What is Nature Coaching?
Searching on the web for “Nature Coaching,” there are about 10 pages (as of today) in which this term appears, referring, from time to time, to:
- Coaching sessions carried out in the natural environment
- Experiences of outdoor training or experiential learning in a natural environment
Here are my thoughts on this:
- In the first case, Nature is considered simply in its bucolic/idyllic aspect capable of generating relaxation and aesthetic enjoyment in the coachee through sounds, scents and panoramas. Numerous scientific researches demonstrate that these aspects positively impact our well-being. But the role assigned to Nature, in this case, is reductive. Nature has value in and of itself, beyond its usefulness for people. From this anthropocentric perspective, Nature is still conceived as exclusively at the service of man. And anthropocentrism is what we need to overcome now, to guarantee a future for humankind and life on Earth
- In both cases, Nature is considered a mere container and background of experience and not an active subject, alive and participating in the coaching relationship
- In both cases, the focus is exclusively on the benefits caused by Nature to people
- In the second case, the term (perhaps trendier) of “coaching” is used to refer to training activities that have nothing to do with coaching
Nature Coaching is an approach to coaching developed in connection with Nature (not in a simple “presence” of Nature). It’s aimed at restoring human beings to their natural ability to take care of themselves, of other living creatures (human and non-human), and the Earth. This way, coaching can contribute to conditions that help and sustain life on Earth, for generations to come.
This nature-centered approach has, at its foundation, a view of each person (microcosmos) as the reflection of the macrocosmos (the world around us). We all have an ancestral ability to dialogue with Nature; retrieving it means recognizing our place in the broader context of all our relationships. This way, we heal—what ecopsychologist Andy Fisher and organizational strategist Peter Senge call—the divide between self and self, self and Nature, and self and society.
In particular, in my way of conceiving and practicing Nature Coaching:
- Nature is the co-coach: The role of the coach, in this case, is precisely to facilitate the coachee’s dialogue with their inner Nature, through the connection with the natural elements around them. The Nature Coach’s skills are focused on facilitating self-listening, mindful presence, silent observation, awakening and what I call our “organic knowing,” the innate system that all living beings have to survive, adapt and evolve in response to the context around us
- The natural environment can constitute the setting, both indoors and outdoors. When indoors, Nature can be present by setting up the coach’s studio with objects, plants, sounds, images and natural materials (used during the session), as well as choosing nature-inspired imagery, language and metaphors. When outdoors, the coach will co-construct with the client the choice of the location, based on preferences, needs, season, site accessibility and the evocative and thematic potential of the place itself)
- The awakening of somatic intelligence is the basis of the coaching process. The body is the core medium of human experiences and learnings. It provides orientation and understanding, being a living fabric endowed with intrinsic intelligence. By awakening the inherent knowledge of the body, we allow the coachee to root the development of their awareness within themselves, activating their natural internal compass of self-orientation, empowerment and growth
- The ultimate goal of Nature Coaching is to heal the ecological, social and spiritual divide that constitutes the origin of the widespread crisis of our social systems today. Nature Coaching aims at recovering the awareness of our interconnection and interdependence with our relational ecosystem, facilitating the best personal and relational adaptations. This way, we can develop responsibility for the impact of our choices on every level of life (inner and outer), along with self-regulating, self-orientation and self-agency capabilities. It’s a path of becoming whole again, within us, and in connection with all the different forms of life around us.
Countless scientific researches from the 1980s to the present demonstrate the positive impact of experiences in contact with Nature on our physical and psychological well-being. These positive effects translate into the improvement of the coachees’ ability to face their difficulties, developing their sense of self-efficacy, awareness and self-realization.
At the heart of Nature Coaching is the reconnection of the coachee with Nature, as well as through it with its most authentic Nature, in terms of personal uniqueness, talent, skills, resources, ideas, intuitions, solutions, presence and awareness.
For the natural world to have this impact on the person, it is not enough to take the coaching session outdoors. This would be superficial. The coach needs to facilitate in the coachee the acquisition of a state of presence, expanded awareness, observation, openness and listening, in which to feel connected with Nature, its life, its beauty.
There is no well-being for people without the well-being of the planet, and today we all have a great responsibility towards future generations.
Changing our perception about the impact we have on Nature is urgent and vital, and Nature Coaching is one of the ways we can cultivate this awareness.
Diana Tedoldi, ACC, will be exploring this topic more in-depth at ICF Converge 2019, which is taking place October 23-26 in Prague, Czech Republic. Join her session “Nature Coaching: research, Benefits and Practice of Coaching Outdoors” in the Science content group on Thursday, October 24 at 4:00 p.m. (local time). By attending this session, you can earn 0.5 CC/0.5 RD in Continuing Coach Education units.
thank you so much for your article, your comprehensive synthesis of the topic, and the in-depth reference list. I wish I could hear your presentation but cannot make the Global conference work for this year. I so appreciate the topic since I work directly in this area and often feel isolated and misunderstood when nature-connection is applied to professional coaching. I’d love to connect off-line and share perspectives and experiences. Thanks again for shining sunshine on this topic!
Mindy Schlimgen, Resilience/Nature-based Coach, MS, ICF-ACC
Dear Mindy, I’m so glad you found my article comforting. I hear about nature-lovers’ loneliness all the time! But we are more and more people today re-discovering the benefits of nature-connection – for ourselves, and the planet. In fact, as I’ll explain in my talk at ICF Converge, nature-connected people also manifest pro-environment behaviour. Retrieving our felt sense of interconnection and interdependence is a process of cultural repair, the side effect of Nature Coaching, along with the rise of biophilia. Let’s connect and share, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Where are you based? Ciao from Italia, Diana
I love this! You have helped me to articulate what I do. It has been a struggle, and I’m appreciative to find a like mind. Greetings from Seattle, WA, USA!! email@example.com
Thank you for your appreciation, Kay! If you all wish to get to know what I did at Converge, and download my presentation along with handouts and more resources, just go here and get it all: https://www.naturecoaching.net/converge19-nature-coaching-workshop/.
Next Spring (March) I’m starting a new edition of my Forest Coaching® and Nature Coaching Certified course (in wonderful Italy). Also, I’m open to international partnership: if you’re interested in hosting my training where you live, I’m now discussing agreements with coaches worldwide. The training usually develops as 1-week in-person nature immersion, then 3 seasons of distance learning (webinars) and one closing retreat (3 days).
If you wish to know more, send me an email and I’ll be glad to give you all the details.
I’m interested in combing a nature-base approach wth life coaching for children. Do you know if there are any such programs in North America, specifically in Canada, or online? Or should I take my life coaching for kids certification first and then add on the nature coaching:?