The Safe Place Project
Forest Therapy for Children aged 5-10
Thanks to generous donations from the Wakeham Trust and the Alpkit Foundation and a Magic Little Grant, this year we will be piloting the Safe Place Project for the very first time in Scotland. This innovative Nature Therapy approach is based on the Healing Forest curriculum, which has been used successfully by arts therapists, teachers, psychologists and counsellors all over the world to help children connect to nature, each other and themselves. It is ideal for children who have experienced stress or trauma caused by largescale man-made or natural disasters such as flooding, the effects of the pandemic or the grief of loss as well as more common causes of stress such as the divorce of parents, moving home, the illness of a loved one and bullying.
Intended for children between 5 and 10 years old, the program uses nature, storytelling and expressive arts to build resilience in children. It uses the forest and trained facilitators to help to create "safe spaces" for children in the outdoors. Over the course of 12 sessions, the project will include nature-based activities ranging from tree planting to making feeding stations for birds can be used therapeutically in conjunction with storytelling and other expressive arts therapies.
About Nature Therapy
Nature Therapy is defined as “a creative therapy method that takes place in nature, and perceives nature as a partner in constructing a therapeutic setting and process.” This therapeutic approach is based on the understanding that people’s estrangement from nature is linked to psychosocial distress and with such symptoms as the loss of self-esteem and meaning, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and alienation.
Nature Therapy reflects assumptions consistent with ecopsychology and deep ecology, including the understanding that by reconnecting with nature, people can connect with their strengths and source of healing. The Nature Therapy method integrates elements from several creative postmodern therapies, including Play Therapy and Drama Therapy, along with elements from other nature-oriented practices such as Vision Quests and Adventure and Wilderness Therapies.
Nature Therapy is used with children, youth, and adults, including individuals who have experienced trauma and loss and individuals who are dealing with emotional and psychiatric issues. It has also been used with different school groups, where related activities are often conducted both indoors and outdoors.
The Safe Place program is an example of this. More than 12,000 kindergarten and schoolchildren in both regular and special education settings in northern Israel have participated in this program. Safe Place is based on the metaphorical relationship between the damage to the forest caused by fires during the second Lebanon war and the forest’s recovery. During the program, children are invited to act out their own parallel story within a secure, nature-based setting. They are also given the opportunity to strengthen their own relationship with nature through such stewardship activities as planting trees and building bird feeders and nesting boxes.
Nature Therapy broadens the classical therapeutic relationship between therapist and client by introducing nature as the third factor. By cultivating the well-being of humans as well as the more-than-human natural world, Nature Therapy can also play a role in promoting nature conservation.