Forest Therapy Guide Certification Form
Congratulations on completing your journey to become a Certified Forest Therapy Guide! The final step to process your certification is to complete this form. This provides the information necessary to list you on the Guide Locator Map. Please provide only information that you would like to share with the public in the first section. In the second section you will provide additional information for FTI records and communications that will not be shared with the public.
Completion of this form is mandatory for processing your certification. You should receive your physical certificate within 4-6 weeks of completing this form.
Standards and Scope of Practice for
Certified Forest Therapy Guides
Version: August 9, 2017 © Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs
These standards are the foundation of the certification process established by the Association of Nature
and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. Their intent is to assure and protect the integrity of services and programs offered by ANFT-trained guides, to protect the well-being of participants, and to inspire the confidence of health care providers.
Certification requires meeting the baseline (or better) level for competency in every standard.
Six Functional Domains Addressed by These Standards
The standards are organized under the six domains listed here, which are the broad categories of
competence required of guides:
2. Guide Competency
3. Nature and Forest Therapy Expertise
4. Bioregional Nature Competency
5. Skillful in Appropriate Pedagogy
1.1. Ethical: Forest Therapy Guides are committed to high standards of ethics in their
interactions with people and the more-than-human world.
1.2. Connected to the Practice: They continually work toward greater personal embodiment of
their fundamental capacity to live in their passions and skills. They choose this work because
it is true to their calling.
1.3. Mindful, Present: Significant experience with a mindfulness or embodiment practice
through which an awareness of internal process has been cultivated.
1.4. Nature Connected: A Forest Therapy Guide operates at a level of awareness, competency,
and knowledge about the trail and how to be in nature that is significantly greater than that
of typical participants. Teaches and models appropriate behaviors toward nature based on
respectful relationships, wild-tending, and non-harming.
1.5. People Connected: Greets participants, sets them at ease, and is attentive to individual and
group needs. Encourages cultivation of ease, connection and friendships among
1.6. Community Connected: Guides operate within a network of respectful relationships with
stakeholder groups in the community; including land use managers, other nature
connection and education organizations, local businesses, educational institutions, health
care organizations, philanthropic organizations, civic organizations, and local government.
Community connection also includes participating in the community of forest therapy and
shinrin-yoku guides and leaders, and others who are working together to develop and
expand the effectiveness of nature connection strategies in general.
1.7. Welcoming: Guides offer a deep hospitality that honors the unique qualities of each person.
They honor the fact that among participants there are many life paths and experiences,
perspectives, ways of using language, ethnic and gender identities, levels of education,
religious and spiritual orientations, income, political leanings, and so on. Within the bounds
of what is safe and supportive of the group experience, this hospitality applies also to
different levels of physical ability or disability, and to a spectrum of mental health
conditions. Guides look for opportunities to include diverse perspectives as ways of
enriching the experience of all participants.
1.8. Presentation: Dresses, acts, and speaks in a manner becoming of a professional guide and
ambassador for the practice of Forest Therapy.
1.9. Grounded Approach to Business: Guides operate within a legitimate business framework
including use of appropriate and required licensing, permitting, permissions, insurance
requirements, contracting, accounting, and truthful advertising.
1.10. Commitment to Continued Growth: Stays current in developments in knowledge and skills
related to forest therapy, through reading relevant books and professional journals,
participating in ongoing continuing education, and cultivating dialogue and inquiry within
the community of guides.
2. Guide Competency
2.1. Works within the framework of the Association’s “Standard Sequence” for guided Forest
2.2. Understands and can facilitate the core functions of a Forest Therapy Guide, including:
slowing down; calling attention to place; calling attention to embodiment; calling attention
to senses; facilitating sharing; and bearing witness.
2.3. Is aware of, and can recognize experiencing of, at least 10 of the 14 senses, as taught by
2.4. Can evaluate and choose appropriate trails using the criteria established by ANFT.
2.5. Understands the concept of “edges,” tracks participants’ edges, and chooses or modifies
forest bathing invitations that are the “right edge” for the circumstances.
2.6. Is aware of and intentionally incorporates specific senses when crafting invitations.
2.7. Can evaluate new invitations to determine if they meet the criteria for Forest Therapy
invitations as defined by ANFT.
2.8. Sequences invitations to steadily build trust, mutual support, and positive experience within
2.9. Modifies invitations to match circumstances.
3. Science, Research, and Theory
3.1. Has a solid understanding of the research related to health and other benefits of spending
time in nature and forests in particular.
3.2. May combine science-based approaches with other approaches, but with clear awareness of
when so doing, and taking care to accurately represent the evidence, or lack of it, for
efficacy of any given practice. Differentiates between benefits that are empirically
established through scientific method, and benefits that are supported more by anecdotal
or other forms of evidence.
3.3. Understands the concept of liminality and why it is important in the context of Forest
3.4. Understands the Scope of Practice as described in this document.
3.5. Works within the boundaries of the Way of the Guide as taught by ANFT, embodying the
motto, “The forest is the therapist, the guide opens the doors.”
