BOOK REVIEW: "ENVIRONMENTAL EXPRESSIVE THERAPIES: NATURE-BASED THEORRY AND PRACTICE ". Edited by A.I. Kopytin and M. Rugh.
The review outlines the book “Environmental Expressive Psychotherapies: Nature-Friendly Theory and Practice” as reflecting the development of new health-promoting approaches and types of psychological support based on the alliance of nature and the arts. The book reflects the conceptual foundations of the new approach, as well as the variety of forms and methods of work using fine art, music, narrative activity, play activities, performance, and therapeutic ceremonies.
Keywords: art therapy, Earth-based, ecopsychology, ecotherapy, environmental expressive therapy
Book cover of Environmental expressive therapies: nature-based theory and practice (https://www.routledge.com/Environmental-Expressive-Therapies-Nature-Assisted-Theory-and-Practice/Kopytin-Rugh/p/book/9781138233089)
Publication of the book Environmental expressive therapies: nature-based theory and practice, edited by Alexander Kopytin and Madeline Rugh by the publisher Routledge is a significant event in the expressive art therapies milieu and related fields of the health-promoting practices based on the creative expression and human interaction with the environment. The book makes a significant contribution to the development of new therapeutic approaches and arts-assisted learning methods based on the alliance of nature and the arts. The range of innovative approaches to treatment, education and social work, based on the creative interaction of human beings with the natural environment, is gradually expanding. However, they remain poorly known to most professionals, in particular those dealing with mental health issues. In the United States, the book evoked a considerable interest and required by many libraries in the country, including the Case Western Reserve University library, where I recently completed my graduate studies at the Department of Applied Social Sciences.
I got an idea of expressive therapies earlier, when I learned art therapy at the post-graduate diploma course in art therapy in Russia. However, reading Environmental expressive therapies: nature-based theory and practice greatly expanded my ideas about the use of environmental, nature-based approaches in expressive therapies. At present, an emerging field of ecological, nature-assisted expressive therapies along with other scientific disciplines and therapeutic approaches related to concepts of ecology and the environment, such as environmental psychology, ecopsychology, ecotherapy, ‘deep ecology’ and eco-health, etc., reflect the increasing preoccupation of many people with reestablishing positive, sustainable ways of relating to nature. These approaches represent a response of the growing multi-professional community to the global environmental crisis and its efforts to encourage a shift in approaches to use therapy not only as a way of achieving personal health and well-being, but as a way to improve people’s relationships with nature too.
Environmental or ecological expressive therapies (eco-arts therapies) establish a new approach to nature-based therapy, or ecotherapy. “Nature-based expressive therapies are characterized by their original theoretical framework, which includes, a paradigm, and forms of therapy that bring the arts and nature together to provide beneficial effects both for human and nonhuman worlds. This new approach strives to achieve well-being and multiple treatment goals for individuals, families and communities and promote sustainable styles of life through people’s involvement in expressive and creative activities in relation to environments in which they live” [1, P.2].
The spectrum of expressive therapies embraced in the book is broad and includes either specialized therapeutic approaches using one particular expressive form, such as art therapy or music therapy, or those based on the integrative arts approach, like expressive arts therapy. Other expressive therapeutic specializations like creative writing and play therapy, as well as therapeutic systems integrating expressive arts and other nonverbal therapies, such as animal-assisted therapy, wilderness journeys, adventure therapy, contemplative practices in nature, and some others enrich this spectrum.
The book is one of the first publications related to nature-assisted expressive therapy. The role of ecopsychology in supporting nature-assisted expressive therapies should be emphasized. Environmental psychology or ecopsychology is a field of study that examines the interconnections between environments and human beings with their emotions, cognition, and behavior. As environmental sustainability issues became of greater concern to society, the field has increased its focus on how humans affect, and are affected by, environments. In an effort to raise environmental awareness and promote sustainable lifestyle, environmental psychology develops and empirically validates practical intervention strategies.
The ecopsychology/environmental psychology field is broad and includes a number of special therapeutic approaches embraced in the ecotherapy spectrum enhancing people-environment interactions and personal well-being. The mission of ecopsychology, as proposed by T. Roszak  is to validate that an emotional connection to nature is normal and healthy, and that it is possible to make the environmental movement more effective by appealing to positive ecological bonds. Ecotherapy is a therapeutic strand linked to ecopsychology, which includes nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing involving different forms of human interaction with the natural environment, such as garden therapy (horticulture therapy), therapy by immersion in the natural environment, adventure therapy, therapy based on restoration of the natural environment, animal-assisted therapy, and some others.
