For me, one of the great joys to be experienced when studying, observing, enquiring or reflecting on ecotherapy (and therapy in general), is the multitude of personal paradigms that exist within a unifying frame. There are, of course, universal ideas that act to broadly define the approach of outdoor work; an essence that connects the many shoots of eco-therapeutic practice and allows for a sense of synergy within the approach. Much like the existential approach to psychotherapy, the individual expression of each therapist’s beliefs, passion, and professional focus makes a unifying definition difficult to achieve. I would describe this as refreshing, refreshing that such difference exists and provides fertile ground for discussion, growth, and learning. I argue that the variety of paradigms are vital; just as our planet (especially in the UK) is in dire need of greater biodiversity, we need variety and difference within therapeutic theory and practice.
I would be remiss if I were to not acknowledge the blinkered nature of passion, and my own capacity for ‘single-lens thinking’, especially on a subject so close to my heart. It’s such a wonderful feeling when we find our own reflection hiding in the ideas and work of others, even if for us, it is an idea that has yet to become tangible; has yet to formulate its own language and expression, but even then it can resonate with us on a deep level and we recognise its prominence. This is wonderful. What is equally important to me is to stare at the ideas of another and feel completely lost, to have no bearing, and to be forced from the path with which we have hitherto been fixed upon. That is the good stuff, and I’m terrified of losing it… with the homegenisiation of the therapy on the horizon, and the often unbendable culture of the old-guard, cannot, must not, and thankfully, I believe, does not exist in ecotherapy. I often feel a discussion with another outdoor therapist to be a glorious respite from uniformity. I almost wrote that ‘it takes more than one tree to be a forest’ however I caught myself, even that is reductive as a metaphor! A forest is made up of trees, insects, plants, rocks, birds, bacteria, mycelia, micro-climates, seasons,… the list goes on. We need this; we must not let the landscape of therapy become a highly cultivated sea of commercially driven agriculture; domesticated crops as far as the eye can see. I have observed within ecotherapy, over the years, a network of ideas crisscrossing, that some of those ideas touch each other and the overlaps could be seen as emerging ‘camps’ and this is ok, but so too is being nomadic, so is allowing oneself to drift on the current of experience and asking, where shall I go today?