Posts Tagged ‘family’

Emerging Trends in Ecotherapy • one day training session

February 4th, 2010
Thomas Doherty, Psy.D.

Thomas Doherty, Psy.D.

Thomas Doherty and Patricia Hasbach will be offering a one day training session on Ecotherapy at Lewis & Clark on April 16, 2010

Ecotherapy expands the scope of counseling beyond family and community systems to recognize the important role that one’s relationship with the natural world can play in health, emotions and identity across the lifespan. Ecotherapy also provides ways for counselors and healthcare providers to utilize nature contacts and connections to promote physical and mental health.

This one-day experiential workshop provides an orientation to the historical background and theoretical approaches associated with ecotherapy. We will also survey psychological research regarding human-nature relationships and conservation behaviors that point to the efficacy of ecotherapy interventions. Participants will learn applications of ecotherapy in counseling & healthcare settings and opportunities for integrating ecotherapy practices into their personal and professional lives.

Patricia Hasbach, Ph.D.

Patricia Hasbach, Ph.D.

Patricia Hasbach, Ph.D. & Thomas Doherty, Psy.D. developed the Ecotherapy course at Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Counseling & Education. In addition to using ecopsychological methods in their own therapy and consulting practices, Thomas coordinates Lewis & Clark’s graduate Ecopsychology Studies Program, and is Editor-in-Chief of the international Ecopsychology journal; Patricia is writing and co-editing two books for MIT Press related to Ecopsychology and the rediscovery of the wild.


Emerging Trends in Ecotherapy

Friday, April 16th, 2010, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Room 101, South Campus Conference Center
Lewis & Clark

Fee for 6 CEUs:
$125 if postmarked or faxed before March 26; $140 after March 26
Lewis & Clark alumni receive a 10% discount. Lewis & Clark student fee is $40.

Preserving the Planet, Straining the Relationship: Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes

January 17th, 2010

Thomas Doherty and others were interviewed about ecological concerns as they affect family and relationships.

See article below as published originally HERE.

The New York Times

Published: January 17, 2010
Gordon Fleming says his girlfriend, Shelly Cobb, is in a “high-priestess phase” of environmentalism, which includes raising chickens at their home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Gordon Fleming says his girlfriend, Shelly Cobb, is in a “high-priestess phase” of environmentalism, which includes raising chickens at their home in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Gordon Fleming is, by his own account, an environmentally sensitive guy.

He bikes 12 1/2 miles to and from his job at a software company outside Santa Barbara, Calif. He recycles as much as possible and takes reusable bags to the grocery store.

Still, his girlfriend, Shelly Cobb, feels he has not gone far enough.

Ms. Cobb chides him for running the water too long while he shaves or showers. And she finds it “depressing,” she tells him, that he continues to buy a steady stream of items online when her aim is for them to lead a less materialistic life.

Mr. Fleming, who says he became committed to Ms. Cobb “before her high-priestess phase,” describes their conflicts as good-natured — mostly.

But he refuses to go out to eat sushi with her anymore, he said, because he cannot stand to hear her quiz the waiters.

“None of it is sustainable or local,” he said, “and I am not eating cod or rockfish.”

As awareness of environmental concerns has grown, therapists say they are seeing a rise in bickering between couples and family members over the extent to which they should change their lives to save the planet.

In households across the country, green lines are being drawn between those who insist on wild salmon and those who buy farmed, those who calculate their carbon footprint and those who remain indifferent to greenhouse gases.

“As the focus on climate increases in the public’s mind, it can’t help but be a part of people’s planning about the future,” said Thomas Joseph Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Ore., who has a practice that focuses on environmental issues. “It touches every part of how they live: what they eat, whether they want to fly, what kind of vacation they want.”

While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. Friends or family members who are not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.

Those with a heightened focus on environmental issues, on the other hand, can find it hard to refrain from commenting on things that they view as harmful to Earth — driving an oversize S.U.V., for example.

Shelly Cobb is working to follow the permaculture approach in her garden.

Shelly Cobb is working to follow the permaculture approach in her garden.

Sandy Shulmire, a psychologist who lives in Portland, confesses that when she is visiting her sister in Abita Springs, La., she cannot resist bugging her about not recycling her plastic and cardboard, even though she knows she will be perceived as “bossy.”

