For a long time I wanted to take my therapy outside of the office, and indeed outside of any boxes, so I am really pleased that I can offer "talking therapy" in one of Woodlands.co.uk's woodlands near Ashford in Kent. The best way of understanding this kind of therapy, is for you to hear from some of my clients. Here a client describes the differences she sees between the therapy I offer, and the support she has received from her mental health team in recent years:
“ When I walked into the waiting room of the mental health department I was met by signs, posters and pictures all telling me about the different kinds of conditions and diseases I can be suffering from. I then sat in a waiting room surrounded by people who looked as if they no longer saw life as a positive choice, which you drink up like a sponge. You are then met by a secretary who has no knowledge of mental health, or any enthusiasm or kindness towards people who suffer from its debilitating effects. After this you are called into a small room that feels like it is closing in on you as you sit there, speaking to a professional who doesn’t have enough time or resources to give you the help you are screaming out for. When I turn up to the woods I feel an inner peace, that has never been felt before in my 61 years on the planet, leaving me with the ability to look at myself honestly and openly, without fear of the repercussions”.
All of my clients have said that they chose my practice of "Woodland Therapy" because they don’t like the intimidation of an office. It is a huge step for someone to admit they need help, so the less traumatic I can make it for them the better. The one word that keeps being used by all of my clients is "peace". This tranquility is a new feeling for most of them, and it enables them to change their point of reference to something that makes them feel good. Seeing and hearing deer and woodpeckers and other birds helps them when they are descending into darkness and they can fall back on memories of the natural world to help restore calm in their lives.
When we walk around the woodlands talking about very personal topics, my clients are not just talking to me, but their words are going out to the trees. This enables them to release issues and hurt that have been in them for decades, without it feeling as though it is bouncing back at them off a wall. Also, silence is not an issue when walking around the woods, as there is not a pressure to fill it with any old nonsense that has no connection to the healing process. Instead, they can be comfortable with their own thoughts, as if nature is giving them a supporting shoulder to lean on. I have always believed in the power of silence, and its ability to help people see the actual thoughts they keep hidden away. So when you take away the need to fill it, and the fear of a room closing in on you, the client is left with a freedom to be in control of their own thought processes.
We have unfortunately been programmed from a young age to act a certain way, and to have certain beliefs. These are not always what is best for us in the long run - to have a big house, own an expensive car, have 2.5 children, get a job that pays well, save for old age and gain as many possessions as possible. The problem with this is that these goals are often unachievable, and the more you get the more you want. My clients are always commenting to me that coming to the woods gives them clarity, and the simplicity of the woods gives them a happiness and peace they have never felt before. They have been trapped in the cycle of chasing unachievable dreams, but when they walk around the woods material things don’t seem quite as important. They can then focus on what makes them happy, what they enjoy and actually how little they really need. This is a huge turn-around for them, and can release years of living for the expectations of others.
Here is what Anita said about woodland therapy.
"Having previously been prescribed antidepressants I wanted a more permanent solution. Although the tablets helped at the time they treated the symptoms and not the underlying causes. Counselling has definitely been the best medicine for me! I have now seen Mark for six sessions and feel so much more in control of my life. He has enabled me to share fears that I didn’t even realise were holding me back. I love our walks in the woods, sitting in both rain and sun, discussing issues. He has encouraged me and enabled me to follow my own convictions. He has helped my clarity of thought. He is non-judgemental, it’s not about blame. My life has become less about problems."
Sally was with an excellent psychiatrist for 14 years but when he moved on she felt abandoned - here's what she says:
"For the following 4 years I was left devastated by the lack of care I was given by the Mental Health Service. I was suicidal, lost and very alone and had nowhere to turn. In desperation I looked on the Web and found Mark Wood offering Woodland Therapy. I haven’t looked back: I was in a very bad place, very mistrusting and angry with the world. Mark suggested I draw a line on the past . Because of the hurt I had been through I found this very difficult but Mark was very patient with me and in his quiet, kind way he let me calm down with support. He also came to the Doctor's and to a meeting that was outstanding with me. It has only been a few weeks but I feel like a new person, and the beautiful woodland walks are so calming. In just three weeks we have seen so much including deer and greater spotted woodpeckers feeding their babies. We sit in the woods in Mark's little camp on seats made from logs with the beautiful trees around us. We have just talked. I don’t need medication - I just need to talk and Mark lets me do that. And I am smiling again - I can't remember the last time I smiled. I know with time and Mark's counselling I will go forward in a much more positive way and I hope our time in the woods will enable us to find more wildlife which is a really beautiful way to find peace."