Ross is currently working on a research project to explore the emotional benefits of bear and whale watching, and in that context – as in so many natural contexts – it is the emotion of interaction that determines the depth of impact. In some ways, all the skills of navigating and placing ourselves within natural environments have the underlying purpose of emotional connection to those environments. And now that conservation and environmental protection are urgent necessities, our emotional connection to the natural world lies at the heart of many challenges (climate change, environmental sustainability, and so on). Even the success of municipal recycling programs is completely contingent upon our emotional connection to the natural world.
If we want to address these interconnected challenges we will need to be attentive to emotions and personal psychology. Improving our individual relationships to the natural world is also the path toward fixing the massive, global problems of environmental distress.
Ross has begun a research project with Farewell Harbour, a leading eco-tourism lodge on the central coast of British Columbia, to explore the emotions of visitors in the context of their viewing of wildlife (bears, whales, and dolphins in particular). This project will develop into 2018 with the intended goal of cultivating greater awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship, conservation, and habitat protection for wildlife.
Association of Childhood Residential Centers
Objects, and working with objects by hand, can be powerful adjuncts in the therapeutic process for children and adolescents, who are inundated with verbal, visual, and technological messages. The use of intentionality through objects can help slow reactivity, increase awareness, and enhance the therapeutic power of treatment.
Ross co-facilitated a session on the uses of natural objects in the therapeutic process at the annual conference of the Association of Childhood Residential Centers. This session focused on methods by which objects can be used – especially in the natural context – to facilitate personal growth and healing. Ross and his colleague, Jason McKeown from Trails Carolina, one of the world’s leading wilderness programs, showed examples taken from their own work with clients: labyrinth- making, fire-building, wood and stone sculpting, and related modalities. Ross and Jason also offered practical suggestions and recommendations for how counsellors and other social service professionals might use objects in their own work.
Nature Curriculum for University Students
Ross teaches a class for university students focused on nature experience. The class meets outdoors exclusively.
Addictions Recovery Wilderness Experience Program
Ross coordinated the development of a wilderness experience program for a local addictions treatment facility. The program focuses on the therapeutic role of nature experiences in helping clients enhance self-regulation, deepen mindfulness, and heal trauma.