Why become a certified Forest Therapy Guide?
Forest Therapy Guides, sometimes called Nature Therapy Guides, are essential for getting the most out of Forest Therapy. Forest Therapy, or Shinrin-Yoku in Japanese, is a very gentle, deep way to calm our spirit and reconnect with nature. There are two main reasons for you to become a Forest Therapy Guide; to help yourself and to help others.
Becoming a certified Forest Therapy Guide can be a life-changing experience for you, as you complete the training experience. Forest Therapy Guides are trained to take participants out on Forest Therapy Walks. During these walks, the Forest Therapy Guide, or Nature Therapy Guide, facilitates many activities specifically designed to get participants to immerse all of their senses to connect with nature at a deep level. This connection has a host of physical and mental benefits. Research has shown that Forest Therapy can lower stress, and raise general feelings of happiness, energy and mood, while strengthening immune and cardiovascular systems.
There are many benefits for the participants in Forest Bathing Walks, and there are benefits for you personally as the Forest Therapy Guide. During the training, you will get to know yourself at a deeper level than perhaps you ever thought possible. You will experience a peace of spirit that may have just been dreamed about before. You will also feel a palpable connection with nature and the world around you. This connection doesn’t turn on and off when you are facilitating walks. It remains a part of you forever.
You will also help many others by becoming a certified Forest Therapy Guide. Perhaps you are a medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist or in another helping profession. Maybe you have a deep, empathetic talent that you want to use to help others on their life journey. Understanding how to facilitate the healing power of nature to help others will create a profound satisfaction, and will resonate with your deeply held values and beliefs about who you are: a healer. As a Nature Therapy Guide, you will still be able to help make the world a better place, one Forest Bathing Walk at a time.
Why do people choose a certified guide?
Just like anyone could have friends over for dinner, anyone can go with a walk in the forest with friends. But would you feel comfortable cooking an entire, satisfying gourmet meal that appeals to each guest’s taste buds with nuance and depth? Probably not. You may be able to rough out a meal of spaghetti from the box with sauce from the jar, but that isn’t exactly a life-changing experience.
That same thinking applies to Forest Therapy Guides. Anyone can go out into the woods and commune with nature, and there will be benefits from that experience. But to understand the process of getting a group of people to slow down, be mindful, reconnect with nature and explore and discover themselves? That takes a trained, certified Forest Therapy Guide.
“Guide” is the correct word to use in this context. Forest Therapy isn’t a hike, an exercise regimen or an exploration of the wilderness. It is a journey, but more of an internal journey than an external one. The Forest Therapy Guide cannot take that journey for someone. They cannot get inside someone’s spirit and help build the bridge from the internal to the external world. But they can guide and facilitate that process to make that occur in others.
There are many ways Forest Therapy is incorporated into other careers. Many people are Nature Therapy Guides that work in parks or nature preserves in nature education. Many counselors and social workers fold in Forest Therapy with their general practice, as do holistic healing naturopaths and spas. Many get Forest Therapy Guide training who are involved in personal coaching, or are part of employee wellness programs at their place of work. Organizational development consultants and team-building consultants have also been trained as Forest Therapy Guides to help meet the goals for their particular area of expertise..
Whether you want to become a Forest Therapy Guide to make your own life journey richer and more joyful, if you are interested in becoming a Forest Therapy Guide to have another, very powerful tool to help you help others, or some combination of both, the process for becoming a Forest Therapy Guide is the same.
How do I become a Nature Therapy Guide?
Becoming a Forest Therapy Guide, or Nature Therapy Guide, often has three basic components:
1. An onsite training, usually seven or eight days.
2. Become certified in Wilderness First Aid, or an equivalent program.
3. Participate in a practicum, usually three to six months.
There are several organizations that offer certification programs to become a Forest Therapy, or Nature Therapy Guide. Here are three popular organizations that offer training and certification in Forest Therapy:
- The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy
- The Global Institute of Forest Therapy
- The European Forest Therapy Institute
All three of these organizations offer excellent instruction and hands-on, experiential learning. All three have an onsite component, during which the trainee would spend seven or eight days, on site, learning and experiencing the techniques and mindsets needed to become a successful Forest Therapy Guide.
There are some minor differences with the training programs these organizations offer. For example, the ANFT and The Global Institute of Forest Therapy each follow the training with a six month mentorship. The European Forest Therapy institute has a three month mentorship after the initial training.
