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Walk Inniú Counselling Psychotherapy Outdoors is David Staunton’s response to provide people in Ireland with an introduction and access to Ecotherapy.
Counselling, Psychotherapy, Dublin, Outdoors, David Satunton, Grief, Stress, Anxiety, Sexuality, Low Mood, depression, relationships, bereavement,
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‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and Vitamin ‘N’ (Nature)

‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and Vitamin N (Nature)


A child was quoted in Richard Louv’s remarkable book ‘Last Child in the Woods’ as saying that he preferred to play indoors because “…that’s where all the electrical outlets are”, and although we may smile at his reasoning many of us adults often choose to stay indoors for the very same reason.  When we are indoors, although we may be ‘plugged in virtually’ to the world around us through radio, television, social media etc, this also means that we are separated and isolated from the ‘actual’ world by a layer or indeed layers of technology.  As human beings (Homo sapiens), we have been evolving for approximately 200,000 years (and indeed for millions of years previously), to be in close communion with not alone other humans but with ‘non-human nature’.  If we deny ourselves this connection and spend too much time indoors, it may well result in increased levels of anxiety, fear, low mood and feelings of isolation.  I amongst many would argue that this process of disconnection is well established and to the detriment of our communities is fostering a growing mistrust of others.


It is important to remember that ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ although a clever phrase from Richard Louv, it is not a ‘listed’ medical classification but rather “…to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world”.  However, much more importantly Louv in his work provokes us to look at our obsession with ‘labelling’ particularly in the area of mental health.  As a counselling psychotherapist, it is neither within my role nor desire to ‘diagnose’ or ‘label’ another human being – people attend for support as they are and together we work out a agreed plan to move forward.  I do of course continue to offer an indoor practice for those clients who prefer a more traditional approach, but generally speaking clients who decide to work outdoors never ask to go back to indoor therapy.


Taking ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in the light that I believe Louv intended, I would say that the signs are all around us.  Signs that are experienced both in our personal lives and in the communities which we have built such as isolation, anxiety, fear, denial and our obsession with ‘mindless consumerism’. This is not sustainable on either a personal level or a global level.  Cataclysmic climate change is occurring and most of us are far more concerned with what Netflix will offer us next season.  This is a denial of nature’s needs.  We are nature, therefore we are denying ourselves what we need and we become unhappy and detached. We busy ourselves with what the author Ivor Southwood refers to as ‘Non-Stop Inertia’ i.e. we are very busy people going nowhere fast.


When I was a child in 1970’s and ‘80’s our primary school (a large school of around 600 pupils) did not have a telephone.  The pace of the development and the universal availability of technology here in Ireland since that time are nothing short of astounding.  Today, all of us have access to what we would now perceive to be ‘common gadgets’ in our pockets or handbags which are far superior and sophisticated to the available technologies which sent human beings in an aluminium container all the way to the moon only a few decades ago.  It is because the available technology today is so amazing, so creative and so fascinating – that we all want to own it, to use it and to live our lives through it.  It is enticingly addictive not because it is bad but because it is so good.  Technology gives us a sense of control and security and allows us to present ourselves in a ‘polished’ way to others… although so often we are simply lonely and fragile people hiding behind our fingertips which tap out a binary coded message to our virtual friends in a nonexistent virtual world.


I am a keen advocate of the work of Dr Peter Kahn in the University of Washington, who coined the phrase ‘technological nature’ and whose work recommends us to give very careful consideration to the role of technology in our lives.  Although Dr Kahn suggests that whilst we may express feelings and emotions towards technology, it is important to remember that there is no technological substitute for life and to be ‘alive’ means being in actual contact with other humans and other species.  Moreover, we are nature and any attempt by us to disconnect from nature in any of its forms, is a rejection of our unique individuality within the interconnectedness of all other matter and beings.  Not being outdoors enough and not being in communication with nature is a fractious denial of our very selves.


