What is Certified Forest Therapy Guide Training?
This six-month training begins with a week-long immersion, which is followed by a field practicum consisting of a series of structured assignments completed over a series of six months. During the practicum trainees are supported by mentoring via phone or Skype and by monthly group conference calls with other participants in their cohort. Completion of a detailed curriculum is required for certification as a Certified Forest Therapy Guide (CFTG).
The Association's Forest Therapy Guide training draws on the latest medical research, new developments in the field of nature connection, and ancient traditions of mindfulness and wellness promotion. In this training you will learn skills that are applicable in any forest ecosystem or bioregion. They can be adapted to other natural settings besides forests, and are also effective in human-built environments such as city parks and botanic gardens. They can be readily integrated with health promotion, psychotherapy, social work, recreation, nature education, employee wellness programs, conservation efforts and many other specialties.
A Forest Therapy Guide facilitates safe gentle walks, providing instructions — referred to as “invitations” — for sensory opening activities along the way. These walks follow a standard sequence. Each walk begins with establishing embodied contact with the present moment and place. Next come a series of connective invitations, often improvised in the moment and adapted to the needs of participants. These may be followed by wander time and/or sit spot. The walks end with a ceremony of sharing tea made from foraged local plants.
Forest therapy walks are not hikes in the traditional sense. An entire walk is typically 2 to 4 hours in duration and often covers no more than a quarter mile distance. In that short distance most people experience contact with nature in a much deeper way than they ever have prior to the walk. On Forest Therapy walks, people have a wide range of experiences, some of which they feel are significant, even profound. Guides are trained in the skills and perspectives needed to be supportive witnesses of these experiences.
During these walks people experience the therapeutic power of the forest. The forest itself is the therapist. We don't train therapists; we train guides. By slowing people down and facilitating sensory experiencing, guides open the doorways through which the forest can accomplish its healing work.The practice of Forest Therapy clearly prioritizes sensory experience over intellectual understanding. Unlike more familiar approaches to nature education, Forest Therapy Guides are not primarily concerned with imparting naturalist knowledge. Nurturing curiosity and asking good questions is emphasized over imparting factual expertise.
"And I emerge from the woods, heart fuller and spirit more open than ever before. Thank you, Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, for opening the door. What an incredible time with incredible people. The true journey as a guide begins now. Who's down for some forest therapy?"
-posted to the Forest Therapy Guide Facebook group after the conclusion of a week-long intensive