An Ecotherapuetic Approach to Outdoor Education in the age of anxiety.

Mrs kerryn coombs-valeontis1
1earthcreateheal, Sydney, Australia


The purpose of this workshop is threefold:

1. to address the anxiety epidemic in young people, and explore its relationship to being outdoors.
2. to offer practical solutions and ways of working with anxiety and its related mental health issues, in our young people
3. to explore the latest research from an eco-therapeutic framework and ecopsychology, and its underpinnings for ecotherapy, as well as experience new /creative and meaningful ways of working with a marginalized cohort, from mainstream outdoor education
The issue is a wider and deeper engagement, with a traditionally resistant cohort, by understanding the impact of anxiety on the body and its relationship to being outdoors and relationality with nature.
Methods used will be an immersive experience of some ecotherapy, to understand the ways it can be applied, for practitioners. Key findings will be the ways that the current wave of research on mental health, and bodily responses to anxiety, and also being outdoors, correlate, and how this can enhance our effectiveness as practitioners, working with mental ill health.

The outcomes would be a broader and deeper understanding of how mental health impacts outdoor education and how to apply a therapeutic framework, and a overview of some of the latest research emerging, that supports working in a therapeutic way. Implication would be to model and encourage more innovative, curious and creative approaches to outdoor education,that keep up with the challenges of the next generation, with more inclusivity and effective working with the complexity and seriousness of anxiety, in young people. Practitioners will be inspired to learn more about this approach and its research, that offers much to sufferers of anxiety, and its new forms.

Kerryn has worked in community and adult education for over 20 years. She is coauthor of Nature Heals: An introduction to Nature Based Therapy in Australia and New Zealand ( Bad Apple Press 2019) She is founder and facilitator of the Diploma of Ecotherapy approved by the IICT (International Institute of Complimentary Therapists) She works as an eco/art therapist in mental health and with teens at risk.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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