C4: Nature Connected Wellness: A Trauma-Informed Strategy to Support Staff and Client Well-Being

Area of Focus: Brain Science and Trauma-Informed Approaches
Content Level: Learner

Human services organizations and their workforces are facing an unprecedented crisis. Burnout, turnover, and departures from direct services roles are at historic levels, just as the mental health needs of children, youth, and families have dramatically increased. The human and financial costs of these converging dynamics are impacting access and quality of preventative and interventional services across the country and forcing organizations to end or scale back much needed programs.

Research has shown there’s a strong connection between the culture and climate of child and family serving organizations and the implementation and impact of evidence-based practices and therapies. To address this crisis of need and the workforce, it’s time to consider a new frontier for promoting the health and well-being of clinicians, supervisors, and managers, as well as the possibilities of new therapies with children and families.

Evidence on the health benefits of nature connected wellness practices is growing rapidly. There’s a worldwide movement to connect people with nature through organized practices, such as forest and ecotherapy. In Asia, Europe, and Canada health insurers and physicians are prescribing time in nature in place of or prior to medication and talk therapy. The positive results on health and well-being have been profound and wide ranging. Practices such as Forest Therapy have been shown to boost the immune system, balance the heart rate, and lower cortisol levels, while also reducing anxiety and depression. Additionally, participants have reported increased levels of executive functioning, improved social emotional communication, and an enhanced ability to focus and manage conflict.

Birchwalking is a social impact organization founded and led by clinicians and leaders in the field of trauma-informed child and family services. In their work with nonprofit organizations and their government partners, they’re bringing evidence-based nature connected practices to human services professionals to promote workforce well-being, reduce burnout, and improve clinical service delivery. Results indicate staffs’ feel empowered by learning and experiencing these practices and report an improved attitude towards their work, colleagues, organizations, and clients. In one organization, the response from staff was so positive that its leadership invested in training a staff member to become a certified Forest Bathing Guide so that nature connected experiences can be regularly offered for staff and clients.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of nature connected wellness practices, the brain science behind their effectiveness, and the evidence growing worldwide
  • Learn about where and how these trauma-informed practices are being used to promote the health and well-being of direct service staff serving children and families
  • Be guided in a brief nature connected wellness experience
  • Discuss options and models for bringing nature connected wellness into your team or organization to promote a positive culture and climate.

Presenters

Christine Tappan
Founder, Lead Guide
Birchwalking

Suzanna Fletcher
Chief of Clinical Services
Birchwalking

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