The Australian Bushfire Emergency.

How can I help?

I personally was caught in, and deeply affected by, the Dunalley fire of 2013.

Below is an account I wrote at the time, with some pictures.

I am surprised right now that this was seven years ago. My memories and emotions are as fresh as they were then. This for me is an indicator of how others have been affected, how they may be feeling, and how long they may be affected. This is no small or short term thing, of which I’m sure you have awareness. Recovery is now a big job, with no assurance that the situation will not get worse before it gets better. How to deal with something of this scale? Quality information on what those effected actually want/need could be a very good starting point.

What to offer from a therapy business/field in these unprecedented circumstances is something that I have been considering. In Tasmania we copped it last year and this year we have been more remote from the centres of the disaster. This on initial observation appears to mean that there are not many people directly effected seeking therapy solutions here. This of course is very hard to read and could change at any point. There is effect and potential trauma in being connected to those effected, by being a part of the national community, by exposure to media, and having been effected/affected in the past.

I offer myself as a practitioner (part of a nationwide group of such practitioners) who is capable of understanding the scope of the situation, and create safe space to talk about what happened and what is needed.

Some links for assistance:

Australian Government link: www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au

Red Cross link: www.redcross.org.au

This link to ABC RN Life Matters show 29/1/20 is a beauty, relevant to everyone, with a focus on children: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/helping-children-come-to-terms-with-this-season’s-bushfires/11906806

AABAT (Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy) link: aabat.org.au/bushfire-recovery-resources/

My story from January 2013:

The Inala Road Fire.

There had been a bushfire on the horizon the night before. In the morning there was some smoke in the air, but no fire. We set up the boat, hooked it to our car and headed down to Marion Bay to get some surf. It was a warm morning that was quickly becoming hot. We found a nice half metre wave breaking right and left on the outside sandbar of the Boneyard, the name of the surf break at the Marion Bay Narrows. We surfed for an hour or so then up-anchored and cruised back to Boomer Bay, passing through curious and pleasant walls of increasingly hot air the closer we got to the boat ramp. Not a sign of a bushfire anywhere to be seen. At the ramp we went to our usual routine of securing and tidying the boat for the trip home. When we were almost finished I noticed that the people of the house nearest the ramp car park were scurrying about doing something. Once again, curious, I thought.

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The hill in the background is the hill west of Dunalley, about an hour or so before the fire hit. No sign of a catastrophic fire.

