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2023 CARPD Conference Session Preview: Forest Therapy with Blake Ellis

Forest Therapy

Forest Therapy is designed to support health and wellness through professionally guided immersions in natural environments to promote the well-being of both people and the land. Inspired by Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing,” Forest Therapy provides a research-based sequence that supports wellness, stress recovery, and nature relation. Forest Therapy is not a hike or naturalist walk - the intention of the practice is to slow down, relax, awaken the senses, and engage with the natural world. 

During a Forest Therapy "walk", a certified guide will offer a series of invitations to deepen your sensory experience and assist you in finding your own authentic way of interacting with the land. There’s no right or wrong way to do it; just come and be yourself. It’s all welcome in the forest. Forest Therapy experiences finish up with tea made from wild-harvested forest herbs.

Studies from around the world have shown that Forest Therapy can  

  • Reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels. 
  • Enhance immune system function by increasing the production of natural killer cells. 
  • Improve respiratory and cardiovascular function. 
  • Decrease anxiety and depression. 
  • Improve mood, focus, academic performance, and creativity. 

Forest Therapy Guides are certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT)

Forest Therapy Guide: Blake Ellis, MSW
May contain: advertisement, poster, tree, plant, and scoreboard

Blake Ellis has spent many years helping others learn about and deeply connect with nature. Blake helped establish community gardens with refugees in Atlanta, Georgia, WWOOFed on organic farms in Taiwan and New Zealand, taught garden education to elementary schoolers, and provided horticultural therapy for adults with developmental disabilities. Following the 2018 Camp Fire, Blake decided to return to school to become a social worker to better support community recovery efforts. While completing her Master's in Social Work, Blake served as an AmeriCorps Disaster Case Manager with individuals impacted by the Camp Fire and conducted her thesis on the concept of "solastalgia." Solastalgia can be defined as the mental, emotional, and spiritual impacts of environmental degradation or the loss you feel when your beloved home environment is transformed beyond recognition. Her research led her to discover the practice of Forest Therapy, a hopeful intervention to help her community process trauma, solastalgia, and grief, rebuild individuals' sense of place, and reconnect to nature. Blake is now a certified Forest Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and the Program Manager for the Chico State Ecotherapy Program with the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve. Blake provides holistic, nature-based wellness practices to individuals impacted by wildfires in Butte County and Chico State students, staff, and faculty.

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