Eco-Human Theory and Practice
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NATURE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY: THEORETICAL, METHODOLOGICAL, AND PRACTICAL FOUNDATIONS. Volumes 1 and 2. Edited by Eric Pfeifer (with the constant participation of Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt). Gießen: Psychosozial- Verlag, 2019. Vol. 1: 454 pages; Vol. 2: 479 pages.

NATUR UND PSYCHOTHERAPIE. THEORETISCHE, METODISCHE UND PRAKTISCHE GRUNDLAGEN. Band 1+2. Eric Pfeifer (Hg.), unter ständiger Mitwirkung von Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt. Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2019. Vol. 1: 454 s.; Vol. 2: 479 s.



This review outlines a two-volume edition in German and English that reflects the current state of diverse psychotherapeutic and rehabilitation approaches that integrate therapeutic work with various aspects of the environment. The publication is one of the first basic works that introduces this relatively new area of ​therapeutic activity and psychosocial support. The two volumes cover issues in theory and practice and include a description of a wide range of psychotherapeutic practices associated with the use of the natural environment and natural objects in creative arts therapies and other non-verbal therapies, including transpersonal, behavioral, existential and other psychotherapies. The publication implements an interdisciplinary approach throughout.

Keywords: nature, psychotherapy, resonance, art therapy, environmental


Book cover of Nature in Psychotherapy: Theoretical, Methodological, and Practical Foundations. Ed. Eric Pfeifer.

This two-volume edition on nature in psychotherapy and arts therapies, edited by Eric Pfeifer, includes theoretical as well as practical approaches to the topic. An interdisciplinary and cross-school approach is evident in the selection of the different essays. Structured by individual topic areas, the publication includes exemplary presentations of a wide variety of environmentally-related therapies made by renowned researchers and practitioners from Germany and other countries.

The first volume explores the following topics, with essays in German and English:

  • Examples of appropriate, topic-related frameworks and essays from the spheres of art, ecopsychotherapy, biology and philosophy.

  • Environmental and nature-based creative arts therapies.

  • Garden (horticulture) therapy.

  • Integrative therapy and music therapy.

  • Nature-based therapy and rehabilitation.

  • Ecotherapy.

  • Nonverbal therapies and transpersonal psychotherapy.

  • Psychoanalysis and depth psychology.

The second volume also contains some English-language articles and is structured around themes such as:

  • Existential analysis, logotherapy, and behavioral therapy.

  • Expressive arts therapies and multimodal expressive arts therapy.

  • Art therapy and guided affective imagery or katathym-imaginative psychotherapy.

  • Art therapy and nature-based rehabilitation.

  • Music therapy.

  • Psychodrama and bibliodrama.

  • Resonance-based medicine, resonance-based therapy and music therapy.

  • Systemic therapy.

  • Dance therapy, dance and movement therapy and aquatic dance / movement therapy.

  • Transpersonal psychotherapy, holotropic breathing and spirituality.

  • Behavioral therapy and animal-assisted psychotherapy.

Both volumes have an extensive index that provides page references for relevant terms. In his introduction to the two volumes, Eric Pfeifer emphasizes the interdisciplinary, international, and inter-generational diversity present in the selection and compilation of different approaches. Consequently, this edition provides orientation not only in the field of nature therapy, but within a multitude of possible approaches placed side by side. In this respect, the reader is able to favor their own theoretical stance and existing priorities and at the same time weigh and compare these with other perspectives. This is what makes these two volumes so appealing, since they present different approaches on a genuinely equal footing.

