The therapeutic environment and how it is reflected in nature

The environment in which therapeutic work takes place is important, but how does it support the client and the counsellor?

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In order for clients to feel able to work through whatever has brought them to seek counselling, they need to feel safe, secure, not judged, and able to trust the counsellor sitting in front of them.

Counsellors know about the core conditions – empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard, and how to use them to facilitate therapeutic work. When these core conditions are present in the therapeutic space, clients feel able to delve deeply into their emotions and feelings and are able to explore themselves deeply when they feel they are ready.


Creating a trusting environment 

As a counsellor offering different ways of working (walk and talk, face to face, online), creating a trusting environment is something that I am passionate about in all my settings.

Nature is a big part of my therapeutic practice, with some sessions held outdoors, literally on Mother Nature's doorstep. As my experiences broaden, the support of the natural world in my therapeutic work never fails to amaze me. The wonderful spaces in which I have sessions with clients, including woodlands, river paths, and large open fields, consistently offer support, non-judgement and safety, by simply just existing.

A client may be angry during a session, stamping their feet with frustration as they walk, quickening their pace and kicking the soil underfoot into dusty clouds. Yet the following week, the same client can be skipping along the same path with happiness, jostling their way along the same path which only a week previously was the physical ‘sounding board’ and focus of the clients' frustration and irritation. The path underfoot, however, remains the same. Consistently solid and supportive, no judgement, just allowing the client the tread with whatever force and speed they feel they need at that time, witnessing, supporting and validating the clients' journey.

Any emotion, feeling or experience that the client chooses to explore during sessions is met by the solidity of the well-established oak tree, the movement of the running stream, the acceptance of the wide-open spaces as we glance into the distance and pause. In all weathers, rain or shine, warmth or cold, stillness or breeze, the natural environment and landscape remains stoic and consistent, prepared and able to listen, hold and accept the client as they are, and what they bring.

As a counsellor, I see myself and my colleagues within the profession as an extension of that supportive, solid, consistent and non-judgemental landscape. I see, feel, hear and notice all these aspects of nature, and recognise them being reflected in the therapeutic spaces created and offered to clients who are unsettled, stuck and hurting in their lives and are looking for somewhere safe and supportive, to unravel emotions and work through their distress.

So whether a session is being held outdoors, face to face in a dedicated therapy room, or online across a greater distance, the therapeutic environment that is created between counsellor and client, is an extension and embodiment of the caring, supportive, non-judgemental, consistent and accepting qualities that the natural world provides, enabling clients to show up exactly as they are, however they are feeling, to work through whatever has brought them to counselling.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Dartford DA4 & Sevenoaks TN13
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Written by Susie Carthy, MBACP
Dartford DA4 & Sevenoaks TN13

Susie Carthy is an Integrative Counsellor with a Private Practice based in Kent. She offers Walking Therapy, Face to Face and Online sessions to clients seeking support.

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