Ecopsychology

at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids

Ecopsychology is the study of the human relationship to habitat. More specifically, it is a bringing together of ecology and psychology. If ecology is the study of nature, and psychology is the study of human nature, then ecopsychology is concerned primarily with the relationship between nature and human nature. The basic premise of ecopsychology is that our relationship to the Earth is an interdependent one. In other words, when one prospers the other prospers. When one suffers, both suffer.

Ecopsychology
In Grand Rapids, MI and West Michigan At Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, MI

“The Earth, that first among good mothers, gives us the gift that we cannot provide ourselves. I hadn’t realized I had come to the lake and said feed me, but my empty heart was fed. I had a good mother. She gives what we need without being asked. I wonder if she gets tired, old Mother Earth. Or if she too is fed by the giving. “Thanks,” I whispered, “for all of this.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Psychologically and physically, we are deeply rooted in the Earth and, as recent studies have shown, spending time in nature and rekindling a life-sustaining way of being brings remarkable health benefits not only to us but also to the entire Earth community. Because of the interdependent relationship between humans and nature, ecopsychology offers a new and broader understanding of mental health and psychological development. Rather than mental health being associated only with adaptation to society and culture, ecopsychology views our relationship to the natural world and the rest of the Earth community as the true measure of mental health. From this perspective, ecopsychology engages many areas of life, from individual and transpersonal relationships to nature to climate change and sustainability to social justice to spirituality, and more.

“The sanity that binds us one to another in society is not necessarily the sanity that bonds us companionably to the creatures with whom we share the Earth. … If psychosis is the attempt to live a lie, the epidemic psychosis of our time is the lie of believing we have no ethical obligation to our planetary home.” -Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

The root problem that applied ecopsychology, also called ecotherapy, addresses is the alienation of humans from nature. From an ecopsychological perspective, this alienation leads to many of the psychological and physiological discomforts of our contemporary ways of life. When we see or hear of an ecological crisis, such as climate change, it is a form of trauma that can bring on psychological and physical symptoms like anxiety, shame, high blood pressure, or addiction. When we are separated from the natural world and spend too much time indoors, we suffer psychologically from the loss of a direct relationship to nature. Likewise, as recent studies show when we spend time in the natural world experiencing the ever-changing landscape and beauty of the Earth, we can experience a positive psychological effect and enhanced overall wellness.

“You may be wondering if [ecotherapy] is about the well-being of persons, the well-being of the earth, or an earth-grounded understanding of human personality. It is about all three and their dynamic interrelationships.” -Howard Clinebell, Ecotherapy

Some forms of ecotherapy attempt through a focus on the relationship to nature to treat specific forms of mental illness. Other approaches to ecotherapy, which might be referred to more accurately as eco-coaching, focus more on facilitating a proactive development of the ecological Self rather than on diagnosing or treating psychopathology. Eco-coaching is an empowering practice on its own or as an augment to traditional counseling or psychotherapy.

“Health for Life Counseling understands that all of our lives are interconnected with nature. Thus, working on our psychological connections and emotional processes to the way our personal and collective cultures intersect with the environment is vital work for the soul. Ecotherapy is a process that helps one integrate these fragmented issues in our lives.” -Paul Krauss MA LPC

We are pleased to announce we have partnered with a depth psychologist who specializes in ecopsychology and eco-coaching. Dr. James Liter, Ph.D. helps people realize health and wellness through deeper and more mindful relationships with the natural world. Through a framework called Hilltending, James guides you into mindful earth practices and archetypal integration to raise awareness of your relationship to the natural world and to nurture a more conscious and healthier way of being on the planet.

Learn more about ecopsychology here.

Ecopsychology

Dr. James Liter, Ph.D.

Ecopsychological Coaching, Archetypal Depth Work, and Experiential Ecotherapy

Ecotherapy Locations

We can have our ecotherapy sessions indoors or outdoors in many different possible locations in West and Central Michigan. 

Ecotherapy is most powerful when nature is given a voice in the process. Having our sessions outside opens up whole new vistas and experiences. It gets us moving in fresh air, with an ever-changing landscape full of opportunities to listen, experience, and deepen our relationship to nature. Being outside recharges our batteries, brings us closer to center, and allows us to meet the rest of the day with a new vitality! Nature speaks to us through the trees and streams and the breeze and moments of synchronicity.

Whenever possible, I encourage taking our sessions outdoors. There are plenty of natural areas such as parks or nature trails where we can meet. Perhaps you already have a favorite place close-by. If not, I know several nature parks in or close to Grand Rapids, Lansing, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo. Prairie Wolf Park or Cascade Peace Park in Grand Rapids, Hunter’s Orchard Park or Hawk Meadow Park in Lansing, Pierce Cedar Creek or Gun Lake nature areas in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo area, are all wonderful natural spaces for our sessions.

We can also meet indoors in a more traditional setting if you prefer (but forewarned is forearmed: I will still encourage you to get outside!). Especially for our first session(s) or during inclement weather, we will probably want to meet in an office space in Grand Rapids or via remote technology (Zoom or telephone). In our first session, we will discuss and determine an outdoor setting for our following sessions.  

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