Rewild Your Mental Health: Ecofeminist Therapy and Maternal Mental Wellness

Summary

Learn about nature therapy and how it can help support your mental health and wellness as a mother. I share about my orientation as an ecofeminist therapist and a bit about how it transforms the conventional psychological approach to maternal mental wellness. 

 In this episode, I share:

  • The main mental health assumptions of ecopsychology and eco therapy (applied ecopsychology)
  • How a human-centered “anthropocentric”mindset is rooted in values of control and domination
  • How ecotherapy transforms our approach to mental health and wellness
  • What it means to approach developmental challenges of mothering from a wellness and strength-based model rather than a medical model
  • Why we have to consider personal, social, cultural, and enviornmental dimensions of mental wellness
  • What I mean when I say mental health is both personal and planetary (Roszak)
  • How I see my mothering clients resonate with this approach: including ecogrief, alienation from modern mothering consumption, and the importance of spirituality 
  • The first stage of ecotherapy, or “upwork” (Clineball)
  • Why your therapist’s theoretical orientation is important 

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Transcript

Drafted by AI. Please excuse typos.

Allie  00:00

Hi and welcome to this episode of rewild mothering, where I share a little bit about my therapeutic orientation or what is eco feminist psychology? What is nature therapy, and how might it apply to muttrah essence or the developmental transitions of motherhood? future lies on the wellness of mothers. Welcome to rewild mothering, a weekly podcast for soulful mothers to help us mother from our deepest wisdom, our vital energy and our most authentic natures. Each week, in just about 15 minutes, we weave together modern research and ancient wisdom to channel the transformative power of addressing the developmental transition of motherhood. I’m your host, Allie Davis, maternal wellness therapist and a mother walking this path with you. Thank you for being here. And let’s dig in.

Allie  01:01

I’d like to ask you to just reflect with me on a couple questions. Think about a place you go to feel at peace. And just picture that place in your mind. Where do you go to find relaxation and solitude? Where are you when you feel the most alive? The most vital? So these are some questions I asked my clients. If I was working with you, we might over time explore other questions like when you think of your connection with nature, how does that form? Or when did you feel safest as a child? Did you have a special place to go where you could just be when you’re young? amidst all the stress and challenges of that developmental period? More often than not, when faced with these questions, our answer is a place of nature. And this is because we’re drawn to the natural world. Why do we feel our best when we’re surrounded by the mini lives within our living biome? Why does so much research support that nature connection is healing across really different modern health challenges from anxiety and depression to attention deficit, to the need for painkillers after giving birth. Just across all these measures of mental health and well being nature connection is incredibly effective. Nature is good for us. But why? I’d say it’s because we are nature. We’re animals, we’re nature and bodied. Nature is intelligent. It’s a self supporting system that harmonizes itself from top to bottom. So it’s in our DNA, to move towards wellness when we’re in our natural evolutionary environment. It’s in our bodies to be supported by our earliest home environments. For hundreds of 1000s of years, humans have lived intimately with nature, with life itself, depending on our harmony with our surroundings. And that’s what I’m talking about when I say we were in the wild and of the wild. We were embedded in the living system that supported itself and all its little parts from a mental health perspective. And from the field of eco psychology, the term that we think about here is biophilia, which is a hypothesis that we have this innate need to connect with other life, not just human life, but many diverse forms of life. And this concept inspired environmental movement to understand our interconnection with living systems on a physical as well as an emotional and spiritual level. But we know how industrialization has changed our connection to our surroundings and how technological advances continued that extreme disconnection. We know systems of colonization of white supremacy of patriarchy, pushed out cultures who live in ways that honored land that lived in harmony with the natural world. And along with that many of our ancestors came in with new values, not of harmony, but of control and dominance. So nature became something to own. And we’ve institutionalized these values of dominance and control are these ideas of anthropocentrism. This mindset that humans have the right to control what happens on our land, because it’s ours, and because we’re the most important living animals on the planet. So this is a really short episode, and we’re just focusing on this tiny part of these changes and how we relate to our evolutionary environment. So just focusing on the effect on the human psyche. But one of the big concepts that we think about in terms of eco psychology or eco feminist psychology is this idea of the illusion of control. we control our homes, we control the water that we need,

