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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"The trees were our cathedral" - A narrative inquiry into healing from addiction through a relationship with nature
by Black, Michelle, Psy.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2015, 169; 3743749
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study explored and analyzed the narrative experiences of individuals whose spiritual relationships with nature have supported them in overcoming addiction. This project sought to investigate the sparsely researched intersection of ecopsychology and addiction recovery. Semi-structured interviews were conducted among six participants to shed light on the question: How can ecopsychological values and approaches help addicts to achieve and sustain recovery?

I implemented a thematic analysis of the interview material, using a multiphasic coding process to organize the common themes that surfaced across participants’ narratives, as well as highlight distinct experiences. The results yielded a total of 11 subthemes distributed among the following three master themes: Evolving Relationship with Nature, Levels of Integration with Nature, and Healing Effects of the Relationship.

Key findings from the study include the following: (a) all participants reported feeling an innate connection with nature that began in childhood, which in some cases, became less important as the years passed; (b) in seeking sobriety, each of the participants connected with nature to serve as the higher power they needed in order to apply the 12-step approach in their lives; (c) this relationship with nature has been central in helping participants to be successful in recovery; over time, the relationship transcended the utilitarian purpose of “working the program” and led to significant shifts in participants’ lifestyles and value systems; (d) in sustaining this relationship, participants have woven nature into their lives to varying degrees; many expressed that they generally yearn for more contact with nature than their current lifestyle permits; and (e) participants found that their relationships with nature resulted in deep healing that extended far beyond addiction, and across physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual realms.

It is my hope that this initial study will lead to further research exploring the value of incorporating nature into addiction treatment, as well as seeking effective solutions to humankind’s increasingly addictive and exploitative relationship with the natural world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Puhakka, Kaisa
Commitee: Buscemi, Raymond
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology
Keywords: Addiction, Ecopsychology, Ecotherapy, Higher power, Nature, Recovery
Publication Number: 3743749
ISBN: 978-1-339-36494-0
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