Eganville -- For women who may be dreading another winter of limited social interaction, a free community health initiative sponsored by Trinity Down Counselling Services of Eganville blends companionship and healthy exercise in an outdoor setting.
“Women Walk into Wellness” is based on the holistic components of Ecotherapy which focuses on increasing a connection to nature through mindfulness and bodily engagement. In specific terms, this translates into a friendly weekly outing on the readily-accessible network of low impact hiking trails throughout the county, led by Rachel Bennett, an adventure-based and holistic student therapist who is certified in Wilderness First Aid. Participants are encouraged to set their own wellness goals and work through personal challenges with a supportive group of women.
For Rachel, “therapy is about sinking down deep roots of purpose, understanding our emotional responses, and remembering the ways we experience joy”. A degree student at Athabasca University, she developed the women’s walking project as part of her thesis, focusing on the pro-active use of outdoor-adventure-play to help adults achieve their developmental and wellness goals. Human development does not end upon attaining adulthood. Her model of mental health involves the whole person: mind, body, spirit and relationships.
“We know that children thrive with outdoor activities in a natural setting, but we are realizing that adults also need the therapeutic effect of the natural world for optimum mental, physical and spiritual health.” she noted.
Some of the techniques she uses during the hike may include nature meditation, mindful walking, eco-art, self-reflection and discussion. The act of observing and walking in the forest or woodlands brings calmness, authenticity and resilience to the human spirit.
Shaw Woods, with its well-marked trails, access to the pavilion, bathrooms and ample parking, has been the location for the first several walks but possibilities for other locations are open. Shaw Woods is also the location for intriguing outdoor art installations by Killaloe glass artist Tanya Lyons which provide a catalyst for thought and discussion. “Nesting” and “Taking Flight” are no longer abstract concepts since our recent pandemic experiences!.
“We are changing the narrative that therapy is for sick people, or that doing therapy means you are damaged or broken,” Ms. Bennett said. “Time spent in nature has positive physiological (decreased heart rate, blood pressure and stress responses) and psychological (improved mood) effects. If the group or individuals in the group identify a mental health challenge or wellness goal that they wish to learn about, I can bring in resources and activities to help facilitate growth in that area.”
With an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and a diploma in Social Service Work, she has lived and worked as a teacher in Canada, England, Spain, Vietnam and Laos, as well as having experience as a social service worker and a youth counsellor in Toronto.
Trinity Down Counselling Services has been based in Eganville since 2006 and continues to provide marriage and family therapy. Founder Allan Studd continues to mentor and train student psychotherapists.
A group of ‘retirees’ meets at nine o’clock on Friday mornings and a new group for younger women meets on Sundays. Teenage and children’s groups are also in the planning stages. All are group therapy programs and therefore do not have an individual counselling focus.
There is no fee but donations are accepted to keep the program running. For more information or to register, e-mail email@example.com, call 613-628-3330 or see more information posted on the Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre page on Facebook.
Johanna Zomers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader