Rites of Passage Residential Extended Care Program, engages in all of the types of therapy that are considered ecotherapy, as well as other types of psychological therapies, so it is essentially an Ecotherapy Trauma & Mental Health Facility.
Ecotherapy is based upon the idea that people are connected to and impacted by the natural environment. Time in nature or including nature into sessions indoors reconnects humans to the rest of their environment, creating attachment and creating opportunities to bring themselves into a healthy balance in their lives and in community with others.
Ecotherapy allows clinicians an evidence-based framework in which to offer nature-based therapies to their clients. Decades of research clearly demonstrates the positive effect nature has on mental (and physical) health and well-being, and integrating a nature-based approach into treatment allows clinicians a unique and more holistic view into their client’s internal world.
One of the core concepts in the field of ecopsychology is that humans are hard-wired to connect with the natural world; we are interconnected and interdependent on nature for survival as well as health and well-being. Further, as we become increasingly disconnected from nature, including the food we eat and how we treat our environment, it can cause physical and psychological distress. Indeed the natural world offers not only a plethora of mental, physical and emotional benefits, but it can provide a vibrant, alive, and sensory space to experience what is often described by client’s as their “core self or authentic self”. Ecotherapists work to help clients reconnect with nature in order to find healing, restoration and insight. In nurturing their relational connection with nature, clients discover a desire to give back to nature which then transfers into more connection with others in their world and a healthier frame of view to do their transformational work in the world.
Types of Ecotherapy utilized in the world and at our facility:
Eco-art therapy: (also called expressive art in nature or land art therapy) Eco-art therapy expands our awareness and creative response to our clients beyond focus on the individual/family/group/culture to include larger ecological systems as the source of both suffering and healing (Gage & Speert, 1995). If we are to be a vital and cutting edge profession, we must no longer neglect our primal bond with nature and we must tap our ecological unconscious (Roszak, 1993).
Eco-art therapy’s roots take us back to the earliest human art making, through which people were intimately connected to their environments. It builds on the historic use of art as ritual, interaction, and relationship, and challenges the legacy of the solitary artist (Gablik, 1991). Indeed the art therapist, by moving into an ecological artistic context that celebrates collaboration and interconnection, can better serve their clients, their community and the world at large.
This expanded psychological perspective also utilizes an enriched array of art materials to deepen identification with the natural world (Biermann, 2013). Materials found in one’s local environment are not only sensorily rich and varied, they bring us into
connection with seasonal cycles, regional plants and animals, and provide free media, thus removing a cost barrier in this age of tightening budgets.
Animal-assisted therapy: including Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and growth and learning and equine riding therapy (communication between rider and horse)
Types of animal-assisted psychotherapy (AAT)
Professionals administering or overseeing AAT might work with any type of animal, depending on the preferences and personal needs of a person in therapy.
Animals that might serve in a therapy capacity include, but are not limited to horses, dogs, goats, alpacas, lizards, snakes, birds, and small pet rodents such as rats or hamsters as well as many others.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy:
What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)? This term describes an emerging field in which horses are used as co-therapists for emotional growth and learning as well as for deeper psychotherapy sessions. EAP is an integral component of the therapy which changes the lives of the clients who come here.
This model can be most easily explained as an experiential approach to working with people. This means that clients learn about themselves and others by participating in activities with horses and then process feelings, behaviors, and patterns. Equine Assisted Psychotherapy has the added dynamic of utilizing animals with personalities, attitudes, and emotions as unique as those of each individual with whom they are working. Because of this, EAP produces endless experiences and situations for discussion, analysis and therapeutic healing.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding: is a form of physical and mental health therapy for people who have a range of disabilities including physical, emotional, cognitive, and social difficulties. Horses provide a tool for physical therapy, emotional growth, and cognitive improvement, in a unique format that is fun, exhilarating, and sometimes has the power to change a person’s perspective on life! Besides the physical benefits derived from therapeutic riding, the contact with the animal is a powerful experience, and the strong bond that is usually experienced has a profound, uplifting effect on people who are troubled or suffering.