The complexity and diversity of international contributions to this publication should be emphasized: it includes articles from English-speaking countries such as Great Britain and the USA, European countries, and also from Israel and Russia. Contributions were submitted by the following authors, who have on the whole contributed two articles each, in which they outline their theoretical position and their approach to practical work with case vignettes:

M. Abrahamsson, B. Beck, A. Beetze, S. Bender, R. Berger, L.O. Bonde. A. Brissman, K. Cizková, H.-H. Decker-Voigt, D. Funke, U. Gebhard, M. Glawisching-Goschmik, R. Hampe, K. Hediger, M. Hollekamp, S. Klar, P.J. Knill, A. Kopytin, A.H. Kreszmeier, H.P. Kuhn, E.-L. Larsson, C. Lutz, O. Mayseless, L. Noar, K. Neuberger, M. Nevo, E. Pfeifer, U.Z. Rüegg, M.-J. Rust, E. Sahlin, P. Stippl, H. Utari-Witt, S. Walch, A. Walter, A. Weber, C. Weiss, M. Wigger, R. Wohlfarth und J. Zimmermann.

The importance of nature as an elixir of life is well known, and its effect on people and their well-being is often addressed in terms of its therapeutic applications, for example, a walk in the forest or the calming effect of specific trees such as oak. In addition, the diverse sensory experiences that come with time spent in nature are also significant. Not only the concrete experience of nature itself, but also the memory of it, the imagination of nature-related places, the reappearance of sounds, noises, smells, emotional sensations, and so on, can bring back entire episodes from one's past. Nature as a vital force in its original and culturally appropriated form is becoming an increasingly significant topic in the context of climate change and changing global living conditions. Moreover, global ecological issues are one of the biggest challenges of our time. Thus, the consideration of the therapeutic dimension of nature in different contexts is premised upon the need for revitalization of human and environmental health and well-being.

In the three introductory contributions to Volume I (on the ecological perception of nature by Monika Hollekampe, on the meaning of the Earth by Mary-Jayne Rust, and on the transaction of light by Andreas Weber), some key aspects of the subject are presented, which are then explored in more detail in the articles that follow on art, biblio-, dance, drama and music therapy, among other psychotherapeutic approaches. For example, Alexander Kopytin focuses on the ecological aspect of eco-arts therapies and emphasizes the role of nature as a third party in the therapeutic relationship. Specific qualities of eco-arts therapies are highlighted through the use of natural materials and environments. This includes a holistic perception of nature as, on the one hand, providing a possibility for self-centering, and on the other, an opportunity to achieve a balanced perception of the self in connection to the natural domain. An intrinsic connection to the beauty, strength and wholeness of nature can support changes in a person's perception of space and time, and promote creativity, vitality and resilience as well as a feeling of connectedness, health and well-being. In this context, Konrad R. Neuberger also refers to garden therapy as a special approach that provides a vital experience of interacting with nature.

Stefan Klar highlights examples of experiencing the outdoors in a therapeutic context in his consideration of the relationship between music and nature therapy. His approach incorporates various natural phenomena such as fire, water and landscapes with gorges and mountains. The therapeutic use of music and nature is also presented by other authors such as Eva-Lena Larssen and Eva Sahlin, who introduce a process of restoration in nature, or nature-based rehabilitation”, for stress relief and mental recovery. Other authors such as Ronen Berger, Lia Naor and Ofra Mayseless also present different therapeutic models which integrate music and nature in terms of their theoretical foundations and practical implementation. The contributions discussed above constitute the holistic approaches to nature therapy outlined in the book, which are highlighted by other authors, such as Mali Nervo, and illustrated using case studies that relate to an eco-centered perspective, which leads to an integration of a spiritual dimension as a concept of changing consciousness.

In the context of transpersonal psychotherapy, Urs Z. Rüegg highlights an interaction between arts / non-verbal therapies, spirituality and salutogenesis, whereby nature is emphasized as a bridge builder. Concrete forms of implementation within the framework of silence seminars in the Solothurn Jura illustrate this approach. Dieter Funke specifically mentions the importance of the non-dual state of consciousness as a state of oceanic connection. Moreover, Ulrich Gebhard emphasizes nature as an area of ​​experience and meaning, in other words also as a salutogenetic factor. Christiane Lutz speaks about the individual and collective challenges in the relationship between humans and nature and substantiates this with case-specific phenomena of therapeutic interventions, including myths and dreams that resonate with the theory of C.G. Jung.

