Discover frameworks and techniques to design and facilitate therapeutic outdoor experiences in a variety of environments and professional contexts.

The course is based on extensive research and over 20 years of hands-on professional experience. It delivers a pragmatic and accesible approach to delivering therapeutic outdoor programmes.

Delivered over one week (six days and seven nights) in a residential format, this course provides stand-alone learning. It can also be combined with the Introduction to Ecotherapy Practice ONLINE course, which adds a strong foundation for this more experiential and practical residential. Combining the two courses provides a comprehensive professional development process.

This course extends and deepens the outcomes of the online introductory course through hands-on experiential content.

By the end of the course you will have:

  • an overview of the various different ecotherapy approaches currently being offered internationally;
  • made connections between personal, social and ecological issues and their roles in creating pathologies;
  • understood some of the foundational theories underpinning this type of work
  • developed your own therapeutic contract for working outdoors;
  • found strategies and techniques for self-care and supervision;
  • reviewed examples and case studies of therapeutic outdoor programmes;
  • explored issues around the confluence of ecotherapy practice, culture and indigene;
  • developed your understanding of ethics and professionalism in outdoor therapeutic practice;
  • gained an overview of the issues surrounding liability and insurance;
  • found where to access resources and networks;
  • worked out your next steps towards professional practice, or towards further enriching your existing practice;
  • experienced a selection of therapeutic outdoor practices for yourself;
  • had opportunities to design and facilitate therapeutic processes with peers;
  • practiced appropriate facilitation styles and techniques with peers;
  • selected conducive outdoor spaces to work in;
  • worked with complex relationship dynamics and how they are influenced by being outdoors;
  • created and worked with ‘safe space’ and boundaries outdoors;
  • designed your own programme;
  • completed an outdoor risk assessment and emergency plan.

For most people who work and play outside, it is obvious that time spent outdoors is therapeutic. Despite this, the idea that it might be offered as part of formal healthcare has struggled to take hold.

In the last five years however, the engagement of mainstream healthcare with outdoor approaches to therapy have exploded. In the UK for example, several programmes have been piloted to provide outdoor experiences by prescription. These have been extremely successful, outperforming conventional therapies and pharmacology in both health outcomes and cost efficiency.

But providing this kind of service is not easy. This is due mainly to the lack of people who can supply safe, professional and effective therapeutic outdoor experiences.

The course has been developed through over 20 years of international research, development, post-graduate teaching and hands-on professional practice. This includes the design and delivery of a government funded programme in the UK which offered therapeutic outdoor experiences by prescription.

The excellent health economics and proven efficacy of outdoor approaches to improving mental and physical health means that – without doubt – demand for practitioners will continue to increase. Given the scale of mental health and wellbeing issues globally, there is going to be an increased demand for professionals who can provide safe and effective outdoor therapies.

This course aims to help provide those professionals.

This course starts from the position that you cannot have healthy people on a sick planet. Ensuring our own health and that of the planet’s ecosystems are the same task. This reciprocal perspective is different to many others currently being offered, which tend to focus only on the benefits to humans of spending time outdoors.

Working with reciprocity, the course explores how outdoor experiences of nature can awaken us to our ecological reality. This is intrinsically healing because it reconnects us to a stable and clear sense of self, rooted in our own ecology. It also compels us to want to live sustainably, because we realise we are a fundamentally interdependent part of nature. Together these two realisations complete the therapeutic loop.

Read “How to become an ecotherapist” …

Day before: Arrive by 16.00h. Dinner at 19.00h. Intro & orientation.

DAY 1: Introductory practices & group work

DAY 2: Personal process – solo practice

DAY 3: Personal process – narrative and reflective practices

DAY 4: Design

DAY 5: Facilitation

DAY 6: Professional practice

Day after: Breakfast 0800h. Clean-up and depart by 10.30h

The course includes 50 hours of total contact time on a maximum 1:10 ratio including,

  • six days of experiential learning;
  • seven nights of catered accommodation;
  • access to PDF downloads of all articles, papers and graphics referenced during the course;
  • a comprehensive reading list and;
  • CPD certification.

