CONFERENCE REVIEW: «ECOLOGICAL/EARTH-BASED ARTS THERAPIES: INTERNATIONAL AND MULTI-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES»
On the eighth and ninth of August, 2020, the conference "Environmental art therapy: international and multicultural perspectives" was held online, reflecting the increasing importance of environmental issues for the creative/expressive arts therapies and their growing connections to the ecological movement, ecotherapy, ecopsychology, ecological education, and environmental art.
Ecological arts therapies represent an emerging therapeutic approach which is based on a new understanding of the role of the arts in supporting public and environmental health and establishing more harmonious relationships between humans and nature. These forms of therapy belong to an established group of mental health professions or specialized therapeutic approaches, such as art therapy, music therapy, dramatherapy, dance-movement therapy and expressive arts therapy. The ecological arts therapies are supported by scientific approaches such as environmental science, ecopsychology and ecophilosophy and demonstrate a new perspective on our understanding of the therapeutic role of human bonding and interaction with nature.
The spectrum of expressive mediums used to provide creative outlets for responses to the environment in ecological arts therapies is broad and includes visual art, drama, rituals, music, dance, movement, and creative writing, as well as practices that integrate the expressive arts and interactions with animals and plants, wilderness journeys, and contemplative presence in nature. Ecological/nature-assisted or earth-based arts therapies together with ecotherapy, environmental philosophy, environmental education and the contemporary environmental arts support the emerging eco-human approach and the growing field of constructive innovations that can be applied in education, medicine, and the wider social context in order to counteract the environmental crisis and enable a more harmonious co-evolution of human beings and the more-than-human world.
It appears that ecological / earth-based arts therapies are more than just a set of innovative creative activities and ideas that can be implemented in the already established expressive/creative arts therapies. Instead, the ecological arts therapies represent a new set of empirical forms of therapeutic and health-promoting work that are supported by a constellation of theoretical ideas which have a certain distinctive quality.
Although more arts therapists are now paying attention to the therapeutic potential of interaction with different types of environments, in particular through engagement with the natural environment and environmental issues, until recently, ecological/nature-assisted or earth-based arts therapies had not been consistently represented academically or sufficiently established as a separate field. This conference represents the first arts therapy conference specifically dedicated to ecological arts therapies.
One of the goals of the conference was to bring together specialists from various countries who use creative/expressive environmental activities in medicine, education and social work with the aim of improving human and environmental health and well-being, and supporting environmental education (education for sustainable development). The organizers of the conference hoped that the integration of international participants would support intercultural dialogue, demonstrate the ecological foundations of traditional world cultures and healing practices and, thereby, allow participants to see the foundations for the ecological arts therapies that already exist in different regions of the planet that are built on the specificities of local cultures and ecosystems.
Over the past two decades, a large body of research has emerged that supports the diverse therapeutic and preventive effects of human interactions with the natural environment. This was due, first of all, to ecopsychological research and the formation of a theoretical basis for ecopsychology, which allows us to now consider it a scientific field with a solid evidence base.
Another major factor in the development of the ecological arts therapies is the ecological movement, which has grown in response to the negative consequences of human activity on the planet and which aims not only to change the forms of ecologically damaging economic activity and the unsustainable use of natural resources, but also to develop environmental consciousness and promote sustainable living. It is evident that ecological problems at regional and global scales cannot be solved only by implementing environmental protection measures and appropriate laws, but also require a change in people's relationship to the natural environment from anthropocentric to eco-centric or nature-centric.
The arts can be assigned a special role in the formation of environmental consciousness and changing peoples’ attitude to nature. They can become a factor in the formation of an eco-centric or nature-centered environmental consciousness, which is an alternative to the more familiar anthropocentric ecological consciousness, which prioritizes the interests of human beings in their relationship with nature and determines their consumerist position in regard to the natural environment and natural resources.
The development of ecological arts and arts therapies brings with it an expansion of the range of forms of creative expression, incorporating the use of natural environments and objects (often also perceived as subjects), and artistic and aesthetic perception of natural environments. This approach also allows for a combination of visual and other creative environmental activities with different forms of ecotherapy, horticultural therapy, animal-assisted therapy, wilderness therapy and so on.
The broad spectrum of topics covered during the conference was as follows:
- Ecopsychology, deep ecology and ecological, Earth-based arts therapies.
- The impact of the environmental movement on the development of the arts therapies.
- Social justice in ecological arts therapies.
- Contemporary arts therapies and environmental aesthetics, environmental art and eco-art.
- Eastern and Western cultural traditions and their perspectives on environmental issues.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies in medicine, education, and society.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies with children and adolescents.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies with families and communities.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies and perinatal psychology.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies and geriatric psychology - working with the elderly.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies and stress-related, post-traumatic disorders.
- Ecological, Earth-based arts therapies in the treatment and prevention of somatic diseases and psychosomatic disorders.
- Ecological foundations of traditional cultures and healing/shamanic practices.
- The use of environmental arts therapies and arts pedagogy for environmental education and the development of environmental awareness.
- Environmental arts therapies and ecopsychology, the psychology of environmental consciousness.
- Environmental art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, dance & movement therapy, expressive arts therapy, and creative/therapeutic writing.
- Digital technologies and media (photography, video, etc.) in the practice of environmental arts therapies.
- Climate change and its impact on the practice of arts therapies.
- COVID-19 and its impact on the human and natural world.
- Integration of arts therapies and animal-assisted therapy, horticultural therapy and other forms of ecotherapy.
- Zero and reduced waste art therapy.
- The therapeutic environment in ecological arts therapies; new concepts and models of the therapeutic environment.
Organizers and partners of the conference:
- The National Association for the Development of Art Therapy Science and Practice "Art Therapy Association" (Russian Federation)
- “Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice,” web-based journal
- The Laboratory of Ecopsychology of Development and Psychodidactics, The Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education (Moscow)
- The European Graduate School (Switzerland)
- Pratt Institute, Creative Arts Therapy Department (New York)
- The California College of the Arts, The Architectural Ecologies Lab (San Francisco, USA)
- Ecologia Youth Trust (Scotland)
- Florida State University (USA)
- International School of Art Therapy (Russia)
- Institute of Practical Psychology "Imaton" (Russia)
- Expressive Arts Therapy Association (RF)
- Association of Dance and Movement Therapy (Moscow, RF)
- Portal "Medical Psychology in Russia" (Yaroslavl, RF)
The conference was attended by about a hundred specialists in the fields of arts therapies, psychology, psychotherapy, education, fine art, design, and by undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are mastering or already using environmental expressive arts as a means to relate to the natural environment.
The first day of the conference on August 8th consisted of four keynote speeches, nine workshops that took place concurrently in three groups. Seven reports and three practical seminars were led by international experts on the second day of the conference, August 9th.
Opening the conference, Shaun McNiff, author of “Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression”; “Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go; Art Heals”; “Art as Medicine; Integrating the Arts in Therapy”; “Art-Based Research; Art as Research” and other books, who has had a seminal influence in the fields of creativity, the arts and healing, art-based research, and is a professor at Lesley University, wholeheartedly supported the conference and recognized it as “the most important contribution to the future of arts therapy.” He stated that the arts therapies need a new paradigm based on a new depth psychology of nature and a new depth psychology of art, that is, psychology that is in harmony with nature. According to McNiff, “... the central idea of this conference is the recognition of nature as a participant in all situations in which we are involved as artists, psychotherapists and individuals. And this is possible everywhere - in nature and on the streets of cities, in the studio, even in the most difficult situations, and not only in the middle of beautiful natural landscapes," allowing us to create together with nature and thereby bring the healing capacity of creative self-expression into everyday life.
The keynote speakers outlined the main subject of ecological/nature-assisted/earth-based arts therapies in multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural contexts and their connections to ecophilosophy, ecopsychology, ecological education and the arts. The speakers represented Russia (A.I. Kopytin and S.V. Alekseev), the United States (L.C. Roberts and C. Falliers) and Canada (S.K. Levine), and due to their different professional (medicine, psychology, pedagogy, philosophy, literature, design and architecture) and cultural backgrounds, established a broad multidisciplinary and multi-cultural perspective for understanding ecological arts therapies.
In his paper "Ecological arts therapies and paradigm change: what arts therapists can do in the face of new global challenges" Alexander Kopytin, Professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education, Chair of Russian Art Therapy Association, and a Founding Executive Editor of the “Ecopoiesis: Eco-human theory and practice” journal, explored the role of ecological/earth-based arts therapies in the current situation of ecological crisis. He examined the key presumptions and theoretical foundations of these arts therapies as a branch of contemporary ecotherapy. He considered the ecological arts therapies from the perspective of the eco-human multi-disciplinary approach - defining the human being in relation to the living environment, seeking to reveal one’s own subjectivity and to shape the world in order to fulfill one’s needs and safeguard the well-being of the environment. He highlighted the role of the arts in the process of paradigm change, in the development of environmental awareness and values, and in moving towards the goals of sustainable development.
Stephen K. Levine, PhD, Emeritus Professor at York University (Toronto), Founding Dean of the Doctoral Program in the Arts, Health, and Society Division of the European Graduate School (Switzerland), Founder of the International Expressive Arts Association (IEATA) and The Create Institute in Toronto, Editor-in-Chief of “Ecopoiesis: Eco-human theory and practice” journal, presented a paper “The way of poiesis: Ecopoiesis, wu-wei and non-violence.” In his search for the answer to the question “What principles should guide environmental action?” he explored the Taoist concept of wu-wei, or non-action, as a fundamental method for the remediation which is required by the depredations of the Anthropocene. He explained that wu-wei does not imply passivity but rather a non-violent approach to otherness which respects the integrity of the other. Such an approach also characterizes poiesis, a way of making or creating that responds to what is given by developing its intrinsic possibilities. Wu-wei, poiesis and nonviolence are presented as an alternative to the “rape of nature” that characterizes the Anthropocene. He also explored parallels between different models of the relationship between the therapist and the client, and the individual and nature.
A joint presentation, “Ecopoesis as praxis (in these times). How we hear now: Sound, language, and environment” was then made by Leslie Carol Roberts, author, essayist, and journalist, who leads the MFA Writing program and is a faculty member at the Architectural Ecologies Lab at California College of the Arts (San Francisco), as well as being the author of “Here Is Where I Walk: Episodes from a Life in the Forest” and “The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica” and Christopher Falliers, Associate Professor and faculty member at the Architectural Ecologies Lab at the California College of the Arts.
“How We Hear Now” is a participatory, collective artwork presented by The ECOPOESIS Project, an initiative led by the Architectural Ecologies Lab and MFA in Writing program at the California College of the Arts. The project was initiated in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in lieu of the spring 2020 ECOPOESIS symposium/workshop gathering. “How We Hear Now” invited participants to engage with audible changes in their environments—to record and transmit how, as humans moved into isolation, nonhuman ecologies grew noticeably more audible during the COVID–19 pandemic’s shelter-in-place orders. Each participant constructed a sound recording of their environment on April 22, 2020, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, and provided a description of ecological or cultural factors. The audio recordings and environmental descriptions are compiled into a layered stream of sound and text, a visual and aural landscape of ecological observations collected during this unique time. The individual contributions were melded together with a visualization of seismic data collected on April 22, representing the concurrent geological sound occurring at a planetary scale.
The last keynote of the day was “The eco-human approach in education and therapy” presented by Sergey Alekseyev, Professor and Head of the Department of Environmental Education, Safety and Human Health of the St.-Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Education, Professor of the Department of Life Safety Training Methodology, Russian State Pedagogical University named after A.I. Herzen; president of the public organization “Federation of Environmental Education of St. Petersburg”, and a member of the Problem Council on Environmental Education at the Russian Academy of Education. He characterized the eco-human approach in the context of global sociocultural challenges and considered the problem of integrating ecology, medicine (therapy), psychology, pedagogy and the arts, with the aim of forming the educational ecosystem of the future. His keynote further explored what is required to implement the principles of such an integrative approach and how these diverse spheres of knowledge may complement one another in the development of eco-human education. In particular, the connection between arts therapies and arts pedagogy and their potential for educational practice was considered. Additionally, the paper outlined promising areas for integration of the natural and human sciences in the formation of ecological culture of the 21st century.
Nine master classes, which then took place three at a time, included presentations of theoretical foundations and elements of practical work related to various types of environmentally oriented activities within ecological arts therapies. At several workshops, various possibilities for art making using different natural materials - plants, clay, sand, stones and others, or as a result of using nature-based stimuli, such as photographs, paintings and videos, were discussed and demonstrated. This was evident in the master classes of Victoria Yaroslavova "The use of landscape painting in online art therapy: the landscape of parent-child relations in the context of separation", Alexandra Dvornikova, "Aesthetics of the herbarium. What can plants tell about us? ", Lilia Sharafieva, " Natural landscape as a meeting place with oneself and significant others ", Varvara Sidorova, " Poetry of stones: nature-assisted therapy with expressive arts “, and Inna Ivzhenko, " Mandala of the seasons of body and soul.”
The use of the multi-modal expressive arts approach, particularly involving the use of movement and dance, poetry and narrative activity, musical expression and voice work was demonstrated in the workshops of Gracelynn Chung-Yan Lau, “The earth of my body, the water of my blood: decolonization of our essence ", Alexandra Kirillova, " Breath of nature. Observing and celebrating cyclical changes in nature in the context of therapeutic voice practices “, and Lyudmila Lebedeva" Model of an online eco-art therapy session: Projective stimuli and natural resource supports."
Olga Ornata's master class, "Land art: Opportunities for environmental art therapy", discussed the potential of land art as a way to artistically explore space, and as a catalyst for finding one's place in the world as an art therapist working with clients and in the therapist's own personal artistic practice.
Many facets and forms of contemporary art as a medium for exploring environmental values and as a means of developing human relations with the natural world were displayed at an international art exhibition on the conference website. The exhibition featured works by ten artists from Russia (Leonid Tishkov, Alexandra Dvornikova, Anna Amirkhanova, Svetlana Pastukhova, Olga Ornata), the United States of America (Shaun McNiff, Diana Sudyka, Teagan White, Jean Davis) and the UK (Beverley A'Court). The variety of styles, techniques and types of visual expression were united by the artists’ shared desire to support and cultivate the alliance between humans and more-than-human world, and their ability to explore sources for healing and spiritual growth through their creative endeavors.
A few decades ago, the emergence of land art and environmental art coincided with a surge of interest in environmental protection, which led to the development of ecological policies at the state and public levels. In the half-century that followed, art went through various stages in its relationship to ecology. The field of environmental art has developed alongside an increasing awareness of ecological matters and the rise of the environmental movement since the 1960s. Once an area of interest for a relatively small group of people, art that addresses environmental issues has in the last five years become part of the artistic mainstream. Art possesses its own means of solving the problems facing the planet. The artist's role is not, however, to provide definitive answers to these problems.
Artistic projects can engage local communities and garner broad support in ways that science alone can rarely achieve. They can offer tools for reflection, discussion, awareness and action that lead to new ways of thinking about and of being in the world. The arts can bring about real change – sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally – that has lasting benefit, whether to the few or to the many.
Nowadays, art is playing an increasingly significant role in the environmental agenda of humankind. The exhibition emphasized the significant and even crucial role of art as a means of presenting and solving environmental issues, and shed light on the fact that ecological /nature-assisted arts therapies cannot be considered outside the rapidly developing "green" art context.
The program of the second day of the conference on the 9th of August opened with lectures by key figures in Russian ecopsychology and ecological psychopedagogy. Viktor Panov - Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Ecopsychology of Development and Psychodidactics at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Education, and member of the Scientific Council on Environmental Education at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Education - presented an ecopsychology hypothesis about pathogenetic conditions as a result of disturbed relationships between an individual and the natural environment. According to Panov, the ecopsychology approach to the development of the psyche considers any mental state and the whole lifespan like any form of being, as a creative event, which must go through different stages of an integral creative cycle. Movement between these stages can be problematic due to disturbed relationships between an individual and the environment, in particular, in situations of ‘nature deficit,’ or one’s inability to establish and develop healthy bonds with nature. This can lead to disadaptation and developmental disorders, as well as the formation of dysfunctional adaptive mechanisms, in particular, associated with destructive forms of human interaction with the living environment. In this lecture, the speaker considered the foundations of a new understanding of the leading factors of patho- and sanogenesis, according to the ecopsychology of development.
The lecture of Vitold Yasvin, Professor, Laureate of the Prize of the Government of the Russian Federation in the field of education, Professor of the Institute of Pedagogy and Psychology of Education of the Moscow City Pedagogical University, and member of the Scientific Council on Environmental Education at the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Education (Moscow), “How to develop one’s relationship to nature”, emphasized the important role of the artistic perception of nature. The speaker drew attention to the value of a poeticized appeal to the natural world as a source of beauty. He believes that this helps to develop emotional, aesthetic and ethical foundations of an attitude to the world of nature. He presented this concept, the principles of the formation of environmental consciousness and potential methods to encourage the development of environmental consciousness in childhood and throughout the human life span, particularly through the use of the arts. He gave some examples of creative activities that help to develop the emotional, aesthetic and ethical foundations of a ‘subjectified' relationship to natural objects, meaning the perception of natural objects as having the qualities of subjects.