The book includes highlights of the work that expressive therapists from different parts of the globe have accomplished over the last several years to meet environmental and sustainable development challenges and establish a new platform and instruments for therapeutic practices. The book has been edited to provide practitioners not only with the new theoretical perspectives, but with methods and tools that can help them to incorporate nature into their daily work with different populations and patients, their varied needs, and clinical and psychosocial issues.
The book consists of the two parts. The first part of the book, “The emerging paradigm and theoretical constructs of environmental and ecological expressive therapies” presents theoretical foundations of these therapies. Madeline Rugh (USA) explores the new environmental perspectives on human health, ego, self and human development from the planetary view.
Alexander Kopytin (Russian Federation) defines the role and the functions of the arts in providing meaningful and mutually supporting human connection to nature. He also presents basic theoretical assumptions of environmental expressive therapies related to the idea of therapeutic setting, personality development and creative human function. Ronen Berger (Israel) presents theoretical foundations and principles of his Nature Therapy method and some issues that concern the professional development of Nature Therapy and other environmental, nature-assisted expressive therapies.
The second part of the book presents a wide spectrum of nature-assisted expressive therapy practices with different target groups as well as rich empirical material related to self-development practices based on human creative interaction with the natural environment. Jean Davis (USA) shares her experience of drawing from nature. Mary Raynolds Thompson and Kate Thompson (USA and UK) explore the three circles of self and existence from ecological and existential perspectives and demonstrate specific writing techniques for each part of the model.
Janet A. Courtney (USA) considers some advantages and ways of utilizing the metaphorical elements of nature as “co-therapist” in ecopsychology play therapy. Beverley A’Court (UK) explores the art of mindful walking in earth-based art therapy. Dina Schapiro (USA) outlines the main ideas related to the Marble House project and presents the transformative quality the project offers the artists due to their absorption in the natural environment and an 18 century mansion.
Eric Pfeifer (Germany) presents outdoor music therapy and other nature-related approaches to music therapy as well as current research and case vignettes that exemplify their applications with children and adolescents. Lia Naor (Israel) focuses on the concept of human wholeness as a key component of healthy human development, cultivated and nurtured through the natural environment. Sally Brucker (USA) outlines both the principles and practice of incorporating the use ceremony and ritual in the work within the broader frame of eco-arts therapies. Finally, Straja Linder King (Canada) presents her original method of Animal-Assisted Art Therapy (AAAT) and her personal experience of human-animal bonds.
This book is a significant step forward in the exploration of mutually healing bonds of human beings with Nature. It is a rich source of ideas and practices that can stimulate not only expressive/creative therapists of different specializations, but a wider circle of mental health workers and artists, those employed at educational, social and cultural institutions, and all those who seek new avenues to promote human and environmental health and well-being. The book opens up new prospects for the use of natural factors in treatment and presents the foundation for nature-friendly theory, methodology and tools.
I hope the book will promote professional contacts and the exchange of ideas and experience for a growing global community of specialists striving to unite the healing potential of nature and the arts in various fields of their work. The book also draws the attention of the international professional community to its responsibility in the face of the environmental challenges and the need to join efforts in the interests of human and environmental health and well-being.
1. Kopytin A. and Rugh M. (2017). Introduction // Environmental expressive therapies: Nature-assisted theory and practice (Eds. A. Kopytin and M.Rugh). - New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2017. - P.1-5.
2. Roszak T. (1992). The voice of the Earth. - New York: Simon and Schuster.
Fedotova Anna Valeriyevna
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Reference for citations
Fedotova, A.V. (2020). Book review, "Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature-Based Theory and Practice" (Edited by A.I. Kopytin and M. Rugh). – New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2017. Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice, 1(1). [open access internet journal]. – URL: http://ecopoiesis.ru (d/m/y)
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“Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice” is the international multidisciplinary Journal focused on building an eco-human paradigm, disseminating eco-human knowledge and technology based on the alliance of ecology, humanities and the arts. Our journal aims to be a vibrant forum of theories and practices aimed at harmonizing the relations of mankind and the natural world in the interests of sustainable development, the creation of Eco-Humanity as a new community of human beings and more-than-human world. The human being is an ecological being, not separate from the world. The Ecopoiesis journal is based on that premise and aims to develop a body of theory and practice within that framework.
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