Outdoor Therapy

There’s a growing interest in Outdoor Psychotherapy in Dublin. 

Statistics are piling up, people are suffering more. Not a surprise when you consider 98% of our life is spent indoors, often connected to technology, when we once lived 100% outdoors connected to nature. Contemplating that fact, it’s important to remember we did not come in to this world, we were not magically dropped on to it by a stork or other being, we came out of it like a wave from an ocean. We are the product of food grown in soil, the air we breathe, we are mostly water. 

The further we get from our connection to the natural world we came from, the more our suffering seems to increase. This phenomenon of disconnection is accelerated with technological advancement. Less than fifty years ago over half the population of this country worked on the land, now less than 2% are working in food production and only a percentage of this work is done outdoors. When I take a walk on any of our way marked trails there are fewer and fewer humans outdoors, fewer and fewer species of animals too. I might be lucky to greet a single person as I pass through farm lands. Ghosts of the past greet me now as I imagine what it was like when half of the population were outdoors during the day, what life there would have been. It is no surprise to me then that mental health problems in men are rising in what used to be farming areas.

When I sit and be present at megalithic tombs and the monuments I feel connected to my ancestors. In these places I am reminded of a first poem that survives our ancestors: in it the voice speaks of how it is the sound of the sea, the hawk on the cliff and the teardrop of the sun. It says to me that our ancestors knew that we were connected to every aspect of the natural world and it was connected to us. Everything we could ever need physically or psychologically is there, it can be our God, our Life our meaning. People go out in nature to conquer it in high octane adventures rather than to connect to it. In itself the exercise and fresh air is healthy and good for us, but it does little to bring us back to this lost understanding we had of the world.

In connection with nature almost everything we need for our psychological well being is present. Nature has a renewing intelligence and balance, it is and always has been the expert teacher. Our greatest mistake is to think we are separate from it and this is why we are always searching for more, why there is a void that needs to be filled but can never be filled. It could be said we are looking for our essence everywhere but inside ourselves.

What I do is bring people back to this connection with nature. It’s so easy we shouldn’t need anyone to do this but in our industrialised society it’s essential. As a therapist, a walk in nature is the most valuable of the tools I use for self-care, as is meditation. To combine these two is to simply be present in nature, present with all of your senses. There is a theory that we have more than the five senses of smell, taste, sound, touch and feel. Some thinkers on the subject have recognised fifty three including a sense of thirst, a sense of gravity (what would happen if we ignored our sense of gravity?) or a sense of weather as examples. I bring people back to intuitively reclaim these senses and thus a part of their true, natural self. Most of our religions try to point us back to this truth but so much gets in the way of their message. ‘Know thyself’ should be taken quite literally or if I could add a little to it I would say ‘know thyself, in the present moment.’

As a practising therapist I know that it’s not always that simple. On individual 1:1 sessions in I can help with the inner terrain we come across when we start coming back to our truths. I have been on similar journeys personally and professionally and as such I hope to offer some assistance with obstacles or troubled patches that we inevitably find.
On group walks I do not focus on the psychological therapeutic aspect of my work but allow nature to take it’s course.