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A counselling psychology approach to reconnecting with urban nature for personal and societal wellbeing

Godfrey-Faussett, K. (2016). A counselling psychology approach to reconnecting with urban nature for personal and societal wellbeing. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2015) states by the year 2017, the majority of the world’s population will be living in an urban environment. Numerous studies are also highlighting the increasing levels of mental distress for those living in contemporary urban, as opposed to rural, environments. Professionals and academics are arguing that this is partly due to our disconnection from nature, that was brought about by the 19th Century industrial revolution. Finding ways to reconnect with the natural world, may thus go some way towards ameliorating the detrimental effects of urbanisation on mental health. Existent literature has established that nature is therapeutic but does not tell us how people experience and make sense of their experiences and has typically viewed and treated nature as a quantifiable entity. To address this gap, this study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to explore how nine people experienced urban nature as therapeutic. Semi-structured interviews were conducted on allotments, in parks, gardens and in urban forests and produced an in-depth insight into how participants made sense of their experiences. The themes that emerged include, ‘The Intertwining Body’, highlighting our dynamic interaction with the natural world and the body’s importance for wellbeing; ‘Roots and Shoots’, two parts of a cyclical whole with Roots, and, Shoots, each, further sub-dividing into three themes. Roots reflects the more personal, introspective therapeutic experiences and
Shoots elucidates how urban nature fosters wellbeing through enabling creativity and social cohesion and action. Finally, the theme of ‘Continuity’, captures how participants made meaning from the continuous cycles of the natural world as well as made sense of their own finiteness. The findings challenge our thinking about the ways in which we view health and conduct therapy and call for counselling psychologists to expand their roles by becoming more involved at a local and global level.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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