Our training is more than a set of techniques, it is also a pathway to understand what it means to be a guide. A Forest Therapy Guide works with the forest as a partner, to support the wellness and healing of people and nature alike. The guide is not a therapist; the forest is the therapist. Guides help others open the doors of their senses and heartfelt presence, so they can enter completely into a healing relationship with the forest and other places in the more-than-human world.
Graduates of our training have gone on to found businesses in alternative health and eco-wellness tourism, work in the non-profit section for special populations, provide corporate wellness programs and retreats, incorporate our techniques in educational settings, and collaborate in wellness programs through botanical gardens, arboretums, and private and public land managers. What began as a dream from the Earth, to simply restore our relationship with the Forest, has become a global movement. We invite you to join us on this incredible path.
We are an international community of Forest Therapy Guides who have been trained by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. There are more than 500 of us (growing each month), in over 40 countries on six continents, guiding in a dozen or more languages and in many cultures. We share our love of the more-than-human world and a passion to skillfully guide others toward remembering our deep relationship with all beings. We are energized by our shared commitment to establishing forest therapy as a high-quality, standards-based practice that is recognized throughout the world as an effective way to promote the well-being of people and of forests.
The Association was founded by M. Amos Clifford in 2012. Amos combined elements of Shinrin-Yoku practice in Japan with his four decades of experience in wilderness guiding, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, educational consulting, and nature connection to create a framework for Forest Therapy.
The first training that ANFT provided for guides was held in California in 2014. By the end of 2018 we had trained 32 guide cohorts and have developed training teams in other parts of the world. In September of 2018 a major milestone was providing our first guide training in a language other than English; we trained a cohort of guides in Spanish at a mountain retreat center in Spain. We are a truly global organization with a commitment to creating practices that are appropriate for every culture.
What energizes our work is our love of nature; but also our sense of impending environmental catastrophe caused by global overpopulation and Western Culture's emphasis on unsustainable patterns of consumption. Our contribution to finding solutions to these problems is to help as many people as possible to develop meaningful relationships with nature.
The reality is that most people don't spend much time in nature; and when we do, we are often distracted and don't interact meaningfully with the plants and other inhabitants of the forest. We agree with Jacques Cousteau that "people protect what they love." Love of nature arises naturally when we come into heartfelt, embodied relationship with it, a kind of relationship that is not characterized as much by "knowing the facts" as it is of our fundamental kinship with all beings.
We are inspired by the vision of mobilizing the largest referral network in the world—medical and healthcare systems, along with alternative and complementary healing modalities—to connect people with nature. There is now a large, robust body of research that soundly demonstrates what we have always known intuitively: that time in nature in good for us. The Association's role is to develop a solidly-grounded practice that supports the well-being of people and, by connecting them with nature, inspires millions to become advocates for healing our relationships with the more-than-human world.