How to design and facilitate therapeutic outdoor experiences.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
|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
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).
The programme can be offered in various locations. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss the options.
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.
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.