The conference continued in two streams, with the presentation of five papers. Eric Pfeifer, registered music therapist and Professor at the Faculty of Aesthetics and Communication at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Freiburg (Germany), reviewed historical and contemporary psychotherapy practice with the use of the natural environment. His presentation began with few fundamental insights into historic and current aspects of nature in psychotherapy. These include references to Sigmund Freud's, C. G. Jung's, and Viktor Frankl's works. Proceeding with nature-related concepts and aspects such as walk and talk, green micro-breaks and the importance of hiking in nature, the presentation finally introduced outdoor music therapy and the outcomes of a series of studies on the effects of silence in natural settings.
Sarah West, a Graduate Student at the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute (Canada) presented her paper “Creative collaborations for land-based decision making: Engaging the Triple Spiral Framework.” She designed a self-reflective, experiential “Triple Spiral” framework to support how individuals, organizations and governments can creatively work with the land to gain insight and perspective on issues and decisions they may be facing personally and professionally. The “Triple Spiral” framework is an accessible, workshop-style exercise where participants follow a distinct rhythm of “asking, listening and reciprocating” that enables people to listen to themselves, each other and the land itself. This framework is particularly helpful in situations where decisions are being made about the land, as it can support the creation of new narratives, and facilitate stronger, more connected decision-making.
Olga Lopukhova, Associate Professor of the Institute of Psychology and Education at Kazan Federal University (Kazan), and Gazizov Kayum, clinical psychologist and riding trainer at the International Equestrian Complex (Kazan), considered the "moral after-effect of art" that was first described by L.S. Vygotsky. According to L.S. Vygotsky, a person's immersion in the creative process is the main condition for personality development and a source of strength for overcoming a crisis situation. One of the provisions of the ecopsychology approach to the development of the psyche, developed by V.I. Panov and his colleagues, is the understanding that the development of the psyche and attitude to nature has a creative basis, which requires certain conditions in education and the home environment. The speakers considered arts therapies and arts pedagogy as methods of creating specific environmental conditions that not only contribute to the development of ecological consciousness, but also to shaping an individual's personal identity, morals, values and dynamic stability, through the use of certain forms of creative interaction with the natural environment, in particular animal-assisted expressive therapy.
Lilia Sharafieva, Head of the Eco-Art Therapy Laboratory of the Botanical Garden of Tver State University (Tver) considered the experience of human interaction with natural materials and objects and the natural environment as a whole system in the process of environmental art therapy, designating them as "gifts of nature." Each “gift” was presented in terms of its natural properties, artistic expressiveness and symbolic meaning.
The report of Aleksey Lebedev, art-psychotherapist of the psychotherapeutic department of the hospital of war veterans and senior lecturer of the Department of General and Clinical Psychology at Volgograd State Medical University (Volgograd), presented his experience of using the environmental (ecological) approach in the process of clinical systemic art therapy (CSAT) with patients with stress-related mental disorders, in particular, with post-traumatic-stress-disorder. His work involves the use of found natural and non-natural objects and photographing the environment. His presentation explored the therapeutic mechanisms of the ecological approach, and their role in increasing the effectiveness of the treatment and rehabilitation program, taking into account the nature of stress-related disorders, personal characteristics of the patients, group dynamics and treatment conditions.
Next, three seminars were presented. Beverley A’Court, BSc.Soc.Sci. (Joint hons. Phil. & Psych.), BAAT registered art therapist, and long-term member of the Findhorn Foundation Community, considered and explored the “art of tenderness” in ecological art therapy. The seminar opened with a brief theoretical introduction, revealing the property of tenderness as addressed to different forms of life and implemented in relationships between people and in those between people and the more-than-human world. Beverley demonstrated how the qualities of tenderness and respect for nature as a subject of relationships can be developed in the context of ecological/nature-assisted art therapy.
Madeline Rugh, PhD, ATR-BC, Assistant Professor, St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and an Adjunct Professor for Pratt Institute, presented her “Introduction to nature-assisted therapy.” Her workshop provided guidance at the interface of art therapy and nature for people seeking the healing effects of reconnecting with the natural world as mediated through the expressive arts and for those wanting to guide others in cultivating a sense of belonging to and compassion for the “other-than-human” parts of life, while increasing their trust and comfort with their own creative capacity.
