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 concept 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 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 sensorialy 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 therapies (AAT):
These 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.
The Animal Assisted Therapy programs include Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, equine riding therapy (communication between rider and horse), and companion animals.
- Learn more about Equine Assisted Therapy here.
- Learn more about Rites of Passage Companion Animal Program here.
Farm animal therapy :
At Rites of Passage we have a farm full of animals that a therapist might introduce depending on the preferences and personal needs of a person in therapy. Animals that might serve in a therapy capacity at our facility include horses, dogs, cats, goats, alpacas, birds, chickens, and rabbits.
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.
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, Dancing, and more…
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.
This therapeutic pathway 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, rafting, ropes courses, and stand-up paddle boarding.
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. Adventure Therapy provides participants with ways to better understand 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.
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.
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.