There has been a long running discussion amongst Nature and Forest Therapy Guides in Australia about what to call our practice. We have been trained in nature and forest therapy, yet many are preferring to use words like nature connection, forest bathing or shinrin yoku, because they think that people are put off by the word ‘therapy’. Perhaps it conjures up images of sitting on a couch, while someone delves into your psyche. Therapy is something you do when you have a mountain of problems you can’t solve on your own, right?
Instead of running away from using the word ‘therapy’ to describe our practice, I believe we have an opportunity to change perceptions and challenge stereotypes. I argue that nature therapy is for everybody, whatever stage of life, however well functioning (or not) they may appear.
1. There are lots of therapies that aren’t scary
Therapy is nothing to be afraid of. If that were so, then we would also run the other direction if offered massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga therapy and beauty therapy. But no. We can’t seem to get enough of these. You can safely add nature therapy to your list of nourishing and empowering practices for your body, mind and spirit.
2. We are not going to ‘do’ anything to you.
Nature and Forest Therapy Guides are not going to ‘do’ any therapy on you. In fact, it is a practice which requires less ‘doing’ and more ‘being’. If anyone is going to ‘do’ anything to you, it is the forest. The Guide just opens the door for whatever medicine the forest has for you to discover for yourself. The potential is there for nature to change the way you think or feel about things, if you are open to slowing down and listening. To help you on your reflective journey, you will have the opportunity to share what you are noticing in nature, with the other participants on a Guided walk. You can even enjoy nature therapy on your own, at your preferred pace, in your own backyard. We believe you are the expert in your own life. Nature is a powerful friend in discovering your true nature. We don’t need to ‘do’ anything to you.
Therapy is an activity that is designed to have ‘therapeutic’ benefits. ‘Therapeutic’ is defined as “having a good effect on the body or mind; contributing to a sense of well-being.” Nature therapy is an experience that brings a huge range of scientifically proven benefits to your health and wellbeing. That’s good for everyone, not just for people who are unwell. I’m a big believer in disease prevention and in that vain, nature therapy should be part of everyone’s daily lifestyle, along with sensible eating and exercise.
Let’s normalise therapy, so everyone wants to do it. Tell your friends ‘you’re getting your daily dose of nature therapy’. It’s the most natural thing in the world you can do. I mean ‘be’.