Because the gait of a horse when walking is a gentle, repetitive movement, it moves the rider’s body in a way that is very similar to the human gait; riders, as well as the mental health aspects of riding, often achieve greater flexibility, muscle strength, and balance. This type of therapy can improve balance, posture, mobility, reaction time, as well as improve problems such as emotional, cognitive, behavioral, communicative, and social malfunction.
Many riders, both able-bodied and those with challenges to overcome, form a strong connection to the horse that they cannot get form most sports. For individuals with emotional problems, the unique relationship that is formed with the horse can result in increased confidence, self-esteem, and patience. The sense of wonder and interdepend- ence that is experienced while riding on a horse is universally beneficial.
Companion animal program: Professionals administering or overseeing AAT might work with any type of animal, depending on the preferences and personal needs of a person in therapy. Owning a therapy or companion animal, such as a dog trained to sense and alleviate anxiety, is only loosely considered a type of animal-assisted psychotherapy. AAT, by definition, involves the active participation of a mental health professional.
Farm animal therapy : Animals that might serve in a therapy capacity include, but are not limited to horses, dogs, rabbits, fish, birds, and small pet rodents such as rats or hamsters.
Some therapies, such as dolphin-assisted therapy, have mixed results. While unlikely to be harmful, they may or may not produce desired therapeutic benefits and should be further researched to determine their long-term effects. Others, such as equine therapy, have a wealth of research supporting their positive impact on recipients’ mental health.
Animal-assisted therapies (AAT): are approaches to mental health care that incorporate animals into the psychotherapy process, emphasizing the bond created during human-animal interactions. Emotional recovery and positive psychological transformation often occurs when the relationship between an individual and the therapy animal grows.
Professionals often advocate for using animals in psychotherapy treatment because animals can bring forth a vivid array of nurturing emotions, and many people seeking help respond positively to the idea of caring for another being.
How Can Animal-Assisted Therapies Help?
Animal-assisted psychotherapy can provide numerous psychological and physiological benefits. People who interact with animals for the purpose of therapy may experience improvements in health, including:
- Decreased stress levels
- Reduced anger and aggression
- Decreased hostility toward the self and others
- Improved social interactions
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Rise in release of beta-endorphins
- Improvement in self-esteem, patience, and trust
- Sense of empowerment
Improved mood and reduced anxiety tend to be consistent results with AAT. Individuals who perceive hostility or disregard from other humans may come to accept the nonjudgmental and unconditional affection and attention from an animal, instead. Studies of AAT demonstrate these results in nearly all participants, regardless of age, the duration of the session, or the severity of symptoms.
Animal-assisted therapy has been proven to be beneficial not only for the human individuals involved, but also the animals. Each being experiences positive results from the attention received from the other, according to studies between horses and humans and between humans and dogs.
Somatic ecotherapy: One way to combine Somatic Experiencing (SE) with Ecotherapy is to conduct therapy sessions outside. SE is well-suited for outdoor sessions for many reasons, primarily because being outside offers great opportunities to orient to the external environment in the present moment, a foundational part of SE. The act of sitting on the ground or tracking sensations while walking can assist in getting grounded in the body. This ca be done inside or outside at our facility and includes meditative walks in nature, interacting and experiencing as directed, as well as Tai chi, Five rhythms Dance, and more…
Horticultural ecotherapy: At Rites of Passage, we engage with clients in permaculture, which is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. This blends well with horticulture therapy in that it instills ways of looking at the world and how you want to develop and plan for things around you and internally. We have gardens that we plant, weed and harvest to eat at our facility and a young food forest for clients to help with and work and play in a natural setting that engages their heart and minds. This also engages clients in an act of restoring or conserving the natural environment and can assist in creating a sense of purpose and hopefulness as well as belonging to a group or community.
Adventure ecotherapy: approaches psychological treatment through experience and action within cooperative games, Trust activities, Problem Solving Initiatives, High adventure, outdoor pursuits, and wilderness expeditions.
