Ecotherapy Practice Training

How to design and facilitate therapeutic outdoor experiences.

Overview

This professional development course explores some of the theories, practices and issues of the newly emerging field of Ecotherapy. It is not only for psychotherapists and counsellors - anyone with a professional interest in facilitating or co-ordinating therapeutic outdoor experiences may apply.

The course starts from the premise that you cannot have healthy people on a sick planet. Living within the Earth's limits and working to restore our relationships with the rest of nature is fundamental to our physical and mental health. This reciprocity is central to the approach offered here. This is different to many other approaches currently being offered, which tend to focus only on the therapeutic benefits to humans of spending time outdoors. Read a brief introduction to Ecotherapy practice >>

The aim of the course is to give you the confidence, skills and understanding to design and facilitate therapeutic experiences outdoors, in your own professional context. It offers theoretical frameworks supported by extensive research and a very pragmatic approach to programme design and facilitation.

Based on both working with groups and one-to-one, the course explores a variety of settings - from urban green spaces to untracked wilderness. 

The course runs over six months. It starts with a one-to-one tutorial, either online or if possible face-to-face. After this, there are two, 5-day residentials - one at the beginning of the six months and one at the end. In-between these are five, one-to-one tutorials supported by guided reading. The group will be limited to a maximum of 12 people.

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 UK-based programme which offered therapeutic outdoor experiences by prescription.

Background

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

However, during the last 5 years the engagement of mainstream healthcare with outdoor approaches to therapy have exploded. In the UK for example, several programmes have been piloted to provide outdoors experiences by prescription, paid for by the National Health Service. These have been extremely successful, leading to results that outperform conventional therapies and pharmacology in both health outcomes and cost efficiency. They are now being ‘rolled-out’ to whole regions.

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 positive health economics and proven efficacy of outdoor approaches to mental and physical health challenges means that without doubt demand will continue to increase. Given the scale of some of these issues, especially in materially wealthy nations, there is going to be an increased demand for outdoor professionals who can provide safe and effective outdoor therapies.

This course aims to help provide those professionals.

Is it for me? 

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

This includes healthcare practitioners, outdoor leaders, social workers, youth workers, rangers 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 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 requires specialist training and assessment.

You must be over 18 years old.

Outcomes

By the end of the course you will:

  • have an overview of the various different outdoor therapeutic approaches currently being offered internationally;
  • understand some of the foundational theories underpinning this type of work;
  • experience a selection of therapeutic practices and activities for yourself;
  • explore appropriate facilitation styles and techniques;
  • make connections between personal, social and ecological issues and their roles in creating pathologies;
  • gain insights into complex relationship dynamics;
  • learn appropriate strategies for working one-to-one in  safe, confidential and ethical ways;
  • explore how to select conducive outdoor spaces to work in;
  • understand how to create ‘safe space’ and boundaries outdoors;
  • develop your own therapeutic contract for working outdoors;
  • find strategies and techniques for self-care and supervision;
  • see examples and case studies of practices;
  • learn how to design your own programme;
  • explore issues around the confluence of nature, culture and indigene;
  • develop your understanding of ethics and professionalism outdoors;
  • find where to access resources and networks;
  • examine risk and how to manage it;
  • gain an overview of the issues surrounding liability and insurance;
  • have opportunities to work out your next steps towards professional practice, or towards further enriching your existing practice.

Format

Preparation 1 x One-to-one online coaching session (one hour)
Residential ONE 5-days (6-nights).
Online learning & Coaching Guided reading
5 x one-to-one, online coaching sessions (one hour each)
Residential TWO 5-days (6-nights).
Coaching OPTIONAL: Ongoing coaching support.

Total contact time: 10 days over 6 months (5+5)
Total coaching time: 6 hours over 12 months

Course Leader

David Key is a consultant, group facilitator, teacher and coach specialising in ecopsychology - the psychology of the our human relationships with the rest of nature.

