests, is the same as in the practice: it is essentially defined by confidentiality, the respect of professional distance and a non-judgemental attitude. The therapist guarantees the framework and explains it to the patients. The only difference is the fact that the patients might be seen by a walker. If the patient considers that this possibility is acceptable, then the framework is secured.
– Is ecopsychotherapy for me? What kind of person does it target?
TJust as each psychotherapy practitionner has a vision of the patients he can treat, each ecopsychiatry practitionner can assess, together with the patients, whether their demands correspond to the therapeutic framework. A preliminary telephone interview can confirm or infirm this. More generally, we can guarantee that this approach has no other counter indication than situations of psychosis, as these might require a more protected framework. Other types of situations (anxiety, depression, angst, relational conflicts, burn-outs, mourning, the need for increased self-knowledge, the need for direction or purpose…) can, a priori, be helped by ecopsychotherapy, more especially as the process alternates indoor and outdoor sessions according to your condition.
– Are ecologist convictions necessary to carry out an ecopsychotherapy?
No. This approach is disconnected from any belief or any form of activism. The patients come to follow their personal mental care paths, at their own requests, rather than to develop their relationship to nature, as is the case in ecopsychology. But of course, the intimate realation the patients will develop with natural space can bring them to perceive the living world in a new way.
– And if I am afraid of contact with mud, plants that sting or scratch, insects?
The patients design their own path in nature, just as they design their path of words within the practice. You can of course choose to avoid spaces which spark fear and/or discomfort.. But the therapist’s role is also to question these avoidances, as they sometimes reveal memories of painful situations which remain active and prevent you from fully living the present. It is the exact subject of psychotherapy. If you choose to tame, at your own rythm, some of your fears and anxieties, you can be drawn to live a liberating journey.
– How long does a therapy last?
As for psychotherapies that take place in practices, the processes of ecopsychotherapy stretch over a period of time that varies according to the patients’ needs and demands. It can consist of an in-depth work on oneself, which may require months for the patients to find themselves, to feel that they want to evolve and create a new way of connecting to the world. However it is also possible to begin a therapy with the desire for a short-term experience, to enjoy another way of connecting to oneself.. The frequency of the sessions is to be determined in agreement with the therapist.
– Does the first meeting take place outdoors or indoors?
It depends on the practitionners. But although some practitionners only work outdoors, most ecopsychotherapists suggest alternating sessions at the practice and sessions in natural spaces.