Ecopsychology is a branch of psychology that suggests an organic, synergistic relationship between planetary and personal well-being. That is, the needs of one are relevant and dependent on the other (Devall & Sessions, 1985; Roszak, 1992). Ecopsychology extends beyond the traditional built environment of psychology, as it seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world. It is essentially a bridge that spans the abyss between traditional indigenous nature based practices and conventional psychology.
Roszak (1992) implied that what lies at the core of the mind is an ecological unconscious, which at some level embodies a living record of the cosmic evolution. In addition, it is the repression of the ecological unconscious that lies at the core of the collusive foolishness in industrial civilization, and only through awareness and access to the ecological unconscious will wisdom and well-being of mankind prevail (Orr, 2004; Roszak, 1992). Yet, the wilderness, humans source of sanity and link to the ecological unconscious, has all but disappeared (Orr, 2004). Orr questioned the ability of humans to remain sane living in a world void of creations of “The Creation” (p. 151). Instead, suffocating in a vacuum that is a world dominated by human creations; a world that is nothing but a reflection of the “demented image of the mind imprisoned within itself” (p. 151).
Integrating nature with psychotherapy has become widely used predominately through the use of nature as location. Other therapy programs, confined to office locations, attempt to incorporate content from one’s relationship with nature into the session. A prime example is ecotherapy. A core belief of ecotherapy is that “our early relationships with the natural world have a profound shaping impact on the development of a grounded sense of identity for our whole body-mind-spirit organism” (Clinebell, 1996, p. 27). Clinebell indicated, through ecotherapy an individuals health and growth are promoted “(1) by becoming more fully, intentionally, and regularly nurtured by nature; (2) by becoming more aware of the larger meanings of their place in nature and the universe (ecological spirituality); and (3) by becoming more involved in nurturing nature by active earth-caring” (p. 63). Clinebell emphasized the need for spiritual based healing in nature. However, he suggested this could be achieved through visiting treasured natural settings in actuality or imagination. Crucially though, Clinebell added, is the need for individuals to understand their reciprocal relationship with the earth. Being cared for by the earth is a direct result of people caring for the earth. Shunning our connection with nature, according to Aizenstat (1995), “only hastens the inevitable: the death of the natural world” (p. 93).
Aizenstat, S. (1995). Jungian psychology and the world unconscious. In T. Roszak, M. E. Gomes, & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind (pp. 92–100). San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.
Clinebell, H. J. (1996). Ecotherapy: Healing ourselves, healing the earth. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Devall, B., & Sessions, G. (1985). Deep ecology: Living as if nature mattered. Layton, UT: Gibbs M. Smith.
Orr, D. W. (2004). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Roszak, T. (1992). The voice of the earth: An exploration of ecopsychology. New York: Touchstone.