Monday, November 17

Contact with nature as therapeutic medium

The following are excerpts from a study conducted by Ronen Berger, fully published in Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, Vol 11, No. 2, June 2006. Berger is an ecologist, drama and body therapist, dancer and researcher. He is the head of the Nature Therapy Center at Tel-Hai College, Israel.

In most cases therapy is addressed as an indoor verbal activity in which the relationship between therapist and client stands at its centre. This article proposes a different approach to therapy: conducting it creatively in nature, with the environment being used not only as a therapeutic setting but also as a medium and a partner in the process. The article is based on a case study carried out with a group of children with special needs within a school setting. It explores the therapeutic and educational impact that this approach had on the participants and on nature’s role in it. The article also aims to initiate a dialogue around the option of working with this population in non-verbal and experiential ways, illustrating the potential that the use of group work, creativity and contact with nature may offer.

The following is the discussion, which presents a type of summary of the lengthy results.

Returning to the aims of this case study, its conclusions can be divided into two major sections: nature’s potential as a therapeutic medium and the participants’ process. It appears that nature provided the participants with an alternative, sensuous environment, clean of human prejudice, and thereby allowed them to develop skills and expand personal issues in experiential ways which might not have been possible in the indoor and everyday environment. From a closer perspective, it seems that nature’s important influence was also connected to living things, allowing them to perform as active media, a co-therapist perhaps, triggering specific issues, while shaping the process in various unexpected ways.

Regarding the process that participants went through, it appears that nature therapy was an effective approach to use within a peer group framework, providing support and modelling, as well as a rich space to develop personal issues such as responsibility, communication, cooperation, creativity, curiosity and flexibility. These are important coping mechanisms which can improve a person’s overall function and well-being (Lahad, 1992). In addition, the programme increased the self-esteem of the participants, while their anxiety and aggressive behaviour decreased. Another interesting outcome of the programme was the change that took place in the children’s attitude towards nature, changing from alienation and fear into one of familiarity, belonging and caring

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