I sometimes ask people, (particularly people like myself who live in a busy inner city), where is your nearest tree?  It is surprising the number of people who do not know the answer.  This question may evoke a realisation which is often followed by a poignant sadness and/or feelings of loss.  Thoughts about a tree often stir long hidden memories about a less busy time, a less built-up environment and perhaps a longing or even a grieving for a sense of community in a less isolated, gated concrete cage which has become home for many of us in this post celtic-tiger era.


Think about how we have constructed our urban areas.  Here in Dublin we have run several harsh traffic filled lanes in, around and through the Christchurch area which is the very birthplace of our city.  We negotiate and tolerate so many narrow miserable footpaths in our towns and cities, which require us to be constantly aware of not walking into an unforgiving stream of vehicles.  This is no fit environment for human beings – at best it is a poor compromise and at worst it is a blind worship to an outmoded transportation model which is grossly unsustainable.  In short, much of our urban public space is just not pleasant to be in.  We did not evolve to breathe the exhaust fumes of cars.


Roger Ulrich’s work in 1984 remains some of the best known research on the positive results experienced by post operative patients in a hospital who enjoyed a view of trees outdoors as opposed to patients who did not recover as quickly nor as serenely, having been left to recuperate with a view of a brick wall.  I have had an interest in architecture and planning all my life and also had the privilege to work closely in the past with people in transition from homelessness.  This gave me an opportunity to learn so much from their experiences from having grown up and lived in built environments, which in their opinion (and mine), condemned them to a life of personal and communal pain and tragedy, leaving them bereft of any opportunity for effective healing.  It is only with admirable effort that people recover from such an ‘unnatural’ disassociation with nature.  Our public spaces, roads and streets in villages, towns and cities across Ireland must be beautiful, welcoming, fun and relaxed.  They need to be full of trees and full of nature.  There is a healing to be had in green spaces, spaces which are free from the noise and pollution of traffic as sadly all too often there is a strong correlation between social deprivation and a lack of tree-lined roads and green healthy parks and public spaces.


A major influence on my ecotherapy and ecopsychology work is the psychologist Theodore Roszak who reminded psychotherapists and other mental health providers to pay more attention to the relationship between a client and their immediate environment, particularly the alienation between what Roszak called the “…recently created urban psyche and the age-old natural environment”.


When it comes to improving our mental health, I believe that ‘simple stuff works’.  Routine, healthy diet and exercise can all bring us a long way towards feeling better.  So can being outdoors.  The good news is that nature, despite our best/worst efforts as humans at times, is never too far away.  For many people, just being in nature evokes inspiration and transformation.  It’s no secret and it is increasingly accepted that there are numerous health benefits for mind, body and soul when we simply ‘take a walk’.


We all practice some form of ‘ecotherapy’ from time to time such as a walk in the park, gardening or growing our own fruit and vegetables.  These are simple and effective ways to ensure more positive mental health.  Recent research tells us that soil contains microbes which mirror the effect of ‘anti-depressant medication’ in the brain (without the side effects), but if you are an avid gardener, you are probably not too surprised by this.


As a counselling psychotherapist and a great lover of walking and being outdoors it was a very natural progression for me to integrate that which personally keeps me psychologically well, with the approach I offer people who wish to work on improving their low mood or increase their wellness levels.  In offering counselling psychotherapy outdoors in healthy natural green spaces, nature becomes a co-therapist in the process, supporting the client with regulating their feelings and emotion.


And the simplest thing we can do and the ‘first step’ we can take to help improve our mental health is WALK,



  1. Exercise such as walking releases endorphins in our brains and this makes us feel better.


  1. Medical and General Practitioners advise us that walking outdoors in nature can support us with many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and aid us with post cancer fatigue.


  1. Even leisurely walking outdoors improves our mood, self- esteem, and increases our motivation.


  1. When we walk in sunshine – we absorb Vitamin D and this helps us to reduce our levels of depression/low mood.


  1. When we walk outdoors in nature it can inspire and support us to grow, heal and learn, develop a sense of belonging, whilst restoring our self acceptance.
  1. After walking outdoors for even a short time – we are less likely to feel or tell ourselves we are ‘stuck’.
  2. Walking outdoors is good for the planet. Ecotherapy and ecopsychology are based on the assumption that as humans we have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature. In doing so we tend to care more for nature and become more aware of the poor treatment our planet receives from humankind. This reduces defence mechanisms such as avoidance and denial allowing us to move into a more accepting, caring and centred place.


