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E-Thesis 262 views

An ethnographic examination of the experience of ecotherapy as an intervention for mental health in South and West Wales / Ed Lord

Swansea University Author: Ed Lord

  • E-Thesis – open access under embargo until: 1st August 2023

DOI (Published version): 10.23889/suthesis.057768

Abstract

This thesis uses ethnographic methods to explore the experiences of people in South and West Wales doing ecotherapy activities. Ecotherapy describes a variety of outdoor nature-based activities intended to improve individual and population health and wellbeing. The expected outcomes of ecotherapy ar...

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Published: Swansea Swansea University 2021
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
Supervisor: Coffey, Michael ; Ward, Michael
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa57768
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Abstract: This thesis uses ethnographic methods to explore the experiences of people in South and West Wales doing ecotherapy activities. Ecotherapy describes a variety of outdoor nature-based activities intended to improve individual and population health and wellbeing. The expected outcomes of ecotherapy are contested, and there is a widespread focus on how to measure nature exposure or test particular psychological or biological pathways and mechanisms. I argue that this reductionist reification of ecotherapy outcomes leads to a lack of critical attention to the myriad irreducible experiences of people currently taking part in ecotherapy groups in particular places.Ethnographic methods, including participant observation, interviews, and documentary analysis, are deployed to examine four ecotherapy projects in South and West Wales. These projects are indicative of the variation of ecotherapy in the region and include two woodland based groups, a sustainability skills organisation, and a coastal trail running group.Findings are presented in three chapters. First - “How bureaucratic systems as ‘smooth flows’ and ‘striated events’ shape participant’s experience of ecotherapy.” - examines the bureaucratic practices in use by the different projects. I suggest the ways in which the ‘natural’ spaces are produced as therapeutic is informed by how these practices are deployed on a continuum between ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’. Second – “The expression of multiple notions of ‘escape’ and ‘getting away’ as a frame to ecotherapy” - in which the natural spaces are operationalised as restorative and energising resources by some and as protective and safe refuges by others. In the final findings chapter – “People, place & agency: A typology of orientations to ecotherapy” - I use my analysis of the fieldwork data to generate a tentative four-part typology of participant orientations towards ecotherapy.My analysis indicates that a greater emphasis is needed on the multiple ways in which spaces are produced as therapeutic by individuals and groups who are already negotiating a complex intersection of environmental, health, and organisational challenges. This original contribution shows that there are conflicting rationalities at play in ecotherapy which are being resisted and reproduced in ways not captured by other potentially reductionist and reifying approaches commonly applied to this field of research.
Item Description: ORCiD identifier https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5740-2081
Keywords: Mental Health, Ecotherapy, Ethnography, Assets, Recovery, Nature, Lifestyle Intervention.
College: College of Human and Health Sciences