I always had a love of and deep connection with nature as a child, I think many of us can say the same.
Somewhere in adulthood I lost my connection, then through difficulty, challenges and a need for healing I rediscovered this connection and began my journey back home.
On this journey I met my husband who had done his training to be a Forest School leader and was pursuing training to be a Bushcraft instructor.
With my background of working with children with anxiety, low self-esteem and challenging behaviour, we decided to set up our own Forest School. I had already witnessed the effects of taking children outside when they were having meltdowns, there is space outside to let their energy flow, helping them to calm down.
Our Forest School quickly built up a loyal following of parents and eager children. I also worked in a University mentoring students with mental health problems and soon decided to follow a career in counselling. I chose an integrative model of counselling as I felt this allowed me some freedom to explore methods of working with people that maybe sat ‘outside the box’ but allowing me a good foundation of traditional and effective ways of working.
Upon qualifying as a counsellor, my husband and I moved up to North Wales along with our now thriving business, Woodland Classroom.
As I moved to Wrexham, North Wales I undertook further training to be a Mindfulness in the Woods practitioner, this linked perfectly my love of nature and counselling and I soon filled events which I ran in the art of ‘forest bathing’ or Mindfulness in the Woods, which has seemed to have taken the world by storm, there has been so much research into the health benefits of nature connection and mindfulness, there are courses, events and blog posts popping up all over the place promoting the effects of being surrounded by nature for health and wellbeing.
It wasn’t easy finding the perfect space to have my counselling practice and I was nervous about taking it outside. I found a therapy room at the back of The Herbarium in Oswestry, which is a lovely space that fits with my beliefs around natural healing and healing from the inside out, then upon growing in confidence I offered to see clients in the woodland where we run our Forest School in Wrexham at a National Trust site. It isn’t perfect as it is a public site but the woodland is off the main walking path and it has a log circle and fire pit, there is also an eco-garden close by with herb beds and a secluded spot with a wildlife garden that I can use.
Through meeting people on my mindfulness events I have gained some clients who love the idea of having counselling in the woods and it has developed even further from that! I have had clients come for ‘top ups’ of nature connection through indfulness in the woods, practicing techniques that I teach and spending time in a beautiful and healing environment, also being able to talk through any problems with me.
One of my clients actually books me for a two hour session every month to further develop their nature connection. There is a need for this person to build resilience, rejuvenate and take time out from a difficult home situation, most of the time they don’t want to talk over the difficulties they are living with, they are just seeking a period of healing time, a time to nourish the soul so that when they go back home they are ready to face the challenges.
Some of the activities I have done with clients who have asked for these types of sessions include meditating in hammocks in an oak grove, how to use an axe, chop wood, collect dry kindling, light a fire using old technology and build a fire, mix aromatherapy oils to treat anxiety, walk barefoot on the earth then sit and massage our feet with oils as a self-care exercise.
I have other clients that join me in the woods who want and need a traditional counselling session, I listen with empathy and unconditional positive regard while being genuine. They always comment that it is a lovely environment to be in, how calming and peaceful it is.
In my experience I have found that my younger clients are usually sharing stuff for the first time, they need my undivided attention with no distractions, this is the traditional counselling session I was trained to do. I then have clients who are much older, they have usually shared their pain many times before and are looking for something a little different than the traditional counselling session, they want tools and strategies to practice for themselves that promote healing and growth and a place they can come for ‘me’ time. I know this is far from always the case, but it is certainly how my practice has been developing.
I enjoy the diversity of my work and how I feel rejuvenated after my sessions, I believe that the way I work will also protect me somewhat from burn out and mental fatigue.
Mother nature holds the space for me to help and support my clients in the way that they need most. Mother nature knows best, we need to come home to her to find ourselves and be nurtured by her gentle wisdom and healing potential. We ARE nature and through nature connection we realise that we are not separate.