Q & A - Heather Lau­rence (EcoArts Wild)


Please share your past ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in ther­a­peu­tic roles along­side an­i­mals.

With over 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in a ther­a­peu­tic role, Heather has de­vel­oped her own meth­ods of work­ing with in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies which en­com­pass a mix­ture of ecopsy­chol­ogy, (a blend of eco and tra­di­tional sci­ence-based the­o­ries).. and a mix­ture of creative ac­tiv­i­ties, na­ture, and her beloved an­i­mals. to help peo­ple gain the most from wher­ever they find them­selves.

Set­ting up a small or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2002, North East Ponies as Ther­apy (NEPAT) be­gan her work in teach­ing the re­con­nec­tion, with some amazing and fas­ci­nat­ing re­sults which she is more than happy to tell you about and show pho­tos of same.

Heather and her ponies went to schools, hos­pices, day ther­apy cen­tres, and hos­pi­tals.

NEPAT was a fre­quent vis­i­tor at lo­cal events and lo­cal au­thor­ity fun days, and Heather still trea­sures some of the art­works that she was gifted by some of the ser­vice users. Her own love of cre­ativ­ity and the arts be­ing preva­lent in her life since school days, a com­mis­sioned artist, a pub­lished author, and per­former (hav­ing ap­peared on stage and screen) she is more than aware of the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of the arts. Her own life ex­pe­ri­ences have gone a long way to­wards cre­at­ing an em­pa­thetic pro­fes­sional ther­a­pist who is pas­sion­ate about her work.

Heather also is a well-known and highly re­garded pro­fes­sional dog trainer and han­dler who has worked and trained over

4000 dogs, ed­u­cat­ing ev­ery­thing from pet pup­pies, and screen stars, to de­tec­tion dogs and ther­apy dogs, with all kinds of be­hav­ior is­sues in-be­tween, Her own de­tec­tion dog win­ning a com­men­da­tion from the PDSA for her work. and her own dogs be­ing ther­apy an­i­mals and who on one oc­ca­sion were smug­gled into a hospi­tal, (along with Heather and her now Hus­band) to give com­fort to a dy­ing girl whose only wish was to be with dogs one more time.

Her abil­ity to teach peo­ple to get the most from their re­la­tion­ship with their an­i­mals is the pin­na­cle of the struc­ture of the suc­cess­ful well-es­tab­lished busi­ness that she has run with her hus­band since 2010. Heather states “­i­mals give us such a lot back, they say such a lot, you just have to lis­ten, it doesn’t stop at an­i­mals, the whole planet talks to each and ev­ery liv­ing thing on it, but only hu­mans use the words we un­der­stand.”

How did you come to be­gin your PhD in Ap­plied Eco-Art Ther­apy and Ecopsy­chol­ogy and how is it go­ing?

This is where it gets a lit­tle com­pli­cated. I dis­cov­ered the work of Dr Michael J Co­hen, Ed.D., Ph.D. has spent his life since 1953 de­vel­op­ing the art of his hands on sci­ence, the Or­ganic Ap­pli­ca­tion of Ecopsy­chol­ogy.

“Na­ture is the best teacher we have, we need to spend more time get­ting to know na­ture in or­der to learn more about our­selves.”

His work gives a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into “How to cre­ate 54-sense mo­ments in nat­u­ral ar­eas that trans­form prob­lems into love.” His pro­grammes cover in depth “The Or­gan­ics of Ap­plied Ecopsy­chol­ogy in Ac­tion, Ed­u­cat­ing, Coun­selling and Heal­ing in Nat­u­ral Ar­eas”

I was de­lighted when I first be­gan to work with oth­ers who are fa­mil­iar with the work of Dr. Mike Co­hen, it was only when I dis­cov­ered his work that I re­al­ized that we have been do­ing things so far off track for so long, that most peo­ple have be­come so dis­con­nected from na­ture that they may as well have di­vorced it.

Dr Co­hen had put into words ex­actly what I knew to be in­nate. I also dis­cov­ered that he of­fers cour­ses in his work, so I en­rolled right away, signed up and be­ing ac­cepted for the PhD course. I worked along­side Mike and his team for over eigh­teen months, I was just about ready to be­gin my dis­ser­ta­tion, had even gone so far as sub­mit­ting a rough pro­posal when be­tween the team and I we re­al­ized that there was an ac­cred­i­ta­tion is­sue, the univer­sity they use are not ac­cred­ited, so it meant my PhD was not classed as vi­able.