We headed up the road to Dunalley to buy ourselves a pie or four, as some of the crew were very peckish. At the turnoff on to main road there was a policeman and his car. He said there was a bushfire, and the road back to Hobart was closed. We turned left, which was the way we were going anyway, and made for Dunalley to buy our pies. At Dunalley the bakery was closed, curious. We went to the small service station and store at the top of the rise. They have pies. And sure enough, they did. As we stared into the pie warmer the owner of the shop appeared from outback. His demeanour was at fever pitch. “Could we have some pies please?” “Are you crazy, the whole town is being evacuated, I can’t sell you a pie, you need to evacuate immediately like everyone else.” “It would be good if we could buy some pies first?” “No.” Out on the main road we met another friendlier man who asked if we had had a good surf, and said that everyone was evacuating to the hotel car park. We jumped in the car and headed in that direction. At the swing bridge that crosses the canal there was another police car, with a policeman attempting to give directions to an arrogant local ex-politician in a new sports car. We drove up the small rise out of the canal, and as I was about to turn into the hotel car park, which was already more or less full of cars and people, I looked in my rear-vision mirror. I could see the two tall hills that sit to the north of the town. Atop the hills was a plume of smoke as massive as any plume of smoke I had ever seen in pictures of volcanoes erupting. In front of the smoke was a wall of flames at least thirty metres high, and probably more like forty-five. This I had seen before. In nineteen sixty seven, when I was five years old, the very day that I first started school, my home town of Hobart was threatened from all directions by catastrophic wildfires that burnt up to and into the houses surrounding our city. That day I had travelled to town in the back seat of my mother’s car to pick up Dad from his workplace. We were taking him home so that he could join an army of similar fathers. They were to beat at the flames with wet hessian sugar sacks. They saved the town, those fathers with wet sugar sacks. I looked at the flames in my rear-vision mirror, and I thought, how exciting, how incredible, how very, very dangerous. I said to my young crew in the car, “We’re not staying here, I have seen this before, when I was a five year old boy, and it ends badly, we are going.” As we drove off toward the next town, Murdunna, I explained where I had seen this sort of incredible fire. As my family returned across the big high bridge that crosses the Derwent River at Hobart, back in nineteen sixty seven, I, sitting with my brother and some of my sisters in the spacious back seat of Mum’s Austin 1800, I looked around me to the hilltop horizon that adorns the city surrounds of Hobart with just such treed beauty. Atop of every hill, every hill, I could see flames rising, maybe thirty, maybe forty-five metres into the air. We pulled into Murdunna shops, and refuelled the boat and the car. A fully fuelled boat might be becoming useful. We bought ourselves some pies, and sat in the early afternoon heat outside the main store. By this time, back along the road, the fire had burnt through Dunalley township, jumped almost a kilometre across the bay to the south, and ignited the peninsula we were now on with the same ferocity with which it had arrived. Much of that town was now contained in the smoke plume. We could no longer see this smoke, and we did not know of the damage done. Car traffic passing the store began to increase, and one car pulled to the side of the road opposite. “The fire has jumped to this side, and is coming down the road” “Oh, thanks for letting us know.” We climbed back into our car and left. From the waterfront outside Taranna, two townships down, we watched across the bay. We could now see the enormous smoke cloud, which simultaneously, and unanimously filled us with a primal excited joy, and a gut stirring fear. The youngest of us, my sixteen-year-old son, appeared to be unsure of what he was looking at. “That’s Dunalley, the town we just left, that’s it, up in the air.” I explained, and then had to say it again before he realised what I was saying. We did not know that no one had died.

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Our view of the fire from Taranna, as we evacuated to Port Arthur.

Nick Hall, 2013

My short story was included in the ‘pop-up’ Show+Tell January 2013 Bush Fires exhibition at the Forcett Hall (near where the fire started) on 19 and 20th November 2016. It took years for people’s personal stories to come out.

A few more pictures related to the story:

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A picture taken by my wife from our family home in Dodges Ferry. As we evacuated from Dunalley to Port Arthur the rest of my family evacuated from Dodges Ferry to Hobart. We had minimal contact for three days as phone lines, mobile network towers, and power infrastructure were destroyed by the fire.

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A view of the smoke cloud from the beach at Port Arthur. When we arrived we needed to tell people on the beach that a catastrophic fire was on it’s way.

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We self evacuated by boat from Slopen Main Beach on the Tasman Peninsular back to my home in Dodges Ferry three days later. At the family shack at Port Arthur we had had to have hourly rotation of someone awake watching for smoke and fire throughout the nights. In the background is another boat evacuating. There was a large and constant flotilla of such boats over the three days of the fire.

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The smoke cloud above Dunalley from Park Beach.

 

 

Adventure Scrapbook #2

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Alfie the therapy dog looking majestic after a walk and talk at Montrose Bay.

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A pic from a few years ago. We are launching a friends Balinese sailing jukung at Midway Point.

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Our new row and talk wooden boat “BoBi” on her maiden trip (test row) at Blue Lagoon. She is a sailing dinghy also.

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Me meeting a quokka at Rottnest Island, Western Australia. They are quite used to people getting close. Yes, I had my promo tee shirt on for the shot.

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Walking and talking in the tranquil surrounds of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart. We spent some time checking out the bright coloured flowers in the nurturing space of the Conservatory.

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A little panorama. Walking in Shag Bay at the East Risdon Nature Reserve on a warm day. Lots of Tasmanian birdlife to be encountered. We have seen over thirty species here.

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Late season snow at Carr Villa hut, Ben Lomond National Park, Tasmania.

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We paddled out together to Little Spectacle Island in our own kayaks. This activity builds self reliance in a safe environment. And it’s heaps of fun if you are up for it.

