When I first started developing nature based therapy, I had not heard of the term green social work. I came across this concept while I was doing a unit in my current studies for the Master of Social Work.
I was so excited to learn that the social work sector was aware of our connection to our environment and that social justice and environmental justice appeared to be intimately connected. After having worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor for 17 years I had not come across green social work or any training that saw the benefits of aligning the environment with counselling or case management.
I had taken clients out on morning bush walks at the residential rehabilitation center that I had worked at and did counselling sessions in a community garden. I also took women out to nature as part of a women’s program and took patients to a park for a picnic in a mental health hospital. I noticed a difference and immediately saw the benefits. At every opportunity I was always looking at ways I could talk to people outside of a clinical room and use nature as a metaphor to understand people’s thoughts and feelings.
I believe that the future of health needs to incorporate our environment into frameworks when developing treatment programs and services. Why not bring community gardens into hospitals, sensory gardens into prisons and tree planting projects to people who are experiencing grief and loss. There is something quite intimate about connecting to nature that makes us feel like we are supported by something bigger than ourselves. Planting tree’s symbolize new beginnings and is something that we can watch grow. This growth can be likened to our own personal growth.
Our environment needs to heal more than ever now and why not allow the people who also need to heal work together to benefit each other.