After a weeklong intensive, guides will begin a six-month mentored practicum. Within two weeks of arriving home, the practicum director will assign a mentor from ANFT’s mentoring team. The core intention of the practicum is to support guides to embody their knowledge and wisdom of guidingForest Therapy. It is one thing to know the technique at an intellectual level and quite another to feel it internally. Be patient with this process; it will not happen overnight and it cannot be rushed.
Even at the end of the six months, a guide’s journey will be just beginning. One of the most beautiful things about this learning process is that it truly never ends. We like to think of it as a spiral that deepens overtime. We tend to circle back to things we learned in the past, but now can view them with greater perspective and understanding. In this way, the practicum is meant to prepare guides for an even deeper process of learning, from the experience of guiding itself. Guides might imagine that their learning begins with their trainers. The trainer’s job is to teach guides the basics and give them a solid foundation. Then, learning continues with a mentor, who is there to challenge and help guides find their own pathways toward embodying the Way of the Guide.And finally, post-practicum, guides will continue to receive the wisdom and support of the community of guides, ANFT membership opportunities, the More-Than-HumanWorld, and their own heart and experience.
The Association’s pedagogy during the practicum may seem alien at first because we follow a student-centered approach to learning. Most of us went to traditional schools where the point of learning is to assimilate into one worldview: the teacher’s. Most people tend to think of educational experiences like a checklist. They think that just doing the assignments and getting good grades demonstrates their knowledge and their right to claim certification and a diploma at the end of the process. This is not how we operate. The point of the practicum is not to assess whether guides can complete the work. The point is to help guides become proficient at guidingForest Therapy walks in a way that honors their process and authentic style.
Learning, as ANFT understands it, is a self-directed process. The most profound answers to all questions rest within. It is the trainer’s and mentor’s role to push guides toward their heart’s inner wisdom.Knowing this, guides should anticipate confusion and cognitive dissonance as important parts of their learning journey. Cognitive dissonance is when a learner encounters a new idea that challenges an existing one. This results in some degree of discomfort as the learner struggles to restore harmony in their beliefs, attitudes, and perspectives on the world. This process of restoring balance is often where the most fruitful introspective learning can occur. As guides become self-directed in their own educational process, they will become more aware of how their actions and beliefs may or may not be in alignment.This allows guides to see themselves and the path ahead of them more clearly.
Guides may find at times that the assignments are not helping them deepen into their process. If this is the case, then it is the guide’s job to find a way to satisfy that requirement in a way that does help them deepen their process. There is no point in doing busy work. Guides should propose how they would like to rework things to better suit their learning style and follow the learning that interests them. They should work with their mentors to fulfill the three objectives of the practicum:
Sometimes guides may need help getting over something they didn’t anticipate. A guide may have difficulty, for instance, when people don’t do the invitation as presented. Remember, as guides, we do not force people todo anything, and that it is, in fact, a good sign when someone feels free enough to engage their relationship with the Forest in a spontaneous way.Guides must understand that this edge is really about a desire for order and control. To better understand how a participant can feel like this, a guide could go on some sort of guided experience and very consciously not do as instructed, but follow their deepest desires in each moment. This is not an assignment in the practicum, but it serves to help guides trust and understand the power of self-direction. This is just one example of how a guide might find ways to consciously lean into their own edges and find a way to move beyond fear and desire for a specific outcome.
A guide may be accustomed to learning environments where they can simply ask the teacher, the “expert”, for the correct answer to a question. Here, they will not have that luxury. This does not mean they are alone. Trainers and mentors will support growth and may share their perspective and understanding but this does not mean it is dogma or truth. It is a Story the Forest, and when we hold stories loosely, we find that meaning arises from the prism of experience. A guide’s understanding of Forest Therapy will continually unfold so long as they are curious and not attached to arriving at a point of perfect understanding. This is the pleasure of the learning experience that never ends.
During the practicum, guides should anticipate spending about 4-8 hours per week on coursework and planning practicum walks. Some of this will be time at a sit spot and deepening the relationship to the More-Than-HumanWorld. It will not all be spent with a pen in hand or at a computer. It is highly recommended guides keep up with coursework and not fall too far behind.Doing so can not only make the learning process feel stressful but also tends to decrease the quality of the learning. Understanding of the core concepts will deepen with each month’s coursework. Allow it to unfold slowly and gently,and it will be both more profound and more enjoyable.
Guides should expect to receive a total of 15 hours of call time during their practicum. That amount is divided between one-on-one calls with a mentor, with their small group (POD), and their whole cohort. Your one-on-one calls will be 45-minutes long and will be scheduled around practicum walks so that guides and their mentors can delve into the experience and pinpoint specific aspects of the guides’ facilitation that can be improved. These calls are very important and are required for certification. Guides will also have six 90-minute calls with their PODs, one in each month of the practicum, that are also required for certification. More specifics on the practicum format,timeline, and the assignments can be found in the Practicum Manual, which comprises the second half of this handbook.