And remember being outdoors is free.


It does not, nor should not cost you a penny to go for a walk.  If you are serious about reconnecting with nature, your ‘first step outdoors’ should not necessarily be to a shopping centre.  And if you find yourself doing so, gently ask yourself why you are doing this it may help you to become more aware of some behaviours which may not be helping you.  Of course I would advocate having suitable clothing and footwear, but the minute you find yourself ‘buying the look’ – bring yourself back to reality.  I find that most people who enjoy the Walk Inniú outdoor ecotherapy workshops (Ecotherapy Hedge School / Walk and Talk’s etc) are generally a very relaxed bunch and place far more emphasis in being outdoors in nature rather than indoors choosing gadgets and expensive clothing.


Sometimes the things we own can end up owning us!


If the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is evoking a feeling that you may not be in connection with wild spaces and natural surroundings as much as you would like then the antidote is very simple – you need a regular dose of what Louv refers to as ‘Vitamin N’ – that’s right N for Nature.


How to begin your Ecotherapy and take your dose of ‘Vitamin N’


  1. Take a step, a step anywhere outdoors – your garden, your local park, your street or road…and then take another and another and another and hey presto… you are walking outdoors.


  1. Try to walk in ‘wild’ places from time to time. Perhaps along a rugged coastline, a mountain with native trees or on a bog. Bogs make exceptionally interesting diverse places to visit.  (Do take care and follow practical guidelines, seeking landowner’s permission if necessary when walking in wild places).


  1. Remember you don’t need your car keys to go for a walk – Discover and become aware of the nature that is in your local environment. Nature is found not only in our green Irish glens and majestic mountains but is also the struggling seedling which dares to poke its head up through the cracks in our city streets.


  1. Sanitise your walk. Unplug and switch off (earphones, smart phones etc). Ask yourself if you really need yet another digital image of a sunset or a flower or a rabbit. Leave tweeting to the birds not to your phone.


  1. Become as mindful as you can. Feel the breeze on your cheek, notice the heat of the sun, check in with your breathing and be present to the nature that surrounds you.



All my life I have benefited from the healing affects of nature and being outdoors.  Having been fortunate enough to grow up in the west of Ireland and being no stranger to the natural wildness of the landscape, I developed a deep appreciation of the connection we can feel as human beings to a space and place.   Having now lived in inner city Dublin for most of my life, some years ago I became aware of a growing disconnection with nature which created a personal unease, an unease that cleared the more I supported myself through engaging in ecotherapeutic activities.


I believe that Ireland is incredibly well suited to providing ecotherapy and ecopsychology, as we all have ready access to open countryside through trails, walks, mountain paths and a very long winding sea shore.  Our nearest neighbours in the UK are ahead of the ball to the extent that many GP’s in the UK will prescribe you a course of ecotherapy and it is widely respected and recognised by the NHS as an efficacious and cost effective approach for supporting people in need.  And as a ‘bloke’ I also recognise the cultural and stereotypical stigma that many of us Irish men feel (both real and imagined) when it comes to getting help.


Finally, climate change is the number one challenge of our time but it is often met by ‘avoidance, denial and projection’. However, us psychotherapists are trained to work with these ‘all-too-human’ defensive behaviours and I believe that by integrating growth, healing and learning in a more ‘eco – centric’ approach, it is possible to offer people a more positive and cohesive path towards better mental health with increased happiness and wellness.


The positive side-effect of ecotherapy is that when we truly nurture ourselves, we become better able and more likely to nurture our planet.