When Alfred Walter refers to nature as an externalizing narrative in psychodynamic therapies, he addresses it as a symbolic representation of the inner world in the nature narratives of the outer world. This notion is also exemplified in the contribution by Hediaty Utari-Witt and Alfred Walter which explores nature as a projection screen for conflicts of ambivalence.

Volume II presents arts therapeutic approaches based on a variety of theoretical foundations as well as practical forms of implementation. Jörg Zimmermann deals with existential approaches that reflect the dual nature of human beings. In the practice-oriented section of his chapter, he explains the relevance of experiencing nature in work with burnout syndrome through the application of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). He refers to the "silence of the forest”, which helps to overcome crises of meaning in the relationship between nature itself" and the nature "which I am myself." The quartet Nature - Perception - Art - Therapy is addressed in a conversation between Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt and Paolo Knill, in their open and personal exchange.

Another approach to the integration of art therapy and nature is illustrated by Ruth Hampe. She presents her process-oriented work with natural materials and the documentation of this process through digital media in the form of an animated film. She explores how we experience nature in the context of inner imagery, particularly in the resource-oriented visual forms typical for guided affective imaginative psychotherapy. In this section, Anna Brissman and Marja Abrahamsson also introduce their concept of green rehab,“, further exploring the healing aspects of experiencing nature in art therapy and occupational therapy practices, while Monika Wigger considers the existential experience of inner and outer nature. An awareness can arise in activating multiple senses by working in nature and with collected nature materials to develop one‘s own personality.

Lars Ole Bande and Bolette Daniels Beck discuss the process of imagining nature through listening to specific music pieces in their articles on music therapy. Their method of music therapy is presented in detail, and their research results are discussed. Eric Pfeifer describes experiencing nature outdoors and explains different aspects of the environmental music therapy approach, such as diagnosis, indication, research, and attitude and responsibility of the therapist. How this approach can be implemented in practice becomes clear in his further contribution where he presents selected case studies. Natural sounds are accorded special weight in this approach to outdoor music therapy.

Drama therapy is discussed in the contribution by Gabriele Weiss, in which she presents her approach to psychodrama with children. Peter Strippl continues this discussion in his article exploring psychodrama in nature. Both contributions exemplify the importance of including nature in sessions. Monika Glawischnig-Goschnik's main focus is the subject of the resonance of nature in the therapeutic setting, namely in the expansion of the bio-psycho-social model through resonance-based therapy, including music therapy as a play and improvisational space. In another article, she discusses her method and presents case vignettes.

Presenting the approach of systemic nature therapy, Astrid Habiba Kreszmeier considers the reciprocal space between nature and humans and also considers aspects of self-healing. In another contribution, she speaks about the different natural elements as the basic materials of life - fire, water, air and earth - and explores their reflections in the psyche. In the context of dance therapy, as in Susanne Bender's reference to Rudolf Laban, dance in nature is discussed. Klára Cizkowá presents dance movement therapy in nature with psychosomatic clients, and Heather P. Kuhn considers the relationship to water and the movement of waves in improvisational dancing as a feedback experience and body awareness.

Holotropic breathing in its relation to various experiences of nature is presented by Sylvester Walch, who introduces a different approach to nature based on transpersonal therapy. He describes various contexts in which people might experience an expansion of their transpersonal identity. In another contribution he addresses a change in the status of spirituality with regard to understanding oneself as the essence of being. This contrasts with animal-based behavioral therapy, as outlined by Karin Hedinger, Andrea Beetz and Rainer Wohlfarth. The effects of human-animal interaction are considered in their second article based on case studies exploring different clinical issues such as depression, selective mutism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The publication of these two volumes on nature and psychotherapy significantly expands the notion of what nature-based therapies can be. It demonstrates how therapy can interact with issues of climate change and the increasing exploitation of the earth's resources such as deforestation, building monocultures, mining mineral resources, pollution of the environment, the decline in biodiversity and factory farming. The publication addresses the current global concern about our relationship to and appreciation of nature. It points to the necessity to perceive nature in its original dimension and to appreciate its formation and diverse forms of creation.

