Talk about a natural. Ecotherapy is an anthology of essays by psychologists who place love and respect for nature at the center of their practice. Co-edited by Santa Barbaran Linda Buzzell, a psychologist, career counselor, and founder of the International Association of Ecotherapists, the book is a follow-up to 1995’s Ecopsychology, which was lauded as a defining a new discipline.
Many of the writings talk about a whole new route to finding meaning in life not only for clients, but for psychologists rebelling against the predominant practice of “sending traumatized people back into psychologically lethal workplaces,” prescribing Prozac, or facilitating “six sessions of cognitive therapy.” The “grief, shame, emptiness, and fear” Buzzell often sees in her clients may be, she believes, “a natural response to the unnatural way we live.”
Ecotherapies range widely from dreamwork to environmental activism of various kinds, meaning anything from lobbying for the preservation of wilderness to eating consciously. It might sound harmless, but to the editors and writers of this collection, ecotherapy is a radical practice. It tends to work against reckless consumerism, media addiction, hyperindividualism, and putting in too much time at the office.
Suddenly, the contemplation of nature, life and death, the infinite, and similar issues are brought into the practice of psychology, which opens the door wide to spirituality. The moral dimension of this school of thought is most starkly expressed by Buzzell when she says, “If clients treated other humans the way they treat the Earth, therapists would take these actions as evidence of very serious pathology and would even be required by law to report them to the authorities.”
Ecopsychology inevitably contemplates human nature, too, the consensus being that humans are pack animals who cannot be happy or healthy without close social bonding. These writers’ cure for anxiety and depression: something along the lines of getting out there and joining a backyard food-exchange program. Another way to start is to read this book, a healing activity in its own right.
Linda Buzzell will sign copies of Ecotherapy at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.) this Thursday, July 9, at 7 p.m. Call 682-6787 or visit chaucersbooks.com.