Ecopsychology Ecopsychology

Ecopsychology could be considered a westernized version of shamanism due in part to its emphasis on recovering ancient teachings and traditions from aboriginal cultures. Ecopsychology, however, emerged in the late sixties out of the humanistic and transpersonal traditions in psychology. Today, the Ecopsychology movement is becoming increasingly popular mainly due to the growing awareness of the current ecological crisis.

Unlike traditional psychology which focuses primarily on inner and social dynamics when working with people, Ecopsychology goes further to seeing human nature and human behavior as being intimately connected to the natural world. Ecopsychology asserts that humans have not only emerged from the "nurturing embrace" of nature which empowers all life to resolve the challenge of survival, but also, that they have become the victims of their own success due their eventual separation from this "womb" of life.

Consequently, Ecopsychology has extended the conditions and disorders indentified by abnormal psychology to include conditions caused or augmented by this separation. These are conditions that have been difficult to define as "abnormal" because in many ways they have become the fabric of our culture. Some examples are our addictive tendency towards a consumerist life-style; our exploitive relationships to others and nature; and our obsessive need for power at the expense of others.

The main difference between Ecology and Ecopsychology, on the other hand, is that while Ecology deals with the practical aspect of our interdependence with the natural world as a condition for our survival, Ecopsychology emphasizes the human emotional connection to the natural environment as a condition for proper development.

As a complement to Attachment Theory, therefore, Ecopsychology asserts that humans need to expand their experience of the "psychic womb" or "home base" to include the ecological niche that supports the environment in which they develop. In other words, we humans need not only our loving mother (or anyone who fulfills this role) to grow up healthy and secure, but Mother Nature as well.

Even though Ecopsychology focuses on several aspects of interest such as the theoretical, the philosophical, and the critical, in my practice, I focus on the clinical and practical aspects. Therapeutic interventions can start in the office by getting in touch with the body and becoming fully aware of its role in achieving psychological and emotional balance. The body, after all, is that part of nature living within us. I use movement, mindful breathing, and systematic relaxation for this purpose.

Interventions can also be extended to doing experiential exercises outdoors with the objective of "awakening" our sensibility to the natural environment and to begin the process of establishing a deeper emotional connection with it. This can include a careful examination of the client's existing relationship to food and other health related behaviors that are linked to the natural environment.