You do not need to be a psychotherapist or counsellor to participate in this course. It is for anyone interested in working with the therapeutic potential of outdoor experiences – from urban parks to designated wilderness.

This includes healthcare practitioners, outdoor leaders, social workers, youth workers, rangers, conservationists and educators – as well as those interested in commissioning, or referring into, therapeutic outdoor programmes.

It is recommended that you bring around five years experience in some related form of professional practice – working with groups or one-to-one, indoors or out. However, each application is considered individually, so please do ask if you’re not sure.

Please note:

  • this course is for those seeking to work therapeutically outdoors and is not intended as a personal therapeutic intervention.
  • it is likely that a basic level of outdoor leadership training, including outdoor first aid, will be required to work ethically and professionally outdoors, depending on the type of environment you want to work in. Please be aware that this course does not qualify you as a professional outdoor leader, which usually requires specialist training and assessment in your home nation.

Location

The course is offered in New Zealand, venue to be confirmed.

Arrival

The course starts at 16.00 on the evening prior. Please arrive by 15.00 so that you have time to settle in before starting on time. Dinner at 19.00

Departure

The course finishes on the evening of day six before we have dinner together. Departure before 10.00am the next morning.

Accommodation

Accommodation varies according to the location. Generally, it consists of twin-share rooms with shared facilities.

Catering

Our cook prepares delicious, simple food for us throughout the week. There is access to hot drinks and snacks 24/7. It is part of the ethos of the course that everyone helps out occasionally in the kitchen, under cook’s direction.

What to bring

We will be outside everyday whatever the weather!

You will need to bring the right clothing and equipment to be comfortable outdoors. It is very important that you come prepared.

A personal clothing and equipment list will be sent once your application has been processed.

Personal fitness

This course is not a test of endurance! We are committed to creating an experience accessible to a wide range of abilities. We lead the programme to meet the needs of everyone in the group, while also recognising than a little bit of a challenge can be a helpful thing. Everything we do is offered as an invitation. You will never have to do anything you don’t want to.

As a guideline, you will need to be able to carry a day pack containing your personal equipment (waterproofs, spare clothes, lunch, flask, etc.) for periods of up to four hours at a time, in a natural environment, often without formed tracks.

If you are unsure about your ability to take part for any reason, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your needs.

Safety & Insurance

David Key has over 20 years experience delivering outdoor programmes in a wide variety of environments. He holds National Governing Body outdoor leadership qualifications in both the United Kingdom (MTUK & BCU) and New Zealand (NZOIA).

Risk assessments are completed for every location. These are reviewed each time a course is delivered.

You are advised to take out your own insurance for travel and belongings.

NZ$2995.00

Includes: Up to 50 hours of contact time on a maximum 1:10 ratio; catered accommodation; group equipment and; a CPD certificate.

Excludes: Travel two and from the venue; personal outdoor equipment and clothing and; travel insurance.

Dates:This course runs on demand. Please register your interest below.
Location:Aotearoa New Zealand.
Duration:Six days / seven nights.
Format:One-week residential.
Contact time:50 hours
Approx. reading time:12 hours
Group size:10
Certification:A Continuing Professional Development Certificate for 62 hours can be issue upon course completion.
Price:NZ$2995.00

Dave helped me realise that I am strong enough to make change in my life that will benefit me and others. The confidence is now in me to say what I think and not say what I think others want me to say.

Marc Forrester
Organisation:YouthLink Scotland

I heartily recommend David’s work to anyone wishing to deepen their understanding and experience within the broad purview of ecotherapy. The bespoke nature and pacing of the work, together with David’s extensive experience, strong companionship and challenge gives a blend of embodied practice with imagination and study, making for a profound synthesis and optimal conditions for deep change.

