Clinical Psychology in a nature based setting

This is a new service, and is being piloted as a term time only service on Thursday mornings from September 2022. Assessment will be based in private Woodland in Hambledon and follow up is offered at  the same venue. This is  initially being offered to children and young people who would benefit from support around anxiety, stress and difficulties with emotional regulation.

 

 

Please read below for further information, and if you think this could suit your child, please get in touch for a telephone consultation.

What is Eco- Psychology?

Eco-psychology, within the context of working therapeutically with children and adolescents, includes a focus on the reciprocal relationship between children and nature (as well as relationships within their family, school and wider systems) and seeks to enhance the connection between children and nature as part of their journey towards nurturing their emotional wellbeing, relationships and how they care for the natural environment.

Why bring nature into children’s experience of psychological support?

Biophilia refers to the innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living beings (Wilson, 1984). From an evolutionary perspective, it has been argued that people who were well connected to the landscape, animals and water sources were more likely to survive. Indeed, indigenous communities see themselves and nature as part of an extended kinship network, viewing themselves as related to nature, and thus inextricably intertwined with the health of the environment around them. Nature has been considered to be beneficial to health and wellbeing throughout history, and across many societies and cultures (Ward Thompson, 2011).

Concerns around the impact of changes in Western Culture on children’s living have been well documented. They include observations in relationship to the impact of the industrial revolution and the many ways this has led to an increased disconnection from nature over the generations. Now, more than ever, children spend increasing amounts of time indoors, and more time than is recommended on screens, often connecting with each other virtually rather than face to face. Their daily lives are increasingly filled with structured and programmed activities and engagement with activities becomes ever more at risk of being informed by a relationship with achievement and competition, rather than enjoyment and participation. Research suggests links between reduced contact with nature, and trends towards increased levels of depression and cognitive difficulties.

The benefits of exposure to and connection to nature for children are supported by a wealth of research suggesting benefits to: –

  • Physical health
    • Decreased risk of children being overweight when there is more nature present in their environment
    • Playing in a natural environment assists with building motor skills
    • Proximity to nature and green space improves the prevalence of childhood asthma and has been reported to have a beneficial effect on pain management
  • Emotional health
    • Exposure to nature can reduce stress
    • Exposure to nature can help facilitate recovery from fatigue
    • Exercising outdoors can increase mood and self esteem more than exercising indoors
    • Increased connectedness and relatedness to nature are associated with positive wellbeing
  • Relationships
    • After participating in supervised outdoor activities children reported improved relationships with classmates and school teachers
  • Learning
    • Links with exposure and connection to nature and positive attitudes and motivations concerning learning at school
    • Time in nature can support performance in children with ADHD
    • Improved cognitive functioning (increased concentration, greater attention capacities, higher academic performance)

How might therapy in a woodland setting bring additional benefits for your child?

  • 50 minutes spent in nature also gives your child the opportunity to reap the benefits of exposure to nature as detailed above
  • Time spent in nature allows for real time opportunities to increase your child’s connectedness to nature which is also known to bring additional benefits. Your child’s connectedness to nature can be introduced in a number of ways including: –
    • Naming flowers and trees that we pass by
    • Discussions around ecosystems that we observe throughout the session
    • Tuning into sensory experiences accessed via sight, smell, hearing and touch to promote experience of mindfulness in nature
    • Use of metaphor to explore processes that may resonate with your child’s experiences, for example
      • Ecosystems as a metaphor for how relationships within family and wider systems can influence a child’s experience
      • Mutuality in nature as a metaphor for helping your child think about collaboration in their own relationships and friendships
      • Weather as a metaphor for feelings
      • Changing seasons to help them think about transitions that might be challenging
      • Accessing nature as a mirror for a child’s internal world

About me, and my relationship with nature and journey from Clinical Psychologist who specialises in working with children, to working towards a certificate in Eco-Psychotherapy

 A long time before I ever considered training as a psychologist, I spent my early childhood as a farmer’s daughter in Northumberland. Saturday mornings were spent climbing the hay bails (pre health and safety!) and helping my father feed the cattle. After school, in the summer we would picnic in the fields during the harvest months and were always conscious of the relationship between the weather and what that might mean for the harvest. Walks with the dog always involved learning the names of all wild-flowers, butterflies, the calls of the birds and learning to distinguish trees not just by their leaves but by the feel of their bark. Our family would never cut down the stinging nettles in the garden, as we understood they were an important foodplant for the small tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillar.  I was free to explore the woods and build dens with my sibling and cousins who lived nearby, and a cowbell was rung, to let us know it was lunch time. Early holidays were spent on the stunning North-East Coastline, searching for the rare lady’s slipper orchid in the Swiss Alps, or with my Grandfather (a friend of Chris Packham’s) searching for the elusive Purple Emperor Butterfly in the New Forest. In my late teens and throughout my twenties I was either drawn to the sea where I was involved in Tall Ships Races and a transatlantic crossing, or to the mountains where I climbed Mt Roraima in Venezuela (which is said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyles book the Lost World) and enjoyed trekking in Nepal, Morroco and climbing Mount  Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

I also have first-hand personal experience of observing the wonder and awe my children experience as they make their own connections with nature. We are all particularly drawn to the Outer Hebrides and we have been mesmerized by unforgettable experiences of sightings of Eagles, Dolphins & Otters. I have encouraged them to get involved with local conservation efforts both in our own garden (which include sewing a wildflower meadow planting a wildlife hedge, putting in a wildlife pond… all work in progress!! ) as well as us all participating together to volunteer with butterfly conservation and the amphibian and reptile trust. We are regular participants in the Big Garden Birdwatch and Big butterfly count. We also all enjoy family bike rides, whether in the Surrey hills or around Scottish lochs, hiking whether following the south downs way, or up a Munro on the Isle of Mull, as well as Kayacking and Canoeing – both in the Surrey Hills or in Scottish Rivers and Lochs. The children have also been regulars at Forest School Camps in the school holidays.

During a recent career development exercise, I figured out that for the next steps of my career it was important for me that I was both working outside, fuelling my passion for connecting children to the outdoors in a way that was mindful of caring for the environment. After completing an Introduction to Ecology Course with Ecology training UK, I realised it was unrealistic at this stage to embark on a Masters in Conservation, or to train as an outdoor educator. However, I came across the opportunity to complete a certificate in Ecopsychotherapy and believe this to be the perfect opportunity to combine my experience as a Clinical Psychologist working with children with my love of nature and passion getting children outdoors and connected with nature.

Venue

Assessment and follow up will take place in a privately owned Woodland area, near to Hambledon Village Shop.

 Hambledon village shop has facilities including a toilet and a café. There are outside tables and chairs where parents can relax and enjoy a coffee while they wait for their child. There are also some beautiful walks nearby which I can point out to parents.

What to expect

 I will meet you outside Hambledon Cricket Pavillion. When we enter the space under the Gazebo, the therapeutic work will start

Shelter will be provided by a gazebo, and we can sit in camping chairs. A fire is lit to keep warm in cold weather.

This offers the benefit of being able to experience psychological support whilst surrounded by nature, and offers many opportunities for connecting to nature to access therapeutic experiences.

Sessions will be cancelled in the event of met office weather warnings, and also taking into account the personal comfort zone of therapist, child and family. ‘Rain days’ are scheduled so that lost sessions can easily be made up