Jay Clarke, psychotherapist, shares what happens at our Rehabilitation Centre in Merseyside.
I have worked for The Katie Piper Foundation for 7 years and I feel privileged to be part of a dedicated team of people. The Rehabilitation Centre is a relatively new service and is the UK’s first ever live-in rehabilitation centre for adult survivors of burns and scars.
The rehabilitation team develop individually tailored programmes for every survivor in consultation with them and their existing medics; programmes are focused around the wellbeing, needs and goals of the individual. If, at the point of assessment, nature therapy is considered to be helpful for the survivor, some nature sessions with me are scheduled in, usually one near the beginning of admission and one towards the end of their stay at the centre.
The centre is situated within beautiful grounds in the countryside. The air is fresh and there is a wide variety of beautiful trees, birds, plants and flowers and accessible paths and terrain. In a typical nature session, we would step outside into the grounds and converse about what the survivor thinks and feels and wants to focus upon, whilst strolling, sitting and engaging with nature. If the person wishes, we can also do some mindfulness in nature too.
When we step outdoors into the natural world our internal nature can be influenced immensely. Nature is naturally therapeutic; a plethora of research supports what we instinctively know about fresh air, movement, sensory delights, connectedness and communication; engaging with nature has been shown to have positive benefits for our health and wellbeing. There is an abundance of symbolism and metaphor to be experienced in nature, which can be utilised in therapy sessions with powerful and meaningful outcomes. Natural settings provide a very rich, reflective environment for therapeutic work and the grounds of the Rehabilitation Centre are a very peaceful and private place to connect with nature. Survivors can also access the grounds in their free time.
Although studies have shown that exposure to green spaces can enhance our ability to recover from traumatic injuries, there is never any pressure for someone to have a meeting outside. Sometimes the weather ‘up north’ can be a bit wild and the person may prefer a meeting indoors, or may feel tired as they are often just starting to build their physical fitness again. In these circumstances we meet indoors, and sometimes we do a guided visualisation to a place in nature that is agreeable and relaxing, like a beach or forest. The survivor can record the guided visualisation on their phone so they can access their special nature place whenever they wish. Research shows there are measurable benefits from using nature-based guided visualisations, particularly in therapeutic contexts where there is no nature present in the actual surrounding environment. All visitors have lovely views of nature from their accommodation windows, which has also been shown to have measurable positive effects on patient health and wellbeing.
In our second meeting, towards the end of their programme, I notice significant differences in the survivors physical and psychological wellbeing; we work together so that they leave the programme with an increased understanding of how to support themselves and with enriched knowledge and confidence in their recovery.
I find the multi-dimensional approach of working with a team of highly skilled, caring, creative, and dedicated people and supporting burns survivors through utilising state of the art facilities and nature connection in recovery an incredibly inspiring and rewarding experience.
Visit Jay’s website www.therapyupnorth.co.uk to access nature wellbeing resources