Why is nature so valuable for us therapeutically and what can it teach us?

An Interview with Ian Siddons Heginworth

Ian Siddons HeginworthIan Siddons Heginworth has a wealth of experience as a Drama and Art Therapist. He is a leading Ecopsychology practitioner and Environmental Arts therapist working in the West country for Devon Health Authority. Ian will be in East Sussex in September this year running the workshop – Exploring the Natural World and The Feeling Self. Please see below for details.

1. Why is nature so valuable for us therapeutically?

Nature is our natural habitat so when we go into nature we immediately encounter our natural selves. Even the idea of going into nature is an illusion because we are nature, so when we walk into the woods we simply become part of the woods. Our natural self is entwined within a complex web of living and sentient connections and is immensely larger than our egoic self. Therapy is about developing a profound and ever deepening relationship with self so to do this in nature is to do it in context, both in time (through reconnection to the turning year) and space (through reconnection to the other-than-human and to natural locations and materials).

2.  What can nature teach us about ourselves?

Nature offers us a rich and complex palate of metaphors, sensual forms rich in colour, shape, texture, meaning, life and death, that transcend spoken language and give shape and substance to our feeling reality. Nature also has an agenda of her own, guiding us constantly into synchronistic encounter with otherwise hidden aspects of ourselves, reflected back to us in her mysteries. She is the wisest of teachers and once we have opened our hearts to her and learned her language, she never ceases to guide us.

3. How does your practice as an environmental art therapist support others in their healing process?

Environmental arts therapy works in relationship to nature to help people move closer to feeling. By finding or making aspects of the feeling self in nature we take that which was hidden within and manifest it outwardly so at last we can interact with it, have a a dialogue with it, transform it, fight and destroy it, or honour and cherish it. That which was profaned can be made sacred, that which was neglected can be loved. Shame can be turned into anger, confusion into direction, impotence into power. All that was stuck is shaken free and begins to flow, and everything begins to change.

4. You wrote a wonderful book, linking the trees to our own psychological journey – what underpins the link between the trees and our own psychology?

The trees in the Celtic Ogham tree calendar offer metaphors that describe the turning of the year, both outwardly and inwardly. As we feel into these, recognising the deep and enduring resonance between all that is unfolding in the natural world around us and all that is unfolding at the same time within, we remember who and what we are. Suddenly all that appeared disfunctional and askew in our lives is seen as part of an unfolding natural process that is so much bigger than ourselves, with an agenda that we can only guess at. Our wounding becomes the path to our enrichment and our empowerment.

5.  What will we experience on your upcoming workshop in September? Why is the Ivy known as the Suffocating Ivy?

Ivy can choke, suffocate and overwhelm whatever tree it grows upon and in this way mirrors all that blocks our path and seeks to overwhelm us as we return from the Summerlands in September. As we spiral back into ourselves we meet the shadow that awaits us there and this can manifest both inwardly and outwardly as we become stuck and held fast, like flies in a web. In the workshop we will explore these metaphors and seek ways in which to break free from the ivy block and bring the shadow into consciousness.

6.  How does nature mirror us emotionally? How does Art and Creativity facilitate this – why does it work so well?

Nature mirrors us emotionally because we are nature. Nature speaks in metaphor, the language of feeling and so whenever we return to our natural place in nature we meet our feeling selves reflected back to us. Our physical separation from nature simply mirrors our apparent separation from self. Art and creativity also speaks in the language of metaphor and so acts as a translator for our intellectual minds until they remember how to do it for themselves, by listening to the feeling heart. As people steep themselves deeper into this process over time they usually find themselves making less and less art and just recognising themselves in whatever they find.

7.  How does this work link to improving the wider community’s relationship to nature and safeguarding if for the future?

This work builds a deep and enduring relationship between soul and soil. Such an intimacy with the natural world is both reciprocal and inherently protective. We will not harm what we love, especially when we feel how much it loves us. The current paradigm places us outside of nature so we see ourselves as its destroyer, a cancer in its body, a parasite bringing the natural world to its knees. But once we see ourselves as nature herself then we can become the self regulating mechanism that the Earth most needs at his time. Human consciousness can prove itself to be the cutting edge of ecological recovery and healing.


Ian Siddons Heginwoth is widely recognised for the Wild Things programme he created and facilitates with young people who are struggling to cope. His understanding of the power of Mother Nature to heal, calm and inspire was born from his own childhood experience.

Ian will be in East Sussex in September, running the following 2 day workshop:

Exploring the Natural World & The Feeling Self – 21st & 22nd September 2019.

‘Suffocating Ivy’ – This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles.

EXPLORING THE NATURAL WORLD & THE FEELING SELF WITH IAN SIDDONS HEGINWORTH (TWO DAY TRAINING)As the solar push of summer comes to an end and the season turns, we recoil back into ourselves with the onset of Autumn. As we spiral inwards we meet the shadows that await us there. In Celtic tradition the ivy was the most powerful of trees for it could pull down a castle wall, block a path or choke the mighty oak. When we meet an ancient ivy we do not just meet the plant but something lost and suffocated within. In this workshop we explore our own ivy blocks, to reveal and resurrect the repressed and neglected aspects of the self.

Date: 21st & 22nd September 2019
Lead Facilitator: Ian Siddons Heginworth
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Time: 09.30 – 17.00
Cost: £175.00
Booking: Please CLICK HERE to complete our online booking form where you will also find payment details or visit the website for more details.


Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.