in search of squirrels

For people who feel an acute unease about the future of the planet, a small but growing number of psychotherapists now offer a treatment designed to reduce worries as well as carbon footprints: ecopsychology.

But ecopsychology can help patients come to terms with their feelings about the natural world, said Thomas Doherty, who teaches an introductory course to ecopsychology at the Graduate School of Education and Counseling at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

Dr. Doherty advises clients with global warming anxiety to recognize their concern about climate change and accept the limits of what they can control. He recommends “fasts” from shopping, the news and sending e-mail, while cultivating calmer pursuits like meditation or gardening.

Since she took Dr. Doherty’s ecopsychology class last fall, Angeline Tiamson, a graduate student earning a master’s degree in counseling at Lewis & Clark, has embarked on a new way of thinking.

When she is on campus, she drifts to the low, wide trunk of an old black walnut tree, a spot she found during a nature exercise for class.

She sits there for several minutes: no iPod, no cellphone, no laptop. She rubs her hand over the bark, and sniffs the empty shells left behind by squirrels.

“You can’t have a good relationship with anything if you are afraid or feel guilty,” Ms. Tiamson said. “You have to love it first.” New York Times, 16 Feb 2008