The ANFT Story: A Brief History

The Association was founded by M. Amos Clifford in 2012.  Amos combined descriptions of Shinrin-Yoku practice in Japan with his four decades of experience in wilderness guiding, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, and nature connection to begin creating a framework for Forest Therapy.  The  mission of ANFT is to incorporate forest therapy into health and wellness systems, and the purpose is to offer a pathway for people to come into authentic right relationship with the more-than-human world of nature.

Drawing on his experience as Executive Director of Restorative Resources, which provided restorative justice interventions in cases of youth crime, Amos Clifford creates Center for Restorative Process, with the aim of exploring how the principles of restorative justice might be applied to relationships between humans and other-than-human species, including landscapes, rivers, oceans, and other ecosystems.

During a 12-day vision fast ceremony facilitated by School of Lost Borders, Amos enters into a deep inquiry about what it means to be a guide, and how the practice of guiding might be combined with restorative practices to help heal relationships between people and nature.

Amos learns about the Japanese practice of shinrin yoku. He inspired by its potential to reach many people, particularly if integrated into healthcare systems. Amos organizes and guides a series of shinrin-yoku walks, drawing on his prior experiences as wilderness guide, Zen meditator, psychotherapist, trainer and facilitator, and restorative justice practitioner. He writes and self-published “A Little Handbook of Shinrin-Yoku.” He creates the website He also creates and posts the You Tube video “Introduction to Shinrin-yoku. In October, Outside Magazine publishes a major article about shinrin-yoku, written by Florence Williams. In a second vision fast ceremony,  Amos comes to greater clarity about his commitment to the practice of forest therapy.In a ceremony held in December, Amos formally commits 10 years to bringing the practice of shinrin-yoku into the world beyond Japan. The next day he receives his first press contact.For the next year, Amos is advised by Pamela Wirth as he launches the organization.

Investing funds earned through Center for Restorative Process, and contributing countless volunteer hours, Amos founds the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT). He meets John Hendee at Wilderness Guides Council. John, who is a retired professor and Dean of Forestry, mentors and  joins the advisory board and mentors Amos. Through repeated trials and observations of what is most effective, Amos develops and refines ideas about Forest Therapy, including the “Standard Sequence,” “Way of the Guide,” and “Language of Invitation” as now taught by ANFT.About a dozen major publications feature the work of the Association, perhaps most notably O! Magazine.

In September, the first Forest Therapy Guide training is held. Training team includes Amos Clifford, Julianne Skai-Arbor, and Meghan Walla-Murphy, assisted by Maria Buitenhuis, Lindsey Mitchell, Caitlin Williams, and Brianna Bohnett. The first version of the training manual is assembled from non-original content, edited by Julianne Skai-Arbor. 30 people participate in Cohort 1. After the September training, Amos drafts the Standards and Scope of Practice for Forest Therapy Guides, which is circulated to a small group of advisors, guides, and nature educators before a final version 1 is completed. This document guides development of future trainings.

The training model takes shape as a weeklong intensive followed by a six-month mentored practicum. ANFT continues to be subsidized by Amos’ investments of profits from Center for Restorative Process, while working toward becoming self-sustaining. Three additional cohorts are trained:
California (Cohort 2): Training team is Amos Clifford and Maria Buitenhuis.
Morton Arboretum (Cohort 3): Training team is Amos Clifford and Maria Buitenhuis.
North Carolina (Cohort 4): Training team is Amos Clifford and Maria Buitenhuis, assisted by David Kendall. Future trainers who attended this event include Carolynne Crawley and Nadine Mazzola.
Amos develops a training and certification program for Spas, in which staff can earn “Place-Based Forest Bathing Facilitator” status. The program is piloted at L’Auberge de Sedona, in Sedona Arizona. Maria asks for, and Amos agrees to give her, the honorary title of “Co-Founder.” Although she was not actually involved in founding the organization, as a part-time independent contractor she made significant contributions during a transitional year.

The second version of the training manual is created, written and edited by Amos and Maria.An extended practicum program is developed and managed by Maria Buitenhuis, an Independent Contractor. A growing group of mentors and trainers are formed.ANFT income reaches 70% of operating costs, with the balance invested by Amos from profits from Center for Restorative Process. Amos is invited to give keynote presentation at a Forest Medicine Conference in Belgrade, Serbia. Maria Buitenhuis changes name to Sky Buitenhuis and returns to her homeland, Ireland. Sara Ahmadi joins the organization as Operations Manager.
Cohorts trained in 2016 include:
California (Cohort 5): Amos Clifford and Ben Page, trainers; Megan Boswell and Joshua Silva, assistants.
Massachusetts (Cohort 6): Amos Clifford, trainer; Ben Porchuk and Nadine Mazzola, Assistants. Future trainers at this event include Stana Luxford-Oddie and Christy Thomson.
Ireland (Cohort 7): Training team is Amos Clifford and Sky Buitenhuis, assisted by Shirley Gleeson. Future trainers at this event include Alex Gesse, Geeta Stillwell, and Isabel Verdauger-Foz.
Ontario (Cohort 8): Training team is Amos Clifford and Sky Buitenhuis, assisted by Carolynne Crawley, Nadine Mazzola, and Ben Porchuk.
New Zealand (Cohort 9): Training team is Amos Clifford, assisted by Nicole Daspit and Vicky Kyan.