3.6. Understands the Association’s framework of “story,” specifically as it relates to relationships
between humans and the more-than-human-world, and to interspecies communication and
sentience of non-humans.
4. Personal Relationships with Nature and the More-than-Human World
4.1. Maintains a personal sit spot practice at least once per week.
4.2. Aware of the diverse tree, animal, plant, insect, reptile, and other species that are present,
even if they cannot name each one.
4.3. Can map a web of interbeing including at least 18 species or entities found at Sit Spot and/or
on the guide’s main working trail; includes self on the map as one of the beings in the web.
4.4. Has cultivated relationships with at least six plants that can be harvested along the trail or in
the region and used with 110% confidence in tea ceremony.
4.5. Has basic knowledge of the history of local indigenous peoples, their culture, their past and
current relationships to the land.
5. Appropriate Forest Therapy Pedagogy
Guides know how to engage participants in invitations that increase their awareness of, and
connection to, self and nature. In forest therapy guides de-emphasize nature education and
emphasize nature connection.
5.1. Gives good, clear, brief presentations about the origins and rationale for the practice we call
Forest Therapy, that is also known as shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.
5.2. Understands the rationale for giving “invitations” instead of “assignments,” “exercises,” or
other ways of naming what happens during guided walks.
5.3. Understands and knows how to use specific language (The Language of Invitation) to
support the experience of forest therapy.
5.4. Chooses invitations that use the senses to connect directly with nature in a way that
preferentially emphasizes embodiment, reciprocity, and communication, over acquisition of
5.5. Avoids embedding outcome-oriented agendas within invitations, trusting that the forest and
the participant will together create the experience that is right for the participant.
5.6. Can improvise modifications to invitations, and create new invitations, in present-moment
5.7. Knows how, when, and why to facilitate “light touch” council circles, and does so
consistently when guiding forest therapy walks.
5.8. Balances proportion of time spent directing invitations that help people establish
connectedness, and making space for less-directed time in which people can explore and
deepen connections on their own, in their own ways.
6. Safe Guiding Practices
Guides have wisdom about how to provide consistently safe and health-enhancing experiences. They
orient participants to possible hazards in a way that raises awareness but not undue anxiety, and are
unobtrusively vigilant without being over-protective.
6.1. Identifies and teaches participants to recognize hazardous plant species that may be
encountered during guided walks.
6.2. Identifies other hazardous species: mammal, insect, reptile; and strategies to safely avoid or
interact with them.
6.3. Identifies potentially hazardous conditions along the trail(s) used, and strategies to safely
avoid or navigate around them.
6.4. Gives advice on how to minimize risk of harmful contact with hazardous beings.
6.5. Aware of hazards posed by water and make invitations to interact with water only when and
where it is safe to do so.
6.6. Gathers necessary information to be aware of health care challenges that participants face,
and manages activities to be responsive to the needs of participants. E.g. Informed about
participant’s allergies or health conditions that may affect walk. Know which participants
carry Epi pens, nitroglycerine, or other critical fast-acting medications.
6.7. Modifies itinerary as needed to compensate for limitations in fitness and agility of
participants. For example, chooses a shorter route for obese walkers, avoids tricky stream
crossings (or provides adequate assistance) for elderly or disabled; provides folding chairs
for persons, play/dirt time for children.
6.8. Intervenes assertively and effectively when required to manage potentially hazardous
situations and emergencies.
6.9. Exercises judgment and cancels or postpones events when hazardously adverse weather or
other conditions exist.
6.10. Uses a registration process that gathers information so that participants can be contacted in
advance if the walk must be cancelled due to weather hazards or for other reasons.
6.11. Holds a current Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certificate;
renews as needed to keep certificate valid without lapsing.
6.12. Carries a first aid kit while guiding; keeps kit stocked and promptly resupplies after using any
6.13. Knows with absolute certainty local plant species that can be safely foraged for making tea,
and how to brew and serve tea in a way that is safe for all participants.
6.14. Familiar with trails and the areas in which they operate, including alternative routes of
ingress/egress to use in emergency situations, and locations from which it is possible to
communicate with emergency response providers.
*These are the standards set forth by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. They are
subject to periodic review and revision.
Scope of Practice: What is a Forest Therapy Guide?
The forest is the therapist. The guide opens the doors.
The primary goal of Forest Therapy is to support the wellness and health of participants through guided immersive experiences in forests and other natural settings. 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. They begin with guided sensory attention and embodiment activities that establish 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.
Guides are not therapists. Support for wellness, personal development, and perhaps healing comes to participants from their interaction with natural environments. Guided activities have as their sole aim creating and sustaining safe, meaningful, and relational contact between participants and nature. Guides do not diagnose participants, nor do they enter into agreements with participants about specific complaints and goals for wellness. Apart from simply helping people to connect with nature, guides aim
to be agenda-free. We view the healing contract, if any, as existing between the forest and the participant.
Guided walks are structured in three stages, known as connection, liminal space/time, and incorporation. The first stage (connection) uses sensory connection to shift awareness away from ordinary preoccupations, primarily characterized by thinking. We use connective invitations that mobilize the power of the senses. Senses give a steady stream of input from here and now—the present moment and present place.