For me it was a tremendous vessel in which to simmer and steep, one that promoted the risky business of leaping, that served encountering the nobly camouflaged layers of self and led me to “be able to stand in the wreckage of what used to be (my) certainty” and have that be a flourishing of wild and previously unseen truths.

I recommend David, the man and his work, to anyone with heart enough to commit and head enough to set the compass.

Keith Hackwood
Organisation:Synthesis Wales

Dave is an outstanding facilitator with a fantastically engaging and inclusive style, great humour, insightful with deep rapport building abilities.

Gavin McLellan
Organisation:Christian Aid

In this beautiful peaceful setting, where you can literally hear the leaves fall, it is easy to have ‘thinking time’ and how important it is too; I can hardly believe what has come up for me today.

John Daffurn
Organisation:Scottish College for Educational Leadership

Hold your nose and dive in at the deep end – the course will take you to places you haven’t imagined, good and bad, and will be truly formative as an investment of your time and energy.

Gill Troup
Organisation:University of the West of Scotland

I gained a massive amount of insight both personally and professionally. I was profoundly moved by the process. I came away refreshed and inspired.

Peter Wooding
Organisation:Venture Scotland

The course played a subtle but powerful part in deepening my commitment to a life of working for positive change. It opened windows in my thinking, and reinvigorated trust in working with intuition and metaphor that have since shaped my working path.

Tom Deacon
Organisation:Field Studies Council

The course has acted as a catalyst for all kinds of ideas and actions, both personal, professional and as a group. I think the phrase might be “watch this space”!

Louise Macdonald OBE
Organisation:YoungScot

In learning that the wilderness can be such a powerful source of intense natural healing, I have a new and profound respect for the earth and our complex relationship with it. I now know that this is a new beginning.

Louise Macdonald OBE
Organisation:YoungScot

Dave has worked with me and my team for the past few years on team dynamics, programme design, and personal coaching. He is an extraordinary trainer, though that word is a dis-service here, his wealth of experience in the broad fields of outdoor education and facilitated wild experiences is un-paralleled. His attention to detail, subject knowledge, and impeccable research means all learning experiences with him are enlightening, thought provoking, and deeply practical.

Dan Ryan
Organisation:Eden Project

When I contacted David, I had no idea where my interests would lead me! I loved his non-prescriptive approach, the flexibility and openness which allowed me to explore so many different strands of this fascinating topic.

I thoroughly enjoyed our sessions and found David to be an inspirational, enthusiastic and sensitive coach who focused on helping me identify my particular areas of interest and feeding my curiosity. I have only scratched the surface and I hope some day to expand my knowledge further and apply it even more to my work.

When that time comes, I know who to turn to.

Julie Gilbert-Binns
Organisation:EcoSoul

I am pleased that I decided to do this course with David. I got a lot out of the experience. I appreciated the open and flexible style of our sessions, and enjoyed the diversity of our valuable discussions.

David made me feel seen, heard, and supported throughout the journey. He is a true wealth of knowledge – and customised the course to meet my personal interests, by providing plenty of useful study resources.

Danielle Levy

David has a brilliant way of guiding you on exactly the paths you want to traverse. He was able to help me follow my questions to new and interesting resources to learn from.

I work to connect children to nature in India and his course has helped me build language and structure around my work in order to better communicate with others around me.

I have also greatly benefited from his library. The resources available there would be very hard for me to find elsewhere.

Janani Eswar
Organisation:GRIN (Growing in Nature)

A considerate, generous, and passionate coach – I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work with David!

Danielle Levy

Dave has helped me to reach a deep resolve in my choices for the direction of my life and the work that I wish to do in the world.

Charlie Németh
Organisation:Teacher, Hungary

I am literally in a different physical and psychological space as a result of my involvement.

Gill Troup
Organisation:University of the West of Scotland

Don´t hesitate. Just do it! You will feel great, brave and you won´t be disappointed – I promise you.

Margret Mennenga
Organisation:WWF-Germany

Dave co-taught a 3-week course on Ecopsychology at Schumacher College with Mary-Jayne Rust. The course was well planned and the group gave very positive feedback of what they learned and how the process was facilitated. Dave is extremely organised and a good planner, as well as being a committed and inspiring teacher.

