Introduction: The History, Mission and Vision of ANFT

Mission and Vision

The historical mission of the Association of Nature andForest Therapy, written in 2014, was to “embed Forest Therapy in the existing healthcare system.” After five years of training guides, we saw incredible progress towards this goal, but also realized the importance of widening the scope of our mission to include more active work in the global leadership of this emerging field.

Drafted in April 2019, the current mission of theAssociation of Nature and Forest Therapy is “to promote the practice of ForestTherapy and create professional pathways for guides. This vision includes providing training and mentoring, providing post certification resources,promoting the practice at conferences and events, and working with national and international partners to make Forest Therapy an established and sought-after practice. We hope that these efforts will eventually lead to the professionalization of the practice and allow guides to pursue full-time work in the field of Forest Therapy. 

ANFT Values

Human communities, like forests, thrive on diversity.
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs is committed to creating and sustaining a welcoming, equitable, and inclusive environment for new guides, participants and contributors from all cultures and backgrounds. We strive to be a place of belonging for all people interested in cultivating healthy relationships within human communities and with the More-Than-Human world.

The health of all beings is interconnected.

ForestTherapy is principally a practice of cultivating relationship and reciprocity.The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy values the incredible number of pro-environmental and pro-social benefits that can arise when people become connected to and more aware of their relationship with nature. These benefits are not confined to the world of humans; they extend in service of the health and wellbeing of the entire biosphere.  

ANFT’s Founding History

The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides andPrograms was founded by M. Amos Clifford in 2012. In the concluding chapter of his book, Your Guide to Forest Bathing, Amos writes: 

“So what should we make of forest bathing?Specifically, what is the reason for its emergence in these times? We see it developing in many countries, in many forms. This is the sign of what I call an‘Earth Dreaming.’ Somehow the Earth is dreaming this work into being, spreading it like seeds of a dandelion. Many of these seeds are taking root. What is its purpose in calling us back to the forest?” [3] 

After a long and diverse career that included experience asa psychotherapist, Zen practitioner, and wilderness guide, Amos entered his elder years with a question: “How can I best be of service in this next phase of my life?” Motivated by a conviction that the presently unfolding human-caused global environmental catastrophe is rooted in humankind’s alienation from nature, this question evolved into something more specific:“What can I do to bring as many people as possible into a meaningful relationship with the More-Than-Human World?”  

When Amos encountered descriptions of the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, and related research, he was energized by the idea of mobilizing the health care system to connect people with nature. Reasoning that health care referrers would be most likely to do this if there were trained competent guides available, he resolved to build a global network of trained and certified guides. From the beginning, he visualized this as a collaborative project that would eventually involve a global network of guides. Thus, theAssociation was born.  

Reflecting on the founding the Association, Amos said, “I liken the process by which the Association was born as a weaving together of the strands of my past professional experience into the rope that is now Forest Therapy as it is taught by ANFT. I consider it my career capstone. Certainly, it is the only project I’ve ever worked on that feels completely and unreservedly like an expression of my authentic self.  Simultaneously, [I feel] it is a dreaming of the Earth, much bigger than anything that I could conceive of on my own. Much of the preliminary research, so to speak, happened during a series of three vision fasts, two solo and one in the company of a group of men with whom I was sharing a year-long soul initiation, that together took place in a span of less than two years.”  

Inspired by contributions from Jungian psychology, depth ecology, and vision fast pedagogy, Amos and several others developed the foundational ideas of the Standard Sequence, Language of Invitation, andWay of the Guide. He began training guides in 2014, and since then ANFT’s team of trainers and mentors has trained and certified more than 800 guides in 48 countries (as of the publishing of this edition). 

The historical vision of the Association was to embed ForestTherapy practices into the global healthcare system. When it began, we set our sights on providing a groundbreaking training model that would support this mission, and what we have learned is that the potential for this work is far greater than originally expected. While we have found incredible success in striving to actualize our historical vision, we have also come to redefine our mission in light of the rapid development in the field of Forest Therapy.