Dave has a background in outdoor education, ecology and psychology. His special interest is in the ways experiences of nature can be powerfully transformative. His professional practice is mainly through the design and delivery of outdoor-based programmes for sustainability leadership and the design and facilitation of therapeutic outdoor experiences. He has also taught and researched extensively in the academic sector and is an internationally published author.

Over the last 20 years Dave has worked with clients such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, The Australian Conservation Foundation, the Scottish Government and the European Union, as well as with numerous academic institutions and private individuals seeking professional development.

He holds a Masters of Science (with distinction) in Human Ecology, is a Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, a Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University and an Honorary Research Fellow at Exeter University. He also holds a New Zealand Certificate in Adult Teaching (1&2). He is a National Governing Body qualified outdoor leader in both the United Kingdom(MTUK & BCU) and New Zealand (NZOIA).

More >>

Location

The programme can be offered in various locations. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the options.

Price

Subject to location and final specification.

Includes: 50 hours (APPROX) of residential contact time on a maximum 1:12 basis, 12 nights accommodation, residential catering and group equipment. Six hours online contact time on a 1:1 basis, access to an extensive library of readings, reading guide, private online forum and alumni network.

Excludes: Travel to/from residential venue, personal travel and possessions insurance, personal outdoor clothing and equipment.

Applications

The course is currently available on a bespoke basis for groups of up to 12 people. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the options.

Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy

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
University of the West of Scotland

I am literally in a different physical and psychological space as a result of my involvement and have also established some very good (in the real sense) new friends, some of whom I see regularly and the rest I know are there should I need them.

Gill Troup
University of the West of Scotland

Pleased that I decided to do this ecopsychology course with David, as 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 customized the course to meet my personal interests, by providing plenty of useful study resources.
A considerate, generous, and passionate teacher and coach – I am thankful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with David!

Danielle Levy

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,
Keep Scotland Beautiful

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
Eden Project

[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
Field Studies Council

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
Mercy Corp

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
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
YoungScot

Dave co-taught (with Mary-Jayne Rust) a 3-week course on Ecopsychology at Schumacher College. The course was well planned and thought through, 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
Schumacher College

A newness has been thrown into the now, that will affect almost everything from this point. I find that a little bit exciting. We may be in uncharted water but that doesn’t mean we’re going down. Who knows where we could go…

Sarah Munro
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

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
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

I have worked with Dave since 2014, firstly through the online Ecopsychology course and more recently by engaging with him as my coach. He has a richness of knowledge, wisdom and experience that I feel so lucky to be able to access – and my only wish is I had found him sooner.

His grounded, open and, I think, quite modest style heartens me greatly in a world where humility often seems scarce. I leave every session with Dave feeling energised, inspired, renewed and hopeful on this emergent journey of mine. To anyone who wants to understand what it really means to climb down from our human superiority and truly inhabit the world as nature intended – and lead others in doing so – I can’t recommend Dave enough.

Sandra Cunningham
Walking Coach

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

Margret Mennenga
WWF-Germany

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

Richard Profit
PepsiCo

Dave co-created our Natural Change process for engaging with the natural world. He has run this exercise for us twice with a diverse group of people over an extended period. The results have been inspiring and Dave has been great to work with.

Richard Dixon
World Wide Fund for Nature

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
Venture Scotland

Dave’s deft touch can be found as traces of invisible thread through many of Eden Project’s experiential learning programmes. He is a gentle and artful consultant that will help you make the most of the resources you have to hand; be it people, places, kit, knowledge, or time. He is equally capable of directing you, unblocking your problems, or simply guiding you towards the right solution for your programme needs.

Dan Ryan
Eden Project

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
Cullinan & Associates

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
Teacher, Hungary

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
YouthLink Scotland

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
Scottish College for Educational Leadership

Dave’s ecopsychology 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 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
Fin Films Ltd UK & The Good Nature Project

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
Planet First

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
Greenspace Life Coaching

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

Gavin McLellan
Christian Aid

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
Natural Change Limited

[The 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
Halcrow Group