Cherl Petso, an editor of an online magazine who lives in Seattle, says trips to visit her parents in Idaho can be “tense at times,” in part because she and her mother interpret each other’s choices as judgmental.

If Ms. Petso prepares a vegan meal for the family, her parents prepare hot dogs to go alongside. Her parents serve on throwaway Styrofoam plates; she grabs a plate that can be cleaned and reused. Her mother, who says she prefers the way food tastes when it is served on Styrofoam, notes that washing dishes has its own environmental costs.

Linda Buzzell, a family and marriage therapist for 30 years who lives in Santa Barbara and is a co-editor of “Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind,” cautions that the repercussions of environmental differences can be especially severe for couples.

“The danger arises when one partner undergoes an environmental ‘waking up’ process way before the other, leaving a new values gap between them,” Ms. Buzzell said.

Changing the family diet because of environmental concerns can be particularly loaded, Ms. Buzzell added. She warns wives and mothers not to move a family toward vegetarianism before everyone is ready.

“Food is such an emotional issue,” she said.

Christienne deTournay Birkhahn, executive director of the EcoMom Alliance, an organization based in Marin County that provides education to women who want to have their families live more sustainably, finds that disputes over how green is green enough often divide along predictable lines by sex.

Women, Ms. Birkhahn said, often see men as not paying sufficient attention to the home. Men, for their part, “really want to make a large impact and aren’t interested in a small impact,” she said.

That is certainly the case in her own marriage, she said. Her husband, Kurt, an engineer and federal employee, sometimes seems to be baiting her by placing plastic yogurt cups in the garbage or leaving the reusable shopping bags in the car and coming home with disposable bags instead.

Gordon Fleming orders more things online than his girlfriend would like, but he makes sure to recycle the packaging.

Gordon Fleming orders more things online than his girlfriend would like, but he makes sure to recycle the packaging.

In the ensuing discussions, Ms. Birkhahn said, her husband argues that the changes she is making may have a large effect on their lives but have little or no effect on the planet. He fought every step of the way against the gray-water system she installed in their bathroom to recycle water to flush the toilet, calling it a waste of time and money, she said. The system cost $1,200 to install.

Ms. Birkhahn said she found it hard to dispute his point but thought it was irrelevant. “I am trying to be a role model for my son,” she said.

Ms. Buzzell suggests that couples can overcome such differences if they treat each other gently. She advises partners who have a newfound passion for the issue to change only a few things at a time and provide lots of explanation.

“It is like exercise,” Ms. Buzzell said. “Take it slowly.”

Still, Robert Brulle, a professor of environment and sociology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said he had seen divorces among couples who realized that their values were putting them on very different long-term trajectories.

“One still wants to live the American dream with all that means, and the other wants to give up on big materialistic consumption,” Dr. Brulle said. “Those may not be compatible.”

Mr. Fleming, in Santa Barbara, said that he was not quite at that point, but that he was drawing some firm lines.

He continues to make purchases on eBay — although he immediately breaks down the delivery boxes and puts them in the recycling bin to “avoid scrutiny.”

And unless Ms. Cobb can make peace with his long, hot showers, the issue may someday be a deal breaker.

“I like to see the water pouring down,” he said, sounding utterly unrepentant.

Well, Doctor, I Have This Recycling Problem

February 16th, 2008

Thomas Doherty and other Portland psychologists were interviewed about Ecopsychology and people’s concerns about environmental issues.

See article below as published originally HERE.

Keith Payne, a graduate student at Lewis & Clark College, relaxed before class at a campus reflection place. Ecopsychology classes are taught at the college.

Keith Payne, a graduate student at Lewis & Clark College, relaxed before class at a campus reflection place. Ecopsychology classes are taught at the college.

The New York Times

Published: February 16, 2008


SOME months ago, Catherine McLendon and her husband, Martin, decided to talk to a psychologist. The couple have a blended family with three adolescent sons, and they wanted guidance in easing some typical adjustment problems.

But a few sessions in, Ms. McLendon, a floral designer, and Mr. McLendon, a bus driver, realized their worries extended beyond the demands of work, school and extracurricular sports.

Ms. McLendon was troubled by the family’s consumption habits, while Mr. McLendon worried about the disappearance of green space. In therapy, their psychologist, Sandy Shulmire, began providing the family with practical instructions for reducing anxiety, and their carbon footprint.

