Guide Training Overview
Join the World's Leading Certification Program in Forest Therapy
What is a Certified Forest Therapy Guide?
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.
We have trained more guides in more countries on more continents than any other forest therapy organization. Simply put, we are the most experienced and the best at what we do.
Our acclaimed certification course is six months in duration. It begins with an on-site, week-long intensive. The intensive is followed by a six-month practicum that you complete from home, guided by a curriculum and supported by one of our expert mentors. These trainings fill up quickly, and often far in advance. We encourage you to apply early.
What You Will Learn:
- The Standard Sequence of Guided Forest Therapy Walks
- Competency standards: what a Forest Therapy Guide should know and be able to do
- The pedagogy and fundamentals of nature connection mentoring
- Nature and forest therapy research and knowledge
- Our framework for the Way of the Guide, wisdom on the inner aspects of the art gained through decades of experience
- Accelerating connection to deep mindfulness through simple sensory invitations
- Trail awarenesses and safety
- Group process skills that promote interactive learning
- Sequencing forest therapy invitations for maximum impact and benefit
- Core routines of nature connection
- Expressive arts activities for forest therapy
- Somatic techniques for embodied awareness
- Tips for successfully promoting your forest therapy offerings
During a guided forest therapy walk, people experience the therapeutic power of the forest. The forest itself is the therapist. We don't train therapists; we train guides.
We help people slow down, notice where they are and what is around them, and make contact with the forest and with themselves through attention to their senses. This is how 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.
When guides have developed baseline proficiency in the practice of Forest Therapy, they may begin to integrate Forest Therapy practices with other professional skills sets. For example, Forest Therapy can provide an excellent context for psychotherapy, professional life coaching, expressive arts, mindfulness meditation, PTSD recovery, and many more fields of professional endeavor. Individual guides bring their creativity and experience to the design of new and/or modified invitations, and are encouraged to share these with other guides via a private guides-only online forum maintained by the Association.
The Pathway to Training and Certification
Our Forest Therapy Guide Trainings begin with a 7-day intensive residential program held at a campground or retreat center. This is followed by a six-month mentored practicum consisting that builds your skills and confidence as a Forest Therapy Guide. Candidates who complete all steps of the training and certification process, and have demonstrated competency in all of the certification standards, will earn the status of Certified Forest Therapy Guide.
Beyond this, many participants report that this training profoundly affects many aspects of their lives. We don't make any promises of personal transformation; our aim is to train competent guides. But there is something about how the training experience deeply re-connects people to nature and themselves that can indeed be transformative. Many people experience forest therapy, including the training, as a kind of "spiritual experience that is not called a spiritual experience." Perhaps you will also.
Note: Before you can be certified as a Forest Therapy Guide, you must possess a current Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certificate. This is obtained from third-party organizations like NOLS. The class is typically a two-day event that and costs $175-300 USD. Being able to respond to minor first-aid emergencies is a critically important skill for all Forest Therapy Guides!
Base tuition for Guide Training and Certification Programs in 2018 is $3410 USD. This includes the initial week-long intensive training and the six month mentored practicum. It does not include travel, lodging, ground transportation, or meals.