David Staunton


If you wish to learn more about David Staunton, Walk Inniú – Counselling Psychotherapy Outdoors or the introductory ‘Ecotherapy Hedge School Workshops’ feel free to check out www.walkinniu.ie , follow him on twitter @Walkinniu or contact David directly at 086 033 99 33 or email him at davidstaunton@walkinniu.ie

Niall Breslin (Bressie) Bresie's Ironmind

The Dynamic Momentum known as ‘Bressie’

When a recognisable, well-loved and well-respected personality such as Niall Breslin (aka Bressie) talks openly about their personal mental health – they get an immediate and attentive audience.  But given the honesty and courage which Niall has spoken publicly with in recent times, he not alone earned but well deserves his audience – and what’s more his authentic efforts have gathered quite the ‘dynamic momentum’.

Not alone did Niall’s heartfelt disclosure of his struggle with anxiety spur the foundation of the A Lust for Life wellness website, (of which I was only too delighted to have been invited to write an article on ecotherapy for), his new creation on RTÉ Two, ‘Bressie’s Ironmind’ will explore the link between movement/exercise and well-being.


Bressie tells us that the aim,

“…was to work with a group of individuals with varying degrees of primary care mental health issues over the course of six months to train them to compete in a 70.3 Ironman Triathlon, but more importantly to develop their coping strategies and mental fitness with the hope that it would allow them deal much more effectively with their minds and emotional well-being”


However important it is that we see Bressie and his team of professionals exploring the link between ‘mind and body’ the benefit of having the topics of mental health and wellness being discussed on primetime national television is immense.  An inspirational and encouraging character the calibre of Bressie, can and has done so much for this nation’s wellbeing which is to be encouraged and admired, (no pressure intended Bressie).


At Walk Inniú of course we are a little (a lot) more sedentary about incorporating movement into counselling psychotherapy and although we get a lot of energetic hikers at our fortnightly Winter Walk and Talk’s at Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the pace is usually more of a ramble.  I know of a fellow practitioner in London who literally runs with his clients around a park during their sessions and this of course will resonate with people who enjoy jogging for its therapeutic benefits.

But when it comes to working with me here in Dublin the hint is in the name… it’s ‘Walk’ Inniú.


Walking Towards Wellness - Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology, David Staunton

Walking Towards Wellness – Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology, David Staunton


Click here to read my Walking towards Wellness – Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology article featured in Bressie’s Wellness Website ‘A Lust for Life’



Walk and Talk

7 Benefits from Walking and being Outdoors

Why should we walk?


  1. Exercise such as walking releases endorphins in our brains and this makes us feel better.


  1. Medical and General Practitioners advise us that walking outdoors in nature can support us with many health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and aid us with post cancer fatigue.


  1. Even leisurely walking outdoors improves our mood, self- esteem, and increases our motivation.


  1. When we walk in sunshine – we absorb Vitamin D and this helps us to reduce our levels of depression/low mood.


  1. When we walk outdoors in nature it can inspire and support us to grow, heal and learn, develop a sense of belonging, whilst restoring our self acceptance.


  1. After walking outdoors for even a short time – we are less likely to feel or tell ourselves we are ‘stuck’.


  1. Walking outdoors is good for the planet. Ecotherapy and ecopsychology are based on the assumption that as humans we have an innate instinct to connect emotionally with nature. In doing so we tend to care more for nature and become more aware of the poor treatment our planet receives from humankind. This reduces defence mechanisms such as avoidance and denial allowing us to move into a more accepting, caring and centred place.



Enjoy your walk…

The sun made it's way through the trees above

Describing Nature

Hi All,

Last week, as part of Laois Connects – Mental Health Awareness Campaign, I had the pleasure of being invited to the wonderful Abbeyleix Bog Project in county Laois to facilitate a group talk on ‘What is Nature?’  Although, we are in late autumn – the day was beautiful and the participants present were in no mood for sitting indoors.  Within seconds it became very apparent that the only item on our agenda was to decide how quickly we could get outdoors for a walk and we all agreed that if we gave ourselves 15 minutes of discussion indoors we could get out into the wonderful afternoon sunlight for a decent walk and talk on the bog.

