Forest Bathing International Magazine, Issue 1 - Page 8

However, others may be motivated by a desire to cash in on what they imagine is a lucrative opportunity to make easy money. My prediction is that they would develop practices that are purely technical, lacking in heart, and have no element of authentic reciprocity between people and nature. Academically-driven approaches could likewise emphasize technique over heart. If technician-entrepreneurs come to dominate the field and to define it, the results could be catastrophic for the field.

Likewise, there is a deeply ingrained tendency to view the forests as resources whose legitimate purpose is to benefit humans.. This is an extractive mindset, similar in spirit to viewing forests as croplands for producing lumber. My hope is that emerging leaders will see forests as sentient places, ensouled and beautiful, of intrinsic worth apart from humans, but welcoming of our species when we enter them with openness to their gifts while bringing our own gifts to them.

It’s probably too early

to develop international standards

One way to proactively work together as a field to support the emergence of a solid, credible practice would be to develop a set of international standards and definitions. Are we ready to do this? I’m not sure. We would need to be very careful to not create standards and curricula that close the door on diversity, innovation and discovery. My feeling is that it would be better to wait until we’ve established a culture of learning that engages researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers in an ongoing and informed dialogue. I don’t think we are there yet.

In 2012 I wrote a “scope of practice” which defines the ANFT view of what a forest therapy guide is and is not, and a set of professional standards describing one view of competencies and knowledge required of a forest therapy guide. The ANFT training curriculum is based on these core concepts, and our six-month curriculum is aimed at building the knowledge and competencies described in the standards. Thus, it is a standards-based training program. I know that the Japanese leaders have done something similar, and I imagine the same is true of the Korean leaders in this field. A good first step would be to come together and share what we’ve already done, and then to identify areas of agreement, of disagreement, and gaps. 

It’s not too early to begin a discussion about standards

Even though we don’t have the foundation yet to develop consensus on standards and definitions, it’s not too early to begin talking about it. In fact, it’s probably important to do so now. But how to go about it? Multiple strategies are likely necessary. My preference is to have meetings where we are in the same room, getting to know each other, and with skillful facilitation listening and learning in an open-minded and open-hearted way.