Inga Page
Organisation:Schumacher College

Dave is an inspirational, calm and creative facilitator allowing all participants to feel comfortable and able to connect with the wonders of nature.

Jim Riach,
Organisation:Keep Scotland Beautiful

The course has brought me a deeper awareness and ability to listen. This has enabled me to understand the broader impacts of my business and provided me with the skills to find different responses and action, rather than merely repeating past actions.

Richard Profit
Organisation:PepsiCo

I was greatly impressed by the depth of Dave’s expertise, insights and empathic connection to the landscape as he led our group of wild lawyers through the wilderness of the Knoydart Peninsula in Scotland.

Cormac Cullinan
Organisation:Cullinan & Associates

Approaching the beach from the cliff top I had a feeling something profound was going to take place. And when I met Dave it started happening. In just 36 hours I had the best reset I could have imagined and 36-months later I am still enjoying its effects. If you’re reading this and wondering if it’s right for you, just get in touch with Dave and see where life takes you. It helped me and I loved it.

Steve Malkin
Organisation:Planet First

It feels like I’m in the process of enlarging my heart. And it’s kind of painful, but also joyous and also really crucial.

Deborah Richardson-Web
Organisation:Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

I discovered Dave’s work when I was managing the film output for the World Wildlife Fund in the UK where he had been consulting on Natural Change. Nature Psychology seemed to me to be the solution to get us out of this natural mess – by turning toward environmental destruction, and building relationship with it, we start to move into recovery – what a radical and beautifully simple idea!

Dave’s course in ecopsychology was the beginning of my journey with this incredible work and I chose to make it almost entirely experiential – carrying out practices in nature that Dave ‘prescribed’. I learned a lot about myself, and this has ultimately meant I can deliver the material to other people with an understanding of how it really works.

I loved that the course was self governed – for me this meant I could go on my own exploration, and pull on the threads that interested me. It’s an excellent foundation, Dave is very attentive and flexible toward personal needs, it is less ‘teacher-student’ focused and more colloborative and supportive, which I I feel is exactly what is needed in this world. I would do the course again and again.

Janine Finlay
Organisation:Fin Films Ltd UK & The Good Nature Project

Dave is an exceptional practitioner, teacher and thinker. We worked together for three years; if the right project came along, I’d have no hesitation in asking Dave to work with me.

Osbert Lancaster
Organisation:Natural Change Limited

The course cleared a lot of clutter from my head and allowed me to focus and determine the deeper underlying questions of my life and of my connection to Nature. Since then, I have pursued a deeper relationship and conversation with the natural world that has constantly informed my life.

Charlie Németh
Organisation:Teacher, Hungary

Dave’s course was the beginning of my journey with this incredible work.

I learned a lot about myself, and this has ultimately meant I can work with other people with a much deeper understanding of change processes. I loved that the course was self governed – for me this meant I could go on my own exploration, and pull on the threads that interested me.

Dave is very attentive and flexible toward personal needs, it is less ‘teacher-student’ focused and more collaborative and supportive, which I feel is exactly what is needed in this world.

I would do the course again and again.

Janine Finlay
Organisation:Fin Films Ltd UK & The Good Nature Project

Dave is a very gifted facilitator who is able to connect people from all walks of life and to create a safe environment in which learning, practice and storytelling can happen for everyone. I came away from this course feeling enriched and with a new sense of direction for my own life and work path.

Karen Liebenguth
Organisation:Greenspace Life Coaching

Dave’s course has given me permission to silence the white noise. It has helped me to sift out what matters. It’s pretty subtle. It’s liberating.

Emily Peel Yates
Organisation:Halcrow Group

The course experience was truly incredible, and I was taken by surprise at the level of intensity and personal response to what I thought would be a challenging week, but not to the degree that occurred.

Brenna Nyznik
Organisation:Mercy Corp