For over a decade, ANFT has focused on one primary task: we train guides. We have trained more Nature and Forest Therapy guides than any other organization in the World. As of June 2023 our global community of 2400 trained guides spans 66 countries.
While many people we train are health care professionals--physicians, nurses, psychotherapists, yoga instructors, and the like---we don't train people in the skills and knowledge needed to be therapists. Those who are therapists find that adding the Way of the Guide to their repertoire greatly enhances how they approach their practices.
The essence of forest bathing is sensory immersion in the ambience of the forest. You walk slowly and notice things. You feel the touch of the breeze on your skin; you notice the sounds of the brook and the birds and the movement of trees in the wind. And you take that noticing in, give it hospitality, let it land inside you. Forest bathing is not the same thing as hiking. The destination in forest bathing is “here,” not “there.” The pace is slow, not fast. The focus is on connection and relationship.
To learn about forest bathing, we recommend that experiencing it at least three times with qualified guides, such as those who have completed ANFT Forest Therapy Guide Certification. Doing so will also help you assess your own path toward training to become a guide.
From "Your Guide to Forest Bathing" by M. Amos Clifford
The forest is the therapist. The guide opens the doors.
--M. Amos Clifford
The primary goal of Forest Therapy is to support the wellness and health of participants through guided immersive experiences in forests and other natural settings. A Forest Therapy Guide facilitates safe gentle walks, providing instructions—referred to as “invitations”—for sensory opening activities along the way. These walks follow a standard sequence. They begin with guided sensory attention and embodiment activities that establish contact with the present moment and place. Next come a series of connective invitations, often improvised in the moment and adapted to the needs of participants. These may be followed by wander time and/or sit spot. The walks end with a ceremony of sharing tea made from foraged local plants. Guides are not therapists. Support for wellness, personal development, and perhaps healing comes to participants from their interaction with natural environments. Guided activities have as their sole aim creating and sustaining safe, meaningful, and relational contact between participants and nature. Guides do not diagnose participants, nor do they enter into agreements with participants about specific complaints and goals for wellness. Apart from simply helping people to connect with nature, guides aim to be agenda-free. We view the healing contract, if any, as existing between the forest and the participant.
--From ANFT Forest Therapy Guide Training Manual
Those who complete training with ANFT learn about the myriad proven health benefits of forest bathing. Taken together, these benefits can be referred to as forest therapy. But our approach goes beyond; relational forest therapy is about purpose, remembering your calling, developing ability to communicate with, learn from, and work in partnership with the many other-than-human beings whose homes are in natural settings. They teach us, and as they do, our journey of the Way of the Guide leads us to step into the Way of the Guided.
Relational Forest Therapy is one of ANFT's contributions to the evolution of this practice. The emphasis is on developing and restoring meaningful relationships with one's true sense of purpose. This is supported by finding ourselves in an expanded web of interbeing, in which the other-than-human beings we encounter in the forest become less like objects we encounter, and more like friends and family. Embedded in this expanded community, we experience greater degrees of freedom in how we explore the world, and in what we are able to learn about ourselves.
Relational Forest Therapy has the purpose of helping us to remember who we are, so we can take our place in the great work that is constantly unfolding around us.