Forest Bathing is a global trend! Consistent media interest has created widespread awareness of the practice and in the coming years, we are likely to see the number of guides and training organizations continue to grow. With this rising trend, new opportunities for guides are emerging in all sectors of society and we are experiencing an exciting time abundant with possibilities for the profession of forest therapy guide.
However, as with any fast-emerging trend in the open market, challenges can also arise when providers of the same services operate in the same region.
There has been much discussion among guides, mentors and trainers about meeting the challenges of a growing community in a way that encourages everyone to thrive and be successful. Through these conversations, a code of ethics and conduct has emerged, to assist us in navigating what can be a complex terrain of relationships.
Within the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, it is our intention to foster a welcoming, uplifting and resourceful network of like-minded practitioners and professional support. As guides, we have free choice to work independently or form collectives. Because of this, we can safely say that we are a community of both collaborators and competitors, or even that we engage in combinations of these approaches.
Whether we identify as a collaborator who prefers teams and collectives, an independent solo entrepreneur or anywhere in between, tending to our relationships is an essential practice that benefits the entire field. As we build healthy relationships with the forest, we can apply the same principles to our human relations in order to promote greater wellbeing in our world.
We offer the following guidelines as a reflection of many voices in our community, in the hope that they may be useful and beneficial.
ANFT Community Guidelines
For New Guides:
Reach out: We encourage you to introduce yourself to the guides in your area while you are still in practicum. Attend a guide gathering, meet for tea or invite them over for a potluck. Even if you don’t intend to work collaboratively,it is good practice to show respect for those who came before. ANFT guide and mentor Brenda Spitzer reports about a meeting with local guides, “It proved to be a great time to network, recognize and acknowledge our differences. We were able to openly share our ideas, concerns and plans for promoting and fostering all of our Forest Therapy walks in this area.”
- Choosing a trail: In the spirit of good neighborly relationships, here are some important things to consider:
o While guides don’t own the rights to claim a specific trail as theirs, sometimes a great deal of work and effort has gone into developing a trail. Please consider this if you are contemplating using the same trail.
o Find out from local guides who is guiding where and if another guide is using a specific trail that you’re interested in, it is good practice to check in with them.
- Public Relations: Most likely, the established guides in your area have invested much time and resources into developing relationships with organizations, media and land managers. These good relationships now make guiding in those places possible. Make sure to find a way to acknowledge and appreciate how their pioneering efforts have opened doors for the entire guide community.
- Respect Copyright: Always be sure to create your own marketing materials and participant emails. While the spirit of generosity runs strong among guides, only use other people’s materials with their express permission. Copyright applies!
- And finally: Once you’ve tended to your human relations ... trust your partnership with the More-Than-Human World of nature to guide you. As ANFT guide and trainer Vicky Kyan says, “I personally find it a really important part of my life as a guide to work with this as an overlighting principle and believe it’s the way forwards in regenerating culture, cultural repair and reconnection with the planet.”
For Established Guides
- Welcome the new guides: We encourage you to be a leader in community-building, whether you host gatherings or show your support by attending them. In the words of ANFT guide and trainer Manuela Siegfied, “Building community with fellow guides will only serve to make this practice grow stronger and faster, and of course sometimes another guide will be our direct competitor and that's ok. Working together to promote this practice will also make the demand for forest therapy grow. That means more work for all of us. Having more guides in the area can help us go for bigger projects, where more than one guide is required.”
- Encourage open communication around real issues at guide meetings. It is important to address things like competition and healthy boundaries as this will generate greater respect and cooperation with each other. ANFT practicum director Nadine, “Just because we name an 'elephant' doesn't mean we have to have a solution. Holding this truth jointly with other local guides helps us to consider each other.”
- Competition: Here’s what Amos Clifford says about competition: “Have you ever noticed that fast food restaurants from competing chains appear in clusters? This is because they have learned that being near each other increases business for everyone. My responsibility as a business owner is to determine what is my service, my style, my niche, who are my customers and keep working to position myself in a way that I can be successful. The more of us there are out there, the more we establish this practice as a viable profession.”
- Step into your power as guide: As we gain more and more guiding experience over time, we develop our individual style and preferences. We become naturally drawn to work with the people who resonate well with what we offer, and those who are served by our work, are drawn to be guided by us. Finding our people is the same as developing our niche and there are many marketing teachings available to help us grow a unique business and customer base.
- Conflict Resolution: If issues or even conflicts do arise, turn to one another for resolution. There is much experience, compassion and wisdom among your peers. It is beyond the scope of the ANFT admin staff to get involved with local conflicts.
- Collaboration: There are abundant exciting ways to work together with other certified ANFT guides. If you are offering or seeking collaboration at any level, we encourage everyone to reach out to other local guides, the Facebook group and ANFT membership to access the expertise and generous creative genius of the community of guides trained by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs!
With much appreciation to all who have contributed to this document:
Amanda Bond, Amos Clifford, Katarina Čuk, Nancy Kopans, Heidi Krieger, Jackie Kuang, Vicky Kyan, Nadine Mazzola, Kat Novotna, Ben Page, Andrea Prazmowski, Ronna Schneberger, Manuela Siegfried, Brenda Spitzer, Geeta Stilwell, Christy Thomson, Jane West, Tam Wiley, Pamela Wirth, Amanda Yik.