Dr. Shulmire is a practitioner of ecopsychology, a new form of therapy that is starting to find a following in this green-minded corner of the United States. Like traditional therapy, ecopsychology examines personal interactions and family systems, while also encouraging patients to develop a relationship to nature.

Therapists like Dr. Shulmire use several techniques, from encouraging patients besieged by multitasking to spend more time outdoors to exploring how their upbringing and family background influence their approach to the natural world.


As part of their therapy, the McLendons bought a solar-powered water heater and energy-conserving doors. As a family, they volunteer for beach cleanups and tree-planting events, and also instruct their children to play outside every day.

“Sometimes it is just so tough to get those kids out from behind their Nintendos and long showers,” Ms. McLendon said. “I feel like a real nag. But I just keep trying. If my kids see me use reusable shopping bags, they’ll be more likely to do it, too.”

The word ecopsychology was popularized in the early 1990s by, among others, the social critic Theodore Roszak, who wrote two books that explored the link between mental health and ecological health. Its practice now takes a variety of forms.

Some therapists offer strategies for eco-anxiety in private sessions, or lead discussion groups for the conservation-minded. More than 120 therapists from Alaska to Uruguay are listed as practitioners at the International Community for Ecopsychology Web site (, and colleges in the United States and Europe offer courses in the field.

Ecopsychology lacks a scientific journal, and no Sigmund Freud-type figure has fully developed its theory. For now, the America Psychological Association is neutral toward the practice. “It is an emerging field of study and we are certainly watching it,” said Kim Mills, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Some psychologists are skeptical that the practice of ecopsychology has any provable benefits.

“There are lots of interesting and novel ideas out there, but I am not aware of any research that shows that this approach would be helpful,” said Scott O. Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory University. “Even if one believes that global warming is caused by humans, there is a fine line between therapy and advocacy. Therapists need to mind that line.”

Dr. Lilienfeld said therapists must also be aware of the larger psychological issues for patients worried about the environment.

“If the patient has generalized anxiety disorder, he or she is going to be worrying about almost everything,” Dr. Lilienfeld said. “So are concerns about global warming just one piece of the elephant? Therapists need to be cautious before focusing too heavily on one psychological issue.”

But ecopsychology can help patients come to terms with their feelings about the natural world, said Thomas Doherty, who teaches ecopsychology at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling in Portland. “People are overwhelmed,” said Dr. Doherty, who also sees patients in private practice. “They need help in learning how to balance their roles as parents, as children, as citizens and now as ecocitizens.”

For clients with global warming anxiety, Dr. Doherty suggests a multistep process that is similar to kicking an addiction. He advises them to accept the limits of what they can control. He recommends “fasts” from shopping, e-mailing, and the news, while cultivating calmer pursuits like meditation or gardening.

Dr. Jeff Noethe, a Portland psychologist, says that when seeing new patients, he asks them about the amount of time they spend outdoors.

“We think nothing of asking about how much alcohol people drink or how many cigarettes they smoke,” Dr. Noethe said. “But when we overlook the natural world, we’re overlooking the most fundamental aspect of who we are as human beings.”

As part of his therapy, Dr. Bill Plotkin, a Colorado psychologist, leads groups into deserts, canyons and mountains. During such trips, which range in cost from $650 to $2,300, he urges clients to lie on the earth in a bonding exercise.

“I tell them to imagine the earth as a healthy parent,” said Dr. Plotkin, the author of “Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World.”

Small children are often encouraged to dig for worms or play in the snow, but such freedom outdoors usually gives way to more structured activities by middle school, he said.

“We need to step back and ask a bigger question,” he said, “and that is: How might my children have the most fulfilling and rewarding life possible?”

Since Angeline Tiamson, a graduate student in counseling at Lewis & Clark, took Dr. Doherty’s ecopsychology class last fall, she has embarked on a new way of thinking. Instead of shopping or joining her friends at a bar, she relaxes by taking long walks, even in the rain. She still studies in coffee shops, but now she sips tea from a pink steel cup she carries in her backpack.

When she is on campus, she drifts to the low, wide trunk of an old black walnut tree, a spot she found during a nature exercise for class. She sits there for several minutes: no iPod, no cellphone, no laptop. She rubs her hand over the bark, and sniffs the empty shells left behind by squirrels.

“You can’t have a good relationship with anything if you are afraid or feel guilty,” Ms. Tiamson said. “You have to love it first.”