Eco-arts therapy (therapy in nature) is a marriage of ecotherapy and creative arts therapy, where therapeutic art-making is explored with and in nature. It’s also referred to as environmental arts therapy, eco-art therapy or nature-based expressive arts therapy. Ecotherapy works by bringing nature back into human beings’ lives, in the ways indigenous cultures have not forgotten. If you’ve ever felt the ease from walking on the beach, or enjoying the quiet solitude of being in the forest, then you’ll know the ability for nature to heal. By combining this with art-making, you’ll reawaken to your wild, ancient self, guided by the therapist and mother nature.
How Does Eco-Arts Therapy Work?
Heartwood Arts Therapy provides a unique form of therapy, by using the outdoors as a ‘Green Studio’. What this means, is that each session is held in a contained location within the natural environment. Examples include forests, on the beach, the wetlands or hilltops. Wet/cold weather options are available, and locations are dependent upon each person’s needs. With gentle holding, I will guide you through the parts of your inner landscape that causes pain. I will then invite you to express this pain through different artforms. Whichever medium speaks to you at the time – natural sculpture, movement, voice or play. All your senses will become engaged as you create in this ritualistic reawakening of self whilst held by nature’s presence.
Entering the eco-arts therapy space is entering a space of complete acceptance for what is. In other words, without judgement we will mindfully create and witness, exploring what is present for you, noticing and nurturing what hurts and watering what brings joy. Your arts therapist is your guide, your travel buddy and your protector as we gently traverse the terrain of your past, present and hopeful future at your pace.
Using the arts as a means of communication, we’ll play with different mediums, focusing on the process of creation and how it feels rather than needing to create a final piece. Meaning and healing is found in the journey, as we allow a different part of you, your intuitive bodymind, to lead the way. No previous art-making training or practice is necessary in arts therapy, only a curiosity to let go and see what unfolds.
Benefits of Eco-Arts Therapy
Eco-arts therapy has a number of benefits unique to this form of therapeutic expression. As a form of creative arts therapy, eco-arts therapy includes the same benefits: creating art from the heart.
However, just researching what eco-arts therapy is doesn’t show the whole story. As an embodied practice, one needs to experience it to really understand and connect to the therapeutic medium fully.
To try it for yourself, get in touch and book your first session.
Benefits of Ecotherapy
Forest bathing is a term which describes immersing oneself mindfully in nature, and the health benefits have been well studied. Compared to the city environment, forest bathing can lower stress levels, pulse rates and blood pressure. Not only this, but being in nature also reduces the fight/flight/freeze response, letting you relax as you create. It’s proved to work on your body in a number of ways.
Firstly, by engaging with the soil, it has been proved that serotonin levels increase. Secondly, inhaling the smell of the trees boosts your immune system. Thirdly, depression and fatigue are both reduced, allowing for higher levels of consciousness, problem-solving and spiritual connection. You’ll feel more connected to your body, to your mind, to the whole world. Just the space alone helps to regulate emotions, allowing for traumatic feelings to metabolise and be held.
Benefits of Creative Arts Therapy
A recent report from The World Health Organisation (2019) investigated arts based therapies from over 3000 studies. They found “a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health, and management and treatment of illness across the lifespan”.
The WHO report found:
1. The overall evidence base shows a robust impact of the arts on both mental and physical health
2. It is useful in the expression and exploration of difficult or complex problems.
3. It is cost effective, engages minority or marginalised groups, complements other therapies or medical interventions.
Nature as Metaphor
Embracing the ever-changing and unpredictable elements in nature reminds us of our own nature to change. Seeing emotions like the weather can support us to embrace suffering and let go of beliefs that hold us back. Just like the rain, the storm will pass.
This too Shall Pass
We remember impermanence and how all things connect when creating meaningful artworks in nature. By waking up to our truth of being part of nature, we can build resilience and re-frame self-criticism. In other words, by witnessing the beauty in nature’s imperfections and balanced eco-systems, we too can see ourselves in this environment as part of its system. We are therefore never alone, never broken, and never unworthy of being loved. We are as much a part of the forest as the birds, mushrooms and trees.
Long ago, Western civilisation moved from living in harmony with the land, to manufacturing their own eco-system. This disconnection creates a culture of repression – of feelings, needs and our natural way of being. Therefore, nature reconnects us to our wildness, offering a safe container to express that which goes against societal norms.
By engaging in art-making outdoors with a trained therapist, we speak the language of our ancestors who painted in caves and weaved baskets from flax. We also awaken our inner child who loved nothing more than building dams or making mud pie. Eco-arts therapy offers us all of this and more. By stepping away from technology, we are free from distraction, and can finally pause and truly hear ourselves.
Enhancing Intuition and Creativity
By engaging in Eco-Arts Therapy, one works intuitively to know what action to make next. The process is unplanned. One trusts that the felt sense will inform the next part of the artwork rather than our thinking mind. By following this process, one is flexing their intuitive muscles which can be used outside of the therapy sessions. In this way, the participant may respond to life more creatively with less anxiety and need for control.
With the support of the therapist, all you need to do is find elements around you that you’re drawn to, and play. It requires no artistic skill as meaning is found from the process, not the end product. Each location can wake up something different in each person, and often can bring something hidden into consciousness. Research shows that using metaphors in nature to describe difficulties is less threatening that speaking about it directly. For this reason, this therapy is especially of benefit to those with complex trauma.
Improving Self-Esteem, Relieving Anxiety and Depression
Research has shown that eco-arts therapy can help with all of these things. It does this by using art making to ‘decode’ nonverbal messages. This form of therapy also has been shown to firstly improve self-esteem, ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and helps to express and make sense of one’s life experiences. Secondly, Creative Arts Therapy helps in decision making by revealing what is truly important to the person, finding new ways to see their issues in life and discovering creative solutions.