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An adolescent blue tongue lizard looking for food on a hot day beside the track at Geilston Bay. We also see bronze skinks, and mountain dragons!

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We are taking the stand up paddle board out at Tinderbox Beach south of Hobart on the start of the D’entrecasteaux Channel.  I follow in our safety dinghy.

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A summer’s day walk and talk on Park Beach, Dodges Ferry. Calming, reassuring, and mixed with the joy of being here.

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Alfie’s sister Lexi doing her apprenticeship as a therapy dog on the coastal track at Lewisham. She is doing just fine.

A Gentle Approach to Adventure Therapy.

 

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I am giving this presentation at the upcoming Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy forum, “Turning Over A New Leaf”. The forum is an annual event. This year it will be held in the Numinbah Valley in South East Queensland.

This is the abstract for my talk:

A Gentle Approach to Adventure Therapy.

One to one walk and talk adventure therapy in the outdoors, observations of an ascent into gentleness from five years of practice.

For the past five years I have been exploring a modality of adventure therapy whereby I have been working with clients one to one in outdoor settings in the nature filled environs close to our local capital city of Hobart in Tasmania. These environs range from paved walkways, parks, beaches, and shared waterways, through to genuine wilderness that is part of our South-West Wilderness that connects with the edges of our city.

I am working from my background in person centred counselling, somatic (body centred) psychotherapy, and fifteen years of bush adventure therapy group work.

I am working with walking and talking, or perhaps canoe paddling and talking, nature contact and mindful nature immersion, awareness, personal responsibility, and safety and gentleness.

After the grand adventures, and physical risk taking of my group work, this presentation focuses on the growing inclusion of gentleness and intimacy into my work with others.

forum-2019.aabat.org.au

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www.instagram.com/nickhalladventuretherapy/

Local Lad – The Hobart Magazine

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I offer person centred and somatic psychotherapy informed adventure therapy in walk and talk form for adults at beautiful outdoor locations around Hobart, Tasmania.
This form of therapy and counselling can be helpful if you are experiencing personal grief, relationship issues, a challenging life experience, anxiety or depression, the effects of trauma, a workplace issue, or any other matter you would like support with.

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Go Paddling in a Canoe with a Therapist, why would I do that?

 

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The therapeutic space, held by a practiced and competent therapist, is an emotionally safe and confidential space.

If we embark on a small adventure in this space it adds wellbeing values to our experience. If the adventure is canoeing what is this adding to our session together?

We are on the water, being supported by it in an unconditional way. We have a mutuality of respect where the sea gives us this kind of support, and we respect the power and the beauty of sea, and take care, and respect our limits in order to best keep the session within the scope of wellbeing. We are exercising our bodies in a gentle, shared and immersive way. We are allowing our breathing to be regular and focussed on being courageous, and enjoying of the moment. We are in direct contact with the elements of the day. The temperature, the wind, the light, the radiance of the sun on our bodies. We are literally immersed in nature, with kind intent. We are encountering the other animals that live in this environment. All these things are adding to our therapeutic, wellbeing, healing experience. And we have time to talk through some things as well.

This activity is adventurous, and is open to and achievable by a wide range of people. Age and experience need not be a barrier as the outrigger canoe is very stable and easy to learn the basic skill of paddling. I provide all our necessary safety equipment. I am a trained and skilled paddler.

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Having a relaxed chat about what’s happening as we are held by the sea, and the landscape.

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We may encounter some of the locals.

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A seal swimming along in front of our canoe.

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A different seal swimming past the water’s edge. I have found them to be gentle and inquisitive.

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An eagle flies by, followed closely by a silver gull keeping a close eye on her.

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At Geilston Bay we even have a resident goose.

We can share a canoe, or take individual canoes. This activity is weather and season dependant. In summer the water is about 22 degrees celsius so ok for most people. In autumn and spring it is about 12 to 14, and in winter about 8. Outside summer we need to dress appropriately, and use the outriggers on my canoe so we definitely don’t need to be in the water!

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I can transport our canoes to cool spots to go for a paddle.