Adventure Therapy can take many forms. However, it generally takes place outdoors and involves a variety of fun—and often challenging—physical activities. Therefore, trained mental health professionals provide guidance and supervision as clients take part in excursions such as camping, hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking, ropes courses, and even surfing.
Working with others is an important element of Adventure Therapy. Excursions typically include cooperative activities that help participants learn to better trust and solve problems with their peers and guides.
While Adventure Based Therapy takes place outside the confines of a traditional therapy setting, it has its roots in several psychological concepts. These include systems theory, experiential learning, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here are some of the many ways that Adventure Therapy can benefit mental health.
Adventure-Based Therapy is applicable for many different ages and mental health challenges.
Individuals of all ages can benefit from Adventure Therapy. Moreover, it is proven to be an effective tool for overcoming a wide range of mental health challenges. As a result, adventure Therapy offers ways to care for mental illness for people recovering from eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse.
Additionally, it is a powerful anxiety and depression treatment approach. It can also help those who are working to come to terms with personal loss. As well, Adventure Based Therapy can add an exciting and productive element to family or relationship therapy. Adventure Therapy can even be beneficial in schizophrenia treatment.
It allows individuals to experience the therapeutic properties of nature.
Spending time in nature through outdoor therapy can improve mental health in a number of ways. For one, time outdoors has been shown to decrease levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. Moreover, being outside in nature is proven to reduce stress by lowering the stress-associated chemical, cortisol.
Additionally, being surrounded by nature can inspire newfound tranquility and positivity.
Research has found that experiencing awe, such as one might feel while immersed in a lush forest or surveying a scenic mountain landscape, can encourage more generous, positive social behaviors. It also takes us out of our own heads, helping us focus us on something bigger than ourselves.
Furthermore, unplugged time in nature helps regulate mood disturbance and nervous system arousal caused by too much time in front of screens.
Participants take part in engaging, real-world experiences.
Adventure-Based therapy can help individuals make strides in the recovery process by reframing the entire therapy experience. Adventure Therapy clients take part in goal-based activities. Such activities often provide a window into clients unique mental traits and challenges.
Adventure Therapy also promotes emotional healing by removing individuals from the habits that they may use to avoid confronting personal challenges. Additionally, they are removed from the environmental factors that may be contributing to their mental health issues.
In Adventure-Based Therapy, individuals work together to overcome a wide variety of obstacles. These might include using a compass, scaling rock walls, navigating a river, or other challenges. As they encounter opportunities to explore their own strengths and weaknesses, participants learn to take calculated risks, and push their limits in a safe and supportive environment.
Adventure Therapy provides ample opportunities for personal development.
Adventure Therapy provides participants with ways to better understyyyyand their thought processes, behaviors, and coping strategies. Often, an individual’s approach to solving problems in Adventure Therapy will mirror the coping strategies they employ in other settings. This awareness can provide helpful insight to both individuals and their mental health practitioners.
Adventure-Based Therapy offers an opportunity to take a more active role in a clients mental health treatment. This can help them feel a greater sense of empowerment, self-awareness, and responsibility.
Adventure Therapy is also effective at encouraging an improved understanding of risks and consequences; a more optimistic outlook; and a greater willingness to confront challenges and step outside one’s comfort zone.
Wilderness ecotherapy: Wilderness therapy uses outdoor activities and unfamiliar environments to help clients open up to new concepts and skills, which can help with learned helplessness and fear of success as well as self esteem, communication, cooperation, and trust in new situations.
Reflective activities are used to help clients process new experiences and encourage continued growth in the areas that they feel successful.
This type of therapy provides a secure, non-critical and supportive environment that allows clients who have not felt successful in their lives to engage in risk and be guided through an examination of previous coping behaviors that are not working and allows the opportunity for clients to change those behaviors for more adaptive healthy behaviors.
Wilderness therapy is modeled to mimic the challenges and pressures found within a family unit or societal structures, but engages them in an atmosphere free from previous negative influences.
The outcomes of this type of therapy contribute to develop healthy relationships, live within boundaries that are mutually set, and accept and process feedback while relying on their own sense of inner wisdom and strength.