This meant that I needed a re­think, and quickly, I am so pas­sion­ate about ecopsy­chol­ogy, that I wanted to con­tinue in the field. My only al­ter­na­tive was to find an­other univer­sity who would ac­cept my pro­posal, I have now en­rolled in a PhD with an Open Univer­sity who has al­lowed some credit trans­fer, and I am about to sub­mit a dis­ser­ta­tion pro­posal to them which will al­low me to en­com­pass a mar­riage of tra­di­tional, sci­ence-based psychology and ecopsy­chol­ogy.

Can you de­fine ecopsy­chol­ogy and eco-arts ther­apy? How do you com­bine the two at EcoArts Wild?

When we com­bine the prin­ci­ples of both ecoart(s) and ecopsy­chol­ogy and us­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment as an area to work, talk, lis­ten and learn we can achieve re­sults that speak for them­selves. Us­ing the nat­u­ral sys­tems think­ing process and ex­plor­ing our 54 senses un­til we dis­cover what be­comes self-ev­i­dent.


Ecopsy­chol­ogy stud­ies the re­la­tion­ship be­tween hu­man be­ings and the nat­u­ral world through eco­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples.

The field seeks to de­velop and un­der­stand ways of ex­pand­ing the emo­tional con­nec­tion be­tween in­di­vid­u­als and the nat­u­ral world, thereby as­sist­ing in­di­vid­u­als with de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able life­styles and rem­e­dy­ing alien­ation from na­ture.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests that many en­vi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing be­hav­iours are ad­dic­tive at some level, and thus are more ef­fec­tively ad­dressed through

pos­i­tive emo­tional ful­fill­ment rather than by in­flict­ing shame. Other names used to re­fer to ecopsy­chol­ogy in­clude, Gaia psychology, ecother­apy, en­vi­ron­men­tal psychology, green psychology, global ther­apy, green ther­apy, Earth-cen­tered ther­apy, na­ture-based psy­chother­apy.


Pic­tures have been used as com­mu­ni­ca­tion since man first picked up clay and made mark­ings on walls of caves. In­dige­nous peo­ple used sym­bols to share sto­ries, record events and cel­e­brate oc­ca­sions.

The bar­rier of the spo­ken word or lan­guage was never an is­sue. When we use art to com­mu­ni­cate, we elim­i­nate all the bar­ri­ers of tra­di­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the words we strug­gle to say, the thoughts we are strug­gling to make sense of. With na­tures teach­ing, we can re­con­nect with our in­ner child and com­mu­ni­cate with the same ease as we did when we were chil­dren and first picked up crayons to draw.

A com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tional sci­ence-based psychology and ecopsy­chol­ogy, eco-art ther­apy of­fers a so­lu­tion to cross­ing bar­ri­ers and neg­a­tives.

As an artist, per­son­ally, what as­pects of na­ture in­spire you?

All of na­ture is in­spi­ra­tional, it is more a ques­tion of what are you at­tracted to at the time, my per­sonal art work is def­i­nitely an­i­mal in­spired, but when work­ing with clients it is of­ten about what is at­trac­tive in the mo­ment, and which area of na­ture we are in, we could for ex­am­ple be in a woodland area, which has end­less in­spi­ra­tions or per­haps the coast which again pro­vides a plethora of tac­tile and visual el­e­ments as well as the un­con­scious in­spi­ra­tions.

For per­sonal art, com­mis­sions etc I work in pas­tels, and I am at­tracted mostly to draw an­i­mals, but I also cre­ate ephemeral art in out­door ar­eas.

Fi­nal thoughts

Na­ture and an­i­mals can be a source of ther­apy, as Heather Lau­rence ex­plains - par­tic­u­larly when com­bin­ing eco-art ther­apy, ecopsy­chol­ogy pro­grams and sci­ence-based psychology.

“You will be amazed at the dif­fer­ence re­ally con­nect­ing to na­ture for even one hour can make to your well­be­ing.”

Heather shows us that through na­ture, we can dis­cover new ways to connect with our­selves and com­mu­ni­cate in artis­tic ways.

This is par­tic­u­larly the case through the guid­ance of her EcoArts Wild pro­grammes, for im­prov­ing our well­be­ing and men­tal health.

 ??  ?? Top: Friendly swal­lows.
Di­rectly above: Horse por­trait - ‘Meg­gie Scott’.
All im­ages above: © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.
Top: Friendly swal­lows. Di­rectly above: Horse por­trait - ‘Meg­gie Scott’. All im­ages above: © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.
 ??  ?? Be­low: Black and white pony por­trait - ‘Ki­ayaz Lani’. © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.
Be­low: Black and white pony por­trait - ‘Ki­ayaz Lani’. © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.
 ??  ?? Above: Por­trait of Heather Lau­rence. © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.
Above: Por­trait of Heather Lau­rence. © Heather Lau­rence. All rights re­served.

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