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Sometimes Alfie the therapy dog, who is passionate about seafaring, comes too.

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We can jump out for a rest and a look around, before heading back.

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We can experience the river at different times of the day.

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Nick Hall, adventure therapist.

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I offer person centred and somatic psychotherapy informed adventure therapy in walk and talk form for adults at beautiful outdoor locations around Hobart, Tasmania. This form of therapy and counselling can be helpful if you are experiencing personal grief, relationship issues, a challenging life experience, anxiety or depression, the effects of trauma, a workplace issue, or any other matter you would like support with.

Nick Hall

Adventure Scrapbook #1

 

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Sharing a joke with some of my friends/colleagues at the Tasmanian Men’s Gathering for men’s health and wellbeing, Dysart.

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A view from my floating office Water Is Life whilst cruising, Frederick Henry Bay.

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Climbed a tree to get the pic at the end of the Black Dog Ride for suicide prevention, Bicheno.

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We had to rescue the stand up paddle board at the end of our paddle and talk, Hinsby Beach.

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Sky above our beach walk and talk. Nature immersion at it’s best, Park Beach.

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Having lunch with a co-worker from Community Rites of Passage, Lindisfarne. Have a guess which one is mine.

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We were invited in to have a look after our walk and talk, Blundstone Arena. Nothing much going on.

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Our resident goose at Geilston Bay Boat Club, with her duck friends.

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The rusty old car I looked in on the way to work, which turned out to be a tiger snakes home, Grasstree Hill.

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Someone’s boat sank on it’s mooring, not far from my mooring, Geilston Bay. Not what I like to see.

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This dog.

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Fishing and talking at Battery Point jetty. Can you see the seal surfacing next the mooring buoy?

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Looking for skimming stones on a pebble beach near Dodges Ferry. How many hops can you get? One of those carefree outdoor activities that many people can relate to.

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Checking the surf conditions at Remarkable Cave, Tasman Peninsula. That’s Cape Raoul in the background.

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Looking out the pink window at GASP whilst fishing and talking, Wilkinsons Point.

www.instagram.com/nickhalladventuretherapy/

One Hundred Views Of Mount Wellington/kunyani.

 

The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai produced two books in homage to the sacred mountain Mount Fuji in the Chubu region of Honshu, the largest island in Japan. The mountain is a stratovolcano, and lies about 100 kilometres south west of Tokyo. A stratovolcano is a conical volcano built up by many layers of lava and ash.

Mount Fuji is sacred to many people. A place of special significance that awakens connection with the beauty and life affirming power of our natural world.

It was a special mountain to Katsushika Hokusai.

One of his books is called One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. It contains monochrome pictures. The other book is called Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji and has colour pictures. It’s some of these pictures that are perhaps familiar to you?

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His pictures speak of the connections between the constructed world and the natural world. People and architecture go about their lives nestled in a landscape that exists on a different time scale, hinting at timelessness, and the eternal.

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In his pictures people populate the landscape in much the same way that animals do, going about their daily business, people being animals, animals being people, with a seamless acceptance.

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I have always resonated with Katsushika Hokusai’s pictures, from when I saw them here and there as a child, through my time at art school, to now. I am a visual artist also. Their beautiful, engaging simplicity fills me with admiration, and fuels my imagination in a good way.

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This led me to noticing the parallels between him sketching and working in his landscape, and me working and photographing in mine.

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Nick Hall

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Right Along, You and Me, and All of Cosmology.

One to one walk and talk adventure therapy in the outdoors. Observations from five years of practice.

(presented to the 8th International Adventure Therapy Conference, Sydney, 2018)

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Introduction:

I am trained in somatic psychotherapy with Bob Palfreyman’s Wholistc Therapy Centre in Hobart.

And bush adventure therapy with Project Hahn Inc. in Tasmania.

I have a post grad certificate in counselling from the School of Psychology, University of Tasmania.

I am a clinical member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).

And a member of the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy Inc (AABAT).

I have over twenty years experience working therapeutically with people in the outdoors.

I am based in Hobart, Tasmania at Geilston Bay and the East Risdon Nature Reserve.