The first part of the seminar provided guidance for finding a “sit spot,” a place which supports a sense of belonging to natural objects and to the environment as well as providing access to the wisdom of the “place”. The second part of the seminar explored how to engage in the visual arts as a tool for communion, a method of listening with the heart and the hands. After finding the sit spot, Madeline demonstrated how to engage and listen to a place through an intuitive drawing technique, a form of monoprinting. Following the creation of a few monoprints, participants were invited to return to the studio to “see into” the image and further elaborate, using other media, the experience of making contact with one’s sit spot companions. At this stage of the workshop, participants were encouraged to perceive the natural world as speaking through the language of art; texture, color, movement, shapes, space and lines provided a form to experience the resonance of the space. Madeline encouraged participants to really listen to the environment through the medium of their creative expressions, for instance following the contours of bird song or the textures of pine scent on a warm wind.
The last seminar of the day, “Drawing nature,” was presented by Jean Davis, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT, and full-time Professor at Pratt Institute’s Graduate Creative Arts Therapy Department. Jean is the Supervisor of the Creative Arts Therapy Department at the League School, the former Director of the Transitional Living Community, a program of Brooklyn Community Services, and the former Clinical Director of the Greenwich Village Youth Council.
Jean explained that the work of ecological art therapists is equally directed inwards and outwards. By drawing, forming, making, and /or building outdoors, people make space for a deeper and often transformational relationship within and beyond the Self. The workshop made it possible to see how, through art-making with nature, a profound relationship between the environment and our emotional and psychological states can be established and developed over time. This enabled participants to understand how this approach can facilitate multi-dimensional therapeutic outcomes for a wide variety of patient populations in urban, suburban, and rural locations.
The online conference "Environmental Art Therapy: International and Multicultural Perspectives" was a notable event that drew attention to this emerging approach in creative/expressive arts and arts therapies. The conference helped to identify the ideology, values, theoretical premises and principles of the ecological arts therapies and presented their techniques and areas of practical application. It brought to light the role that ecological arts therapies can play in solving issues of human health and well-being, caring for the well-being of the natural world and the global ecosystem, and developing environmental consciousness and support for sustainable lifestyles.
One of the important outcomes of the conference was that it brought together those working in the field of ecological arts therapies and provided an opportunity for them to consider a common agenda for the further development of this field. In doing so, it also created an international network of like-minded people - not only arts therapists, but also ecopsychologists, representatives of ecological psychopedagogy, ecotherapists and environmentally friendly artists and designers. It strengthened the intercultural ties of the environmental movement in expressive arts and arts therapies and updated the demand for educational programs with a specialization in ecological / nature-assisted arts therapies.
The conference showed the active development of the ecological arts therapies and their increasing presence in medicine, education and social settings, but it also revealed certain problems and deficiencies in the theoretical and practical realms that require more active work to be rectified. Despite the fact that the foundations of their methodology of the ecological arts therapies have been formalized in recent years, mainly due to the field's links with ecopsychology theory and research, many aspects of theory and methodology remain insufficiently developed. Areas that are particularly in need of further clarification include 1) the structure and dynamics of the formation of ecological identity and its development at various stages across the whole life span, 2) the role of environmental creative activity for the formation of ecological identity, 3) factors and mechanisms of pathogenesis and sanogenesis, considered from the point of view of environmental creative activity, and 4) cultural influences on ecological identity. Finally, the issues of institutional and macrosocial dynamics related to ecological ideas and values and its mediation by discursive systems, associated with expressive arts and the media, were not discussed at the conference and could be explored in further research.
The level of development of the methods and technologies of ecological / nature-assisted arts therapies still leaves much to be desired. Most of the practical forms of work presented at the workshops and seminars at the conference cannot yet be considered methods or technologies due to their insufficient substantiation from the point of view of psychology (ecopsychology), pedagogy or medicine, as well as the lack of their evidence base. In many cases, the activities presented can be considered as original empirical findings that are adaptations of well-known psychological and cultural practices.
The analysis of feedback from the conference participants allows us to recognize that participants consider the development of ecological/nature-assisted arts therapies to be promising in their close connection with ecotherapy, environmental psychopedagogy, environmental education (education for sustainable development) and the environmental arts.
Suggestions were made to organize a special training program in the field of ecological/nature-assisted arts therapies with an international composition of leaders, which would contribute a multi-cultural quality to the program and support the dissemination of the best achievements in this area. There were also suggestions to make the conference an annual event.
About the reviewer: Alexander Kopytin,
Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor at the Department of Psychology, St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Pedagogical Studies (St.-Petersburg, Russian Federation