Advisor John Hendee passes away due to an illness. Advisor Pamela Wirth is joined by Mary Doan and Joann Hoffman. Advisor Latifat Apitira, MD, reviews Standards and Scope of Practice; Amos makes (mostly minor) revisions based on Dr. Apitira's suggestions and his own field experience gained since the first version. The third version of A Guide’s Handbook of Forest Therapy is written by Amos Clifford. A supplementary publication, “Readings in Forest Therapy,” collects contributions from other guides. Amos also writes second version of the practicum curriculum. Earned income becomes sufficient to fund core ANFT training and membership operations. Until now, ANFT has been led by Amos Clifford, but in the second half of 2017 a transition was made to a shared leadership management structure.

Management team includes Nadine Mazzola (Massachusetts), Carolynne Crawley (Ontario Canada), Ben Page (Los Angeles), Alex Gesse (Barcelona, Spain) and Sara Ahmadi (Home office).A delegation of five representatives of ANFT travels to Japan for a three-week study tour, during which they are guided by Japanese Forest Therapy guides, visit Certified Forest Therapy Centers, and meet with one of the top Forest Therapy research teams. Members include Amos Clifford, Michael Stusser, Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Jamie Trost, and Michele Lott.Cohorts trained in 2017 include:
California (April, Cohort 10): Amos Clifford and Carolynne Crawley, trainers; Stana Luxford-Oddie, Christie Thompson, and Caitlin Williams, assistants.
Morton Arboretum (Cohort 11): Ben Page and Amos Clifford, assisted by Brenda Spitzer and Ronna Schneberger.
France (Cohort 12): Sky Buitenhuis and Amos Clifford, trainers; Alex Gesse (Spain) and Geeta Stillwell (Portugal), assistants.
Massachusetts (June, Cohort 13): Amos Clifford and Nadine Mazzola, trainers;  Christy Thompson, Deborah Denome and Jennifer Salkin, Assistants.
British Columbia (Cohort 14): Sky Buitenhuis and Carolynne Crawley, trainers; Ronna Schneberger, Assistant and Safety Officer; and Phil Keebler, Assistant.Massachusetts (July, Cohort 15): Carolynne Crawley and Nadine Mazzola, trainers. Julie Daugherty and Kelsea Anderson assistants.  The third edition of the Guide’s Manual and the second edition of the Practicum curriculum are introduced at this training.
Ottawa (Cohort 17): Ben Page and Carolynne Crawley, trainers; assisted by Stana Luxford-Oddie, Kelsea Anderson and Bernadette Rey.
California (July, Cohort 16): Ben Page and Nicole Daspit, trainers; assisted by Chris Brandt and Julie Hepp.
Australia (Cohort 18): Ben Page and Carolynne Crawley, trainers; assisted by Alex Gesse (Spain), Susan Joachim (Australia), Vicky Kyan (New Zealand), and Jane West (Colorado).We have now trained close to 300 guides, who are guiding Forest Therapy in 18 nations and five continents.

Costa Rica (Cohort 19): Ben Page, trainer, Alex Gesse Apprentice Trainer, Geeta Stillwell (Portugal) and Andreas Prazmoski (Canada) assistants. Alex Gesse promoted to trainer at the end of this event. Trainees include residents of Costa Rica and Urugua, the first trained Forest Therapy Guides in those countries.
Florida (Cohort 20): Carolynne Crawley and Ronna Schneberger trainers; Gregg Berman, Clare Kelley, and Lucy Hegenstaller Assistants.  Ronna Schneberger initated as Trainer.
Presentation by Amos Clifford at International Forest Therapy Symposium, Tokyo Japan. Symposium attendance includes five ANFT-Certified Guides or Guides-in-Training (Amos, Annabel, Bernadette, Julia, Susan).
Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature
by M. Amos Clifford is released April 22 by Conari Press.
Ottawa (Cohort 21): Carolyn Crawley and Ronna Schneberger Trainers, Stana Luxford-Oddie Apprentice, Tam Wylie Assistant.
(Cohort 22):  Ben Page and Nadine Mazzola Trainers, Vicky Kyan Apprentice, Jackie Kuang Assistant
Ottawa (Cohort 23): Stana Luxford-Oddie promoted to trainer, Amos Clifford trainer. Jeff Brogan and Andrea Pazmoski Assistants.

Additional trainings are scheduled for California, North Carolina, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK. We anticipate that five additional guides will complete the path to becoming trainers.

A European Gathering of Guides is scheduled in July, to be held in Croatia.

Stay tuned for updates as this history continues to unfold.