When participants become connected to present moment and place, they enter the second stage: liminal space and time. “Liminal” means “in-between,” specifically the span of time and experience that is in between the ordinary experience before and after the walk. This is typically characterized by a state that is comparable to walking mindfulness meditation. In liminality, there is a heightened potency in the ways we are in communication with the world around us.
The liminal stage of the experience persists until the incorporation phase is signaled by gathering as a group to share tea. Completion of the tea ceremony marks departure from liminal time and re-entry into ordinary life(1).
Over the course of a guided walk, invitations are given to continually return to the senses. The practice of Forest Therapy clearly prioritizes sensory experience over intellectual experience. From the beginning of the walk until the tea ceremony at its conclusion, guides are alert for, and work to prevent, shifting into discursive and intellectual forms of experience. Unlike more familiar approaches to nature education, Forest Therapy Guides are not primarily concerned with imparting naturalist knowledge.
However, as a matter of professional responsibility Guides continuously cultivate their own knowledge about nature and about the bioregions and ecosystems in which they operate, and use this knowledge to enhance connective experiences as appropriate. Nurturing curiosity and asking good questions is emphasized over imparting factual expertise.
Forest Therapy works within the satoyama zone, where people and nature meet (sato= “cultivated land”, yama= “mountain”). City parks, gardens, arboretums, and natural settings near cities are typical of the locations used. We operate within the philosophy of mindfulness practice. Walks often also include place tending (collecting trash, being aware of trampling etc.).
On Forest Therapy walks, people have a wide range of experiences, some of which they feel are significant, even profound. Guides are open to, and supportive of, participants’ descriptions of the experiences they have and the meanings they find in them. It is outside the Guide’s Scope of Practice to evaluate if these experiences are valid, right or wrong, or better or worse in comparison to the experience of others.
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 coaching, expressive arts, mindfulness meditation, 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 the Facebook group maintained by the Association.
Guided Forest Therapy helps participants build their own skills. It helps them build their capacity for confidence, ease, and mindfulness in self-guided solo or group walks that support a healthy lifestyle and love of natural environments. Thus, we contribute to the movement to reconnect people with nature, for the sake of their own well-being as well as the well-being of the natural world.
The terms “Forest Therapy” and “Forest Therapist” are registered trademarks in Japan. The terms “Nature Therapy” and “Nature Therapist” are registered trademarks in Israel. Guides trained by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy should be sensitive to the intellectual property rights of the organizations that own these trademarks. We advise guides to identify as “Forest Therapy Guide,” and to be explicit that the certification is from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and
The Japanese system, standards, and qualification process have inspired our own, but we explicitly state that our system is different than theirs, as it should be, given the differences in cultures and in natural environments. Our approach focuses more holistically on developing relationships with the more-than-human world, and uses an expanded palette of senses and sensory connection activities to support this. Thus, the information on this page is for background and comparison purposes.
The following information is quoted from “An Introduction to the Forest Therapy Society of Japan, Forest Therapy®, and Forest Therapist®”, my Michiko Imai (2). The discussion of what a Forest Therapist does, and what their qualifications are, are highly recommended reading for all guides. Some excerpts include:
“…someone who knows the area well and from whom (participants) can obtain advice on appropriate walking speeds, on what actions should be done in which place to fully engage all five senses and on how their time should be divided between walking and sitting or lying on their backs looking at the trees. If users were to be unnecessarily fixated on the weather, or perhaps become overly concerned about the next stage in the process, they could unwittingly increase their stress levels.”
“Successful candidates are required to understand the environmental science of the forest and the scientifically-proven physiological effects of ‘forest bathing,’ and to understand how forest users need to behave in order to receive these benefits.”
“Users of a Forest Therapy Guide’s services would be those who wish to improve their quality of life by learning exercises and patterns of behavior appropriate for their age, or those who wish to combine the effects of forest therapy with the other forms of health resort and tourism available to them.”
The Japanese system differentiates between Forest Guides and Forest Therapists. The standards in this document are more aligned with the Japanese qualification for Guides, than for Therapists. To be a candidate for Therapist a person must be a registered nurse or have a similar level of medical training. Here is an important part of the description for Therapist.
“Users of a Forest Therapist’s services would be those who wish to add forest effects to existing medical treatments, or those who wish to improve their quality of life by alleviating mental and physical disorders and chronic diseases, lessening the effects of aging, or easing other injuries…however, no direct medical treatments are allowed by either Forest Guides or Forest Therapists without the guidance of a physician.”
The Association’s certification programs will expand to include additional levels of certification for more in-depth nature connection practices. These expanded programs may have elements that more closely aligned with the Japanese Forest Therapist designation, but will likely have a broader nature focus than exclusively forest environments.
1. These matters are discussed in greater detail in the paper, “The Role of the Guide in Forest Therapy” by M. Amos Clifford, available from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs.
2. Imai, Michiko: “An Introduction to the Forest Therapy Society of Japan, Forest Therapy®, and Forest Therapist® inQing Li (ed.) Forest Medicine. Nova Biomedical, NY, 2013.