I see facilitating change for sustainability as a therapeutic process – one concerned with identity and healing, that is to say with “the self” and “becoming whole”. Facilitating this type of change is therefore ecological therapy – ecotherapy. At once it heals the self and the whole. It has to, they a completely interdependent.
There has been a lot of tension over the years – not least in my own heart – about whether or not the work I do is education or therapy. The answer is simple, it’s both.
It’s eco-education because it intends to ‘bring forth’ (from the Latin ‘educāre’). To allow people to bring themselves into the world and receive what it has to offer. A dialogue that creates a better understanding and experience of life. In eco-education this naturally leads to an integration of self with the rest of nature.
It is ecotherapy because if we are to survive on this planet we must understand that we are part of it. Our psychology reality has to align with our ecological reality. This means that we have to inhabit a much wider sense of self. Ultimately this is a process of becoming complete, or whole. The etymology of healing is ‘to become whole’.
This creates a huge amount of confusion. Am I facilitating social change or helping people with issues like anxiety and depression? Both. Simultaneously. They require each other.
I have seen huge releases of creative energy and activism emerge exactly because someone has been able to face personal trauma through their experience of the wild. I have also seen personal trauma healed through learning how to face into the loss, despair and fear felt from ecological traumas like climate change and species extinction.
Ultimately both these processes: learning or healing, education or therapy are about the same thing. They are all about quality of relationship and that is where the work actually lies, whatever it is called.