The energy of the participants and their desire not to waste a moment of the October evening was infectious.  As the bog soaked up our chatter, our busyness and any fatigue that may have been lurking unbeknown to us within – we became alive and rejuvenated in the comforting hold of the natural space.  I suppose, we became closer to being ‘our authentic selves’.  Stories were shared and plenty of humour was present as we noticed how nature was preparing itself for the winter to come – a process which generally led us to check in with ourselves and become more aware of our own levels of wellbeing.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to find the words to describe nature…. but ask anybody in Abbeyleix and they are sure to send you in the direction of the welcoming bog at the end of their town, a bog which teams with life and has all the health and wellness we could ever need.

And all we have to do is give ourselves permission.


My sincere thanks and warmest best wishes to all of you who participated in the ‘Walk and Talk’ at the Abbeyleix Bog Project – DavidLaois Connects - bog

David Staunton of Walk Inniú at Body and Soul Festival 2015

Body & Soul Festival 2015

This weekend, I took to the woods in County Westmeath. However, the trees in this wood were adorned and infused with the art and energy of several thousand happy revealers all enjoying the music and fun at this year’s Body and Soul Festival at Ballinlough Castle.


Taking our Ecotherapy Hedge School on tour is always exciting and the sun shone brightly on ‘The Sanctuary’ yesterday as a willing and able group of participants formed to partake in some mindful walking as we created a nature mandala together in the marquee after a brief introduction to Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology. And with the workshop completed the huge festival and all its energy was all there to explore…


I felt both energised and revived by the layering of a festival within the woodland. I believe that nature and art are never too far removed in any setting and when art respects, supports and listens to nature – they usually complement each other and encourage each other quite well.


But then again, art is nature…. isn’t it?

If you were there, but missed the workshop, Don’t worry.
You can avail of an exclusive offer just for Body and Soul 15 attendees here.


The Sanctuary workshop tent at Body and Soul Festival 2015

The Sanctuary workshop tent at Body and Soul Festival 2015

David amongst nature at Body and Soul Festival 2015

Resting amongst the woods at Ballinlough

The Sanctuary workshops tent at Body and Soul Festival 2015

The Walk Inniú Ecotherapy workshop was held in the Sanctuary

The Santuary at Body and soul festival 2015

The Sanctuary

Walk Inniú, Ú! 'Inniú' is Irish for 'Today' i.e, Walk Today, the answers are 'in you'.

Walk Inniú, Ú! ‘Inniú’ is Irish for ‘Today’ i.e, Walk Today, the answers are ‘in you’

Walk Inniú on the Sunday Timetable

Walk Inniú on the Sunday Timetable

Walk Inniú Workshop at Body and Soul 2015

The tent was a lovely space for a brief introduction to Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology

Mindfulness at Body and Soul 2015

We gathered mindfully around a handmade súgán (hay) rope.

Mindful Walking

Mindful walking as part of a mandala exercise incorporating nature

Ecotherapy discussion at body and soul 2015

If you missed the workshop at Body and Soul this weekend, don’t worry. We are delighted to exclusively offer €20 off our ‘Introduction to Ecotherapy & Ecopsychology’ Workshop to those who attended Body & Soul Festival 2015. The next workshop will be held on Sunday July 12th. Our workshops are delivered in a positive, relaxed and interactive manner in our sheltered outdoor ecotherapy hedge school in the beautiful hills of southwest county Dublin.

Places are limited. Find out more and reserve your place at walkinniu.ie/bodyandsoul

Love heart installation in the trees at Ballinlough woodland

Love heart installation above the trees

Colourful art in the trees at Ballinlough woodland

Colourful art in the trees at Ballinlough

3D Transparent art installation at body and soul 2015

There were lots of hidden pieces like this amongst the woods.

Portal into the eco crafts section at body and soul festival 2015

Portal into the green crafts section

More love hearts in the trees

More love hearts in the trees

The sun made it's way through the trees above

The solstice sun made it’s way through the trees above

Fantastic hanging installation in the trees at Body and Soul Festival 2015

This fantastic hanging installation was a favourite of mine and many others at the festival

Recycle your beat at body and soul

‘Recycle your beat’ was a real hit!