I work in client specific, and activity specific, natural settings around Hobart.

My office is my boat, Water Is Life. It is moored in the bay, and travels to the Hobart CBD for onboard sessions and meetings.

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The Landscape We Walk In:

The East Risdon Nature Reserve is a dry open bushland that contains rare plant species, wild native animals, and possibly 60000 years of aboriginal history, layered with just over 200 years of recent history.

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A walking track runs through this country, south to north. The reserve’s open country is easy to explore.

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It has a western boundary on the Derwent River. This river’s water is significantly impacted by recent industry and population pressure. The Derwent is known by our first nation people as Big River. It flows from the central highlands, and meets the Southern Ocean at Hobart.

This reserve is 10 minutes car travel from Hobart’s city centre.

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Modalities and Strategies:

The one to one modalities I work in:

Person centred therapy.

Somatic psychotherapy.

Psychodynamic storytelling.

Mindful nature immersion.

Experiential learning.

Lifelong learning and maturational stage awareness.

Little adventures, and big adventures.

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This model from my group work training and experience informs my individual work:

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We walk where things intersect:

Mindfulness and immersion.

City and the bush.

The land and the river.

The client and the counsellor.

Right action and wisdom as mediated by the outdoors.

The two paths, along the river, or through the bushland. A choice before each home base session.

The history of therapy and the spontaneity of the natural world.

Little adventures and big adventures.

I work from home base, to other places.

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Practice Observations:

From my sessions:

Ease of talking side by side.

Ease of focusing on the immediate environment, regardless of what is being emoted and/or talked about.

Value adds of exercise, being outdoors, and specific activities.

A sense of safety held by the level of comfort in outdoor environments of the practitioner.

The unplanned use of therapeutic strategies that appear to be triggered by immediate natural events.

The shared sense of doing something different, of being on an adventure.

Participation is not age or gender specific. To some degree it is access specific.

A qualitatively and quantitatively different space. Recognised as quality time, more space, a gentle and safe space.

 

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Clinical Observations:

In note form from session and milestone observations:

Learnt to relax/feel safe/trust

Closer interactions, increased interest in physical activity outdoors. Increases in relaxed affect and patience.

Prepared to trust.

Talking less about computer games, more about what’s happening now. Responding to different male role-modelling, increased self-reflection, engaging in new activities.

Decrease in paranoia, increase in motivation. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Recovered from grief, strengthened sense of self, returned motivation, career choices made, commitment to partnership strengthened.

Specific mental health insights established, specific workplace and relationship issues clarified, increase in self worth and trust in the therapist.

Increased tolerance to stillness and mindfulness, strengthened understanding of family of origin dynamics, and cessation of sessions without explanation.

Valuing of honest male to male sharing of intimate partner relationship landscape and dynamics.

Strong valuing of being outdoors and walking and talking.

High functioning conversations, valuing of walking/talking and nature interactions, and strong rapport built rapidly. (Asperger’s Syndrome)

Well adjusted, discovered issues were principally school based, referred to teaching staff.

Activity based sessions, increase in valuing unique family situation, increased capacity to relate to male father role, and improved self regulation.

Expanded and grounded understandings of self worth and relationship with his mother.

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Conclusions From My Practice:

Walk and talk, and activity based individual adventure therapy sessions can be effective across a range of needs. There is evidence to suggest the following:

The outdoor setting is a low pressure social environment that suits many clients as a space in which to participate in therapy.

This modality gives access to clients who do not wish to, or would not, avail themselves to counselling/psychotherapy that takes place indoors, particularly in a small room.

It is suited to clients who enjoy the value adds to the process such as walking, being outdoors, nature contact, adventure activities.

Working therapeutically outdoors in an expansive, low pressure and safe place where nature phenomena dominate over man made structures is well suited to healing childhood trauma, and post traumatic stress.

Working outdoors is effective across a broad range of issues that present in the counselling/psychotherapy environment including workplace issues, relationship couple counselling, maturational support, trauma recovery, ASD socialisation coaching, self acceptance, and intrinsic self worth.

 

Nick Hall, 2018