The combination of theoretical and practice-oriented contributions by so many authors offers the reader a clear insight into various approaches to nature-based therapy. For example, the possibility of influencing natural environments is explored in articles that discuss, for example, designing a space in nature as garden therapy or as reconstructing a space as in eco-art therapy. The publication explores working with natural materials collected from nature or aesthetic designing in nature, and also the process of perceiving nature while pausing to experience resonance relationships in silence. The various approaches of arts therapies are shown to mobilize the sensory modalities such as visual, acoustic, sensorimotor, scenic perception, which are based on a proprioceptive sensory experience. A spiritual perspective complements these therapeutic aspects and creates another holistic approach towards nature. These therapy procedures, which are based on experiences involving nature, can be used with different client groups with bio-psycho-social stress disorders, among other issues. The significance of the diverse therapeutic settings that include the natural environment becomes clear through the different approaches presented, such as body movement, creative designing, narrative expressions, sound making and awareness processes - whether in the activation of inner images using the imagination or in reflection on nature as a resource and means of resilience.

This diversity and complexity of approaches is what makes the two volumes unique. They both provide an excellent insight into current approaches to the inclusion of nature in psychotherapeutic contexts, and also offer creative suggestions for further work and opportunities to experience nature in therapeutic settings. This includes, for example, creative upcycling of waste products and designing alternative places of interaction with nature. A multidimensional integration of different aesthetic transformation processes may be possible, too – such as using a creative journal to document the resources and resonances one experiences in nature.

This series of books is recommended to support practitioners in their work as well as for teaching and further academic work. For the German and English speaking world, this is an important basic text on nature therapy that provides insight into the subject as it has been developing since the beginning of the 1990-s. The diversity of the contributions means that this series of books has the potential to make an important contribution to the topic of a nature-based therapies and their significance for contemporary psychotherapy.



Ruth Hampe, the faculty of inclusive education at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Freiburg, licensed child and adolescent psychotherapist (KJP), trained in guided affective imaginative psychotherapy (KIP), graduated art therapist (DGKT), chairperson of the German section of IGKGT and on the board of the German Society for Artistic Therapy (DGKT)


Reference for citations

Hampe, R. (2020). Book review, “Nature and Psychotherapy: Theoretical, Methodological, and Practical Basics.” Ed. Eric PfeiferEcopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice,1(2). [open access internet journal]. – URL: (d/m/y)

DOI: 10.24412/2713-184X-2020-2-104-107

About the journal

In accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation on the Mass Media, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) on September 22, 2020, the web-based publication - The peer-reviewed scientific online journal "Ecopoiesis: Eco-Human Theory and Practice" was registered (registration number El No. FS77-79134).

“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.

The Journal promotes dialogue and cooperation between ecologists, philosophers, doctors, educators, psychologists, artists, musicians, designers, social activists, business representatives in the name of eco-human values, human health and well-being, in close connection with concern for the environment. The Journal supports the development and implementation of new environmentally-friendly concepts, technologies and practices in the various fields of health and public life, education and social work.

One of the priority tasks of the Journal is to demonstrate and support the significant role of the arts in their alliance with ecology and the humanities for the restoration and development of constructive relations with nature, raising environmental awareness and promoting nature-friendly lifestyles.

The Journal publishes articles describing new eco-human concepts and practices, technologies and applied research data at the intersection of humanities, ecology and the arts, as well as interviews and conference reports related to the emerging eco-human field. It encourages artwork, music and other creative products related to eco-human practices and the new global community of Eco-Humanity.