To find out more about the next ecotheraphy hedge school workshop and to reserve your place, visit walkinniu.ie/bodyandsoul

Places are limited. Special offer price is only available to those who attended Body and Soul Festival this year. €89 full price, €69 for Body and Soul Attendees.




Ravaged, cut, split, torn,
Growing heather, rushes, bushes, thorn.
Supersaturated, drowning,
Lakes and rivers without boundary,
Spilling into a vessel which can hold no more.


Patches and tufts of green misplaced,
Hold miserable animals wishing themselves elsewhere.
Driving, wetting, cruel mists and sheet rain,
Assuring a long hard winter before the next fine day.
Promising lower land will sleep dead underwater.


The men who pull and drag,
Life, rocks, clay and whins bush,
Suffer an eternity of forcing and cursing.
Trying to make land…
Instead of making time.

David Staunton


I wrote this poem not because I felt I could write poetry of any great merit – but because I had to.  It was written at a time when I was attempting to make sense of my world as I experienced it, to reconcile with dark memories from the past and acknowledge my fears and anger at the time of writing.  As I look back and reflect on the poem, I see my harsh projections of anxiety, negativity and anger at that time. Thankfully when it comes to exploration of a mindful manner, nature has an infinite holding capacity.  From a train window travelling through the west of Ireland in 2010, I became deeply aware of field after wet waterlogged field, passing in my gaze.  The fields seemed to invite me to explore my own busy, troubled and frightened self at a deep level – ‘to find Jung’s gold in the shadows’ as it were.  And for too long I had mined a lot of ‘fool’s gold’ – but I now felt more ready to look for the real thing.

Self analysis, self care and ongoing reflection is paramount for all counselling psychotherapists in order to provide a kind and therapeutically effective space for their clients.  Those wet fields and bogs of Connaught supported and held me as I wrote, inspiring and encouraging me to accept that the meaningful courage and strength I sought was accessible within my very being.  Ecopsychology and Ecotherapy at work.

‘We do not see things as they are we see them as we are’ Talmud

Green Week 2015 Nature – our health, our wealth

Introduction to Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology Event at the Phoenix Park

Sunday the 7th of June 2015 – Introduction to Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology Event at the Phoenix Park, Dublin as part of EU Green Week; ‘Nature – Our Health, Our Wealth’.

As part of the European Commission’s Green Week 2015, we are delighted to host a welcoming and informative event in the Phoenix Park Dublin. Who better to introduce and advocate for Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology for the aptly named ‘Nature – Our Health, Our Wealth’ Europe wide celebration of our natural environment, than Walk Inniú?

The event is free to all and will include a short address and introduction to Ecotherapy and Ecopsychology at 2.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm with time for discussion and collaboration between each session. Drop over to us, bring the kids if you wish and let’s all celebrate our wonderful city park for Green Week.

To get your free event welcome pack, with location details etc. just send your name and email address to info@walkinniu.ie

abbeyleix bog project

David Staunton co-hosting Rose of Tralee Contestant visit

On the 28th of May 2015 – David Staunton, (Ecotherapy Hedge School) is to co-host Rose of Tralee Contestant visit to the Abbeyleix Bog Project in Co Laois.

abbeyleix bog project

The pale moon was rising above the green mountains…..

Who would have guessed but beautiful roses can be found in the Abbeyleix Bog Project in Co Laois? To be clear, they are the regional Rose of Tralee contestants and they can be found on the 28th of May, 2015 when yours truly was invited to co-host their ‘perambulation’ through the wonderful Abbeyleix Bog Project.

I am looking forward to meeting the Roses and using the opportunity to briefly speak about my favourite topic, that’s right – Ecotherapy. As the event coincides with the European Commission – Green Week, I want to remind those present about the health benefits of walking and what it can do for body and soul. I intend to be around the Bog for most of that day and hope to get a chance to speak to as many people as I can. Check out this http://walkinniu.ie/ website or http://www.abbeyleixbog.ie/home for further updates.

Finally, it occurred to me that at no point of my professional training and experience was I trained and prepared for ‘accompanying Rose of Tralee contestants through a bog’ – I do my best and I love my work.