Going outside to look inward: A naturalist’s experience with nature therapy

By Mallory Hopkins | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Imagine getting a prescription but instead of a medication it says ‘sunshine and fresh air.’

Ayolane Halusky is the naturalist for the St. Johns County Parks and Recreation Department and he thinks that everyone could benefit from more time outside, connecting with nature. Nature therapy or Ecotherapy was introduced by Theodore Roszak who wrote about it in his 1995 book: Ecopsychology: Restoring the earth, healing the mind.

“I think that’s the beautiful thing about when you talk about the word therapy, it’s kind of a human way of looking at things,” Halusky said.

“I got pulled into the so-called popular groups and things like that in high school and stuff. But I was more comfortable when I was outside always. I could feel like I could really be who I was,” Halusky said.

Halusky previously worked for a company called Outward Bound, where he worked with troubled young kids in the outdoors to help them see themselves differently.

Many of these kids came from cities and some had never been in an outdoor setting before.

“So being out in the natural world is scary to them, it was an unknown land. It’s like putting somebody on Mars,” Halusky said. “So that was kind of a big shift for them. We became their lifeline at that point. It’s about putting yourself in an uncomfortable environment, a stretching zone, if you will, you know, from your safe environment, which was home, which might not have been that safe, but that’s what they knew.”

Towards the end of Outward Bound, the kids go out on what is called a ‘solo’ and it’s when they have to spend 72 hours out in the woods, alone. They are within shouting distance of their leaders but they are supposed to rely on themselves. This is where the kids are usually pushed to change.

“They learned that they could do more than they thought they could,” said Halusky.

“If you really dig into the natural world and start to become aware of self and the natural world,” Halusky said. “Everything’s out there that you need the answer to. Your questions are out there. I often will say if you look into nature, you’ll find yourself looking back at yourself.”

Getting out into nature can seem like such a simple thing but according to Halusky, it’s a great way to reflect even if you are just looking at your reflection in the water.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Going outside to look inward: A naturalist’s experience with nature therapy"

Leave a comment