NATURE INFORMED THERAPY
"A close relationship to nature teaches us
that we must never grow too reliant on the group,
but that we also must never grow too reliant on ourselves."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a species, humans can often view themselves as separate and "other than" the natural world around us. And yet, many of us have had profound experiences engaging with nature throughout our lives, making meaning from the connections we feel to the earth and the creatures who live with us on it. Since people grew and evolved for millions of years as part of the natural world and only in the last few centuries (since the industrial revolution in 1784) have really been disconnecting from it, it makes sense that our brains and nervous systems are better suited for an environment different from our typical american existence.
Research findings over the last few decades have shown that spending time reconnecting with that natural world around us can have significant benefits on our overall well-being and our mental health in particular. Not only can being in nature help reduce anxiety and boost your mood, but it can also enhance our cognitive abilities by giving our mind a chance to rest from the abundance of overstimulation it normally has in our day to day, high tech lives. Whether you have three minutes to listen to water, wind, or birdsong or three days to immerse yourself in the wild, being intentional about this connection has the ability to significantly enhance your life.
Nature Informed Therapy (NIT) acknowledges the power of the natural world to provide us necessary support along our mental health journeys, often serving as our mirror, mentor, and/or medicine. It helps us feel more connected to it, ourselves, and others as well as aids us in better regulating our emotions by practicing mindful awareness and acceptance. While there are many different ways to practice NIT (which can be done both virtually or in-person), when we allow ourselves to redefine how we understand nature, we can begin to better find our place in the interconnected web of life. In doing so, the lessons we learn can help us grow into the people we want to be.
As a clinician currently being certified in NIT by the Center for Nature Informed Therapy, a student in the 2023 cohort of the West Virginia Master Naturalist Program, and someone who themselves has found deep wisdom and insight through fostering my relationship with nature, I naturally incorporate this work into my practice, especially through the use of metaphor, simile, allegory, and analogy. However, if NIT sounds particularly appealing to you, there are a wide range of ways we can integrate this work into our time together.