Allie  05:59

we try to control wild animal movement, we don’t just control we dominate. So from a nature therapy perspective, the insanity the psychological illness, is related to that concept that were the most important. And all the ways that we’ve been disconnected and separated from our living systems because of that mindset. So the path back to wellness is remembering connection is remembering reciprocal relationship of decentering, the human even as we’re focusing on human mental health. So as a counselor, and as a ecofeminist, one that uses nature therapy, I approach maternal wellness challenges through a developmental lens that really naturalizes disorientation challenges, uncomfortable feelings, because in any change process, these things have to be held as valuable, instead of trying to erase them. And these are things that we can learn by working with nature and looking at natural cycles are not supposed to be the same all the time. I also bring that wellness orientation, which in a lot of ways refuses to pathologize challenge, and instead focuses on strengths and how to build on those. And so nature therapy gives a lot of ways of how to approach mattresses are these developmental transitions and motherhood. From a wellness perspective, it also subverts a lot of traditional psychology that focuses on the individual isolated from their relational systems. An example of this is that sometimes therapists don’t want to focus on relationships or context because they want to focus on personal responsibility. When we know that our choices are always shaped by our context and our place, the myth of individualism, which is so common in human centered psychology, this focus on the self to the exclusion of our systems, really leads to the pathology of struggle, which can be seen as quite natural when you’re going through rapid change. So it creates disorders that are natural responses to challenges that might just be unsupported by our systems. So there’s that key concept that our human centeredness is unhealthy that our disconnection from our systems is unhealthy. And that our emotional well being is both personal, and Planetary. So many of my mothering clients relate to this and a number of ways. But one of them is that they noticed the way dominant society views and treats mothers as resources rather than full living beings. And understands that in relationship to how our society views and treats Mother Nature. So reclaiming the mother is about reclaiming true nurturing, so true reciprocal health and well being. And it shifts that relationship to themselves and their ability to mother and care for themselves in relation to the children or the projects or the business that they’re also mothering. I think the expansion of our understanding of mental health to include the planetary also brings in a lot of validation for what mothers feel when they’re really hit by the full responsibility of caring for another human being across their lifespan even beyond. even beyond our physical mothering, on this earth. Many of my mothering clients experience eco grief at the state of the planet. And the uncertainty of the future were creating for future generations by our exploitation of the planet. So this is weighing heavily on us. And if we’re going into a helping relationship, to support us, in greater harmony, and wellness, and we’re focusing on the on the south, and we’re ignoring the realities of lack of support and our systems and the pain of our systems that are affecting us,

Allie  10:54

then we can’t really get very far right, we have to honor our grief in order to move from a place of awareness. This even shows up in mothering clients that feel very alienated from modern motherhood because of the consumption involved. And the focus on products and how to be a good mother means buying things, which we know inherently creates a ton of waste, and is very dangerous for our overall collective health and well being. And in fact, many eco psychologists or nature therapists Look at that, like diction, consumption and growth in a capitalist system as, as the symptom as the pathology that’s resulting from our disconnection. Another aspect that is really important to mental health as the emphasis on spirituality within an eco psychology or eco feminist framework, like we have transcended feelings when we’re in nature. And that’s common across many, many religions, were able to connect with something bigger and greater and more powerful than us when we’re being in the natural environment. And that’s actually one of the first stages of eco therapy is this up work. So the work is the shift from an ego consciousness to an eco consciousness by embodying those feelings of interconnection. And this is incredibly supportive to a lot of mothers who are going through mattresses. There’s a lot of research on how mothering can be a spiritual awakening. And to have that honored and valued and supported through mental health relationship to have a transpersonal focus can feel very supportive. Because a part of spiritual awakening is to feel like you’re not your old self anymore. And there’s this liminal space, both in mothering. And in understanding our interconnection, which can feel really disorienting again, and some people even feel crazy. And so integrating those experiences and integrating who we are becoming as mothers, we also have to be supported as our whole selves. So what does ecotherapy look like then? It can look like a lot of different things. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that even a handful of minutes a day in nature will improve your well being. But what does true healing look like? when we’re thinking about rewilding from an eco psychological standpoint, it’s not just feeling better ourselves, because we’re in a natural environment. It means remembering reciprocal relationship with nature, and then living from a place of interconnection. So exploring what that looks like is the inquiry. It’s such a shift to the center, the human, especially in mental health context, that it’s a novel approach to psychotherapy, for sure. It’s also challenging to the mental health professions, because it’s critiquing a lot of the work that we’re trying to do that focus on the personal, of focusing on behaviors instead of maybe listening to the messages that are coming from spirit of seeing ourselves as individuals, instead of these really highly interconnected beings that also hold histories of our ancestors within us. So we have intergenerational trauma and gifts to explore. If we’re thinking about our mental wellness from a larger perspective, but whether the actual practices animal therapy or forest bathing or hiking or horticulture or other ways of greening our living, you know, that depends on our personal affinity and even what’s in our motherland as we work to reclaim our own mothering lore and wisdom. So I personally love eco art and I include that in my groups because I see create tivity as a bridge with our deepest, our most wild self, so it can bring up what’s in our unconscious to integrate, and really important and powerful ways.

Allie  15:20

So I hope you’ve enjoyed, or learned something from this share, it’s been really interesting for me to reflect on my theoretical orientation, especially as it’s gotten deeper and deeper into eco psychology and nature therapy, and more committed to that, as one of the best ways to support mothers during buttresses. And if you don’t take anything else away, if you’re still here, I want to say it’s so important to know your therapist orientation. The orientation is the set of theories that guide them in their work with you. So it shapes how they approach you and the relationship that you have with them. It shapes the ways they show up in relationships. So for example, I value transparency and sharing, selective self disclosure, and a lot of therapists don’t. And thinking about how that affects issues of authority within your relationship when you’re seeking help from someone is really important. And finally, a theoretical orientation shapes how your therapist thinks of your presenting problem, and the plan that they are developing to help you so I always develop a plan with someone because you’re the expert on you, but a lot of therapists don’t. So that can be happening behind the scene and you don’t know about. So all that to say, if you’re struggling postpartum, if you’re struggling in your mothering, if you’re struggling as a mother, there is a lot of support and help out there for you. And this is one approach. So nature therapy, and eco feminist psychology or eco psychology is there if you prefer a helping relationship that centers your values of nature connection.

Thank you for listening. I hope you found inspiration and support for your mothering journey. I wanted to let you know that it’s about time for my spring rewild mothering mothers support group. Through nature centered, expressive arts, therapeutic invitations, and conversations with other mothers. we reflect on these nature connection experiences and the mothering journey overall. To learn more, visit rewild mothering.com slash group for more information

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