The SEE-DO-GET Model
When describing deep, lasting, profound change in humans, there is a construct called the SEE-DO-GET model to help explain what kind of transformation you will experience during Forest Therapy Guide training, regardless of which training program you choose. . In the SEE-DO-GET model, if you only change what DO, you will only change what you GET, short term. For example, if you are looking for a way to connect with people, and you learn a new activity to have group participants get to know one another, you will change what you get…on the surface. For deep, profound and lasting change to take place in humans, there has to be a change in their paradigm, the way they SEE the world. If you can succeed in changing how someone SEEs the world, and understands why they are DOing what they DO, they will impact what they GET in profound ways. All Forest Therapy Guide training is built on this idea. They all have a set of principles upon which all training is built. In other words, they build their training on the foundational practice of changing how their Forest Therapy Guides SEE the training, nature, and their role in the therapy. Through these principles, the training from these organizations are creating a foundation to change the paradigm of how their Forest Therapy Guides SEE nature, and their place in the world.
For example, one of the ANFT core principles is that nature is not to be seen as a resource that we use to replenish ourselves, rather, it is a deeply relational practice, where a loving a caring connection is cultivated. When then Nature Therapy Guide-in-training understands this principle and SEEs the world through this lens, that will change what they do on Forest Therapy Walks, and will help the participants GET a much richer experience. The Forest Therapy Guides will also be much more prepared to handle any questions, and help participants in Forest Therapy Walks unpack their experiences, if they understand these guiding principles.
What are the steps to certification?
The first step in Forest Therapy Guide training in any of the organizations is a seven or eight-day training, followed by a three to six-month practicum. The only prerequisite for training is a personal connection with nature and the desire to guide others. There are sites all over the world for Forest Therapy Guide training. Check the websites for the organizations listed earlier in this article for tuition costs and locations near you. The tuition includes the training and the following practicum. Because the training takes place in different venues around the world, the tuition does not include the cost of food or lodging. When you check one of the organizations and find a training near you, the details for food and lodging will be listed for that particular venue. Training has been offered in six continents, and in more than 46 countries. When you explore the websites, you will be in awe of how widespread Forest Therapy has become.
Wilderness First Aid Certification
Part of the certification process requires that you complete a Wilderness First Aid Certification Program. There are numerous organizations that provide this certification. The certification usually takes about 16-hours to complete, and is replete with information you need to know about how to respond to common injuries you could encounter in nature, including blisters and cuts and breaks and sprains.
After your on-site training, you will be required to participate in a practicum for some months. For the practicum, you do not have to travel back to the site of your training. The practicum is usually done through telephone and internet contact, and you will be required to organize and guide some Forest Therapy Walks.
To guide you through the practicum, you will be paired with a certified Forest Therapy guide who will serve as your mentor throughout the process. Every month during your practicum, you will have contact with your mentor, via video-conference calls or four phone calls, to debrief walks you have conducted. You will also have conference calls with other guide trainees in your group. Some organizations even give access to other password-protected training materials.
As part of your practicum, you will be required to conduct some Forest Therapy Walks. You must get permission from the owners or managers of the land in which you wish to conduct your walk. During your training, you will become familiar with what to look for when identifying a suitable venue for your Forest Therapy walks. In addition, before you conduct your walks you will review the trail with your mentor.
While the on-site training, Wilderness First Aid Certification and practicum, may seem like a big investment of time and money, the benefits of becoming a Forest Therapy Guide will pay rich dividends for the rest of your life. The process for becoming a trained Forest Therapy Guide is exciting, enjoyable and fulfilling. You would be joining the ranks of many graduates in over 40 countries around the world. If you are interested in becoming a Forest Therapy Guide, remember, there are no shortcuts when learning the skills that will change your paradigm about how you view the world, and teaches you how to give that gift to others.
Becoming a Forest Therapy Guide or Nature Therapy Guide can be a rich and rewarding experience for the participants, and for you, the guide. There are many professions that incorporate Forest Therapy into their work, such as nature guides, social workers and counselors, consultants, trainers and medical doctors, to name a few. In becoming a Forest Therapy Guide, or Nature Therapy Guide, you are becoming a vital part of a worldwide movement to reconnect to the healing power of nature.