In the Nature Principle,  Richard Louv asserts the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need, and illustrates multiple ways to bring nature back into our everyday lives.

This dovetails with a recent post in the Therapeutic Landscape Network that zeroes in on a vital aspect of nature we need but may not want:  health.

In this particular healing landscapes (TLN Blog -- So What is Nature Anyway?) an articulation explored the connection between nature and health (which then led into a series of informative comments).

I was drawn to the distinction of “Wild nature” and “Designed nature” and the elaboration regarding 'EcoTonic' and the 'Euro-perspective' on using nature as an adjunct to health and wellness therapies (and having these as entitlements in some EU health systems).

To help frame a comparative context it might be useful to look at what we also term ‘wilderness’ and observe/facilitate/interact with contemporary, urban youngsters on the verge of it (wilderness) in the USA.

To illustrate, I recently co-facilitated a program that involved 6 typical teenage girls playing a form of barefoot “toequet” in a “wilderness” garden (next to our well-kept therapy garden.

They — to a person — were reluctant to step off the paved areas and on to the grass barefoot:  did so only when play dictated and many would not go beyond the modestly-kept grass and into the leafy edges to retrieve errant balls…(see images to show this unconscious response).  
Bear in mind, the co-facilitators for the game (yours truly being one of them) modeled vigorous and playful nature engagement. We strolled over the field of play, wove in and out of the trees and more (or less) ensured untoward critters weren't hanging about.  

Nonetheless, it was instructive to see how a reflex response to view 'nature as alien' can impact on the actual potential of nature therapy in building resilience into a child's healthy development.

Interconnectedness in Civic Response

Just as the co-facilitating mentors could only go so far in influencing the youth playing our Toequet game, a single government agency needs to recognize that an inter-agency response (of collaborative interest) can achieve a great deal to move nature to the curative forefront of those that need it most.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Children’s Mental Health Awareness efforts have begun to grasp this potential

Through an inter-generational model, we’ve been helpful in having SAMHSA relate to integrating mental health and resilience skills in every environment that has an impact on child development from birth.

SAMHSA encourages families with young children affected by trauma, youth affected by trauma, and professionals in child-serving professions nationwide to collaborate.

In the future, we see interchange and bridges formed with both the Environmental Protection Agency and Let’s Move (in Nature) initiatives by using Nature Therapy, the US Play Coalition and wonderful ambassadors such as Let’s Go Chipper (an eco-educational series teaches good character and a love for the environment).

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Replies to This Discussion

While not mentioned above, this Toequet in Nature experience also seems to have afforded an opportunity to instill a sense of "Be Here Now in Process" ... connecting the group to the surroundings -- in the form of natural physicality -- they needed to play a fun game. 


How vital.   

Given increasing reports like this:
Teens have "Internet addiction?"
May 20 (Reuters) - One in every 25 teens reported an "irresistible urge" to be on the Internet, tension when they weren't online, or said they had tried to quit or cut down on Internet time, according to a U.S. study.  (Timothy Liu, Yale University, The Journal of Clinical Psychology).

In addition, the study of more than 3,500 high school students in the state of Connecticut found those students with "problematic Internet use" were more likely than their peers to be depressed and aggressive, and to use drugs.


Interestingly there's a gender difference delineated in the study:

Girls more than boys were more likely to answer that they had problematic usage, but more boys said they spent in excess of 20 hours a week online -- about 17 percent of boys, compared to 13 percent of girls.

An important Public Health essay from the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia adds impetus to the "therapeutics of nature" ....


In Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream... 

"nature is defined as an organic environment where the majority of ecosystem processes are present (e.g. birth, death, reproduction, relationships between species). This includes the spectrum of habitats from wilderness areas to farms and gardens."

Recommendations include further investigation of ‘contact with nature’ in population health, and examination of the benefits of nature-based interventions. To maximize use of ‘contact with nature’ in the health promotion of populations, collaborative strategies between researchers and primary health, social services, urban planning and environmental management sectors are required. This approach offers not only an augmentation of existing health promotion and prevention activities, but provides the basis for a socio-ecological approach to public health that incorporates environmental sustainability.


This is important work, Randy! 

Michael Cohen's work focuses on the issues you describe here- our acculturation to fear nature, to see it as dirty and dangerous and crude; something that we must conquer. I am program director of Cohen's graduate program, and Education Director of one of our outreach programs which teach experiential learning which leads from the client's natural attraction to pleasing natural settings and teaches activities which help the client to reconnect not only with the beauty, grace and intelligence of natural systems, but also the beauty, grace, and intelligence of their own inner nature. This works beautifully with kids, and the process of encountering and engaging around resistance to "undomesticated life" is both enlightening and restorative.  


The activities we use are very simple, pleasurable activities done outside (or even inside with a houseplant) which help to open the senses and practice multi-sensory engagement. We work with 53 natural senses:

Hi Margie! Great to see PNC friends here! I've been a member of CN&N for a while but I hadn't spent much time here. Randy just connected with us so I came to see what he's up to. He's doing great stuff!






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