• Nature-connected coaching taps into the healing power of the natural world
  • Nature-connected coaching can help individuals navigate life’s issues and grow into a happier person

From the health-boosting chemicals produced by trees to the sense of peace we find in the great outdoors, nature’s power to heal us — body, mind, and spirit — has been proven in the lab and in our lives. Thoreau knew the feeling well. As he once said: “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

A unique helping profession known as nature-connected coaching taps into the transformative power of the natural world. A pioneer in the field, Michael Jospé, founder and lead instructor at the Earth-Based Institute in Colorado, explains:

Michael Jospe

Michael Jospé of the Earth-Based Institute.

“Nature-connected coaching is a combination of professional life coaching and transformational guide work that is done in collaboration with the environment. Nature is more than that which is found outside of us. You are nature. Your natural processes of change and growth are part of nature. When you collaborate with the environment, it becomes a part of that process and allows you to gain insight into your life.”

More Than a Pretty Place
Far more than a beautiful backdrop, nature plays an active role in nature-connected coaching, serving as nonjudgmental presence and mirror of the client’s inner landscape.

Nature-connected coaching can help individuals navigate an array of life issues and grow into the person they want to be. It also provides a unique way for groups to build teamwork. A spectrum of experience is available through nature-connected coaching, ranging from walking and talking in the woods to an intensive wilderness “quest” that paves the way for deep transformation.

Dr. Lisa Dahlgren, an outdoor enthusiast and licensed psychologist in St. Louis, is so committed to helping others find wisdom in the wilderness that she is transitioning her traditional talk therapy practice to a nature-based approach.

“I partner with nature to help people overcome limiting emotional symptoms, heal from past wounds, and open to a whole-hearted way of living,” said Dahlgren, who is certified by the Earth-Based Institute as a Nature-Connected Transformational Life Coach. “Challenges are put on our path for growth, but sometimes they feel too big to tackle on our own. That’s one of the reasons we partner with nature.”

Several factors make that partnership a powerful one. First and foremost is the undeniable healing power of nature.

“Chemicals released by the trees and the Earth impact us biologically. Research shows that if people spend just 20 minutes in a forested area, they emerge happier, more satisfied, and more optimistic with life,” said Dahlgren, noting how nature offers a much-needed escape from the stimuli of the modern world. “When we’re not on overload, it’s far easier to open up and begin to unpack your own psychological process.”

A Wandering We Will Go
Nature-connected coaching often involves what Dahlgren calls a “wander.” This multisensory experience invites you to simply experience the natural world around you, while noticing what draws your attention.

“A wander is a form of mindfulness where you open all your senses to the forest and let your feet go where they want to go,” said Dahlgren, who serves as a guide. “The forest doesn’t have an agenda. It allows us to see our inner lives in what we observe in nature. As nature reveals itself, we reveal ourselves.”

Dr. Lisa Dahlgren

Dr. Lisa Dahlgren, nature-connected life coach.

When experienced in a mindful way, a stagnant pool of water or a foraging forest animal can carry worlds of meaning. Dead leaves or a broken limb may reflect our own brokenness or grief. An acorn might whisper of untapped potential.

Other hallmarks of nature-connected coaching include rituals to support new habits, such as nature-inspired meditation, and ceremonies that work on a deeper level to prepare us for the transformation we seek.

Roots and Wings
Those who participate in nature-connected coaching often gain a more meaningful, lifelong relationship with nature. Self-confidence is another side effect, as we learn that we can count on ourselves — and nature — to navigate whatever life brings our way.

“Nature-connected coaching develops a sense of awe and respect for the world around us. It invites the client to develop a practice of seeking nature for direction or answers to questions that are arising for them,” said Jospé. “The answers are all within us. And when we go out and connect with nature, nature reflects our goodness, our truth back to us.”

Ultimately, there may be no better place to gain insight than the great outdoors, where harsh realities cannot be negotiated or denied.

“Nature always has the last say. You can’t talk the sky out of raining. And no matter how we scream at the river, it’s not going to lower itself. We have to figure out how to get across,” said Dahlgren. “You can reach your personal edge pretty quickly in the wilderness, and that’s a pretty good place to be for growth.”

What is Nature-Connected Coaching?
Nature-connected coaching is an approach to coaching developed in connection with nature (not in a simple “presence” of nature). It’s aimed at restoring human beings to their natural ability to take care of themselves, of other living creatures (human and non-human), and the Earth.

Learn more at EarthBasedCoachPhD.com and EarthBasedInstitute.org.

Author: Celeste Huttes is a contributor to Terrain Magazine.