Ecotherapy Program

Laura Nelson

Clinical Social Worker, Therapist, Life Coach & Consultant
Youth For Change Strong Starts & School-Based Counseling Program
After the Camp Fire disaster in 2018, I took time to heal from the trauma of losing my home and accept the loss of our entire community. The experience of being a refugee displaced forged a motivation for me to return to this land. Many affected by the fire in Butte County had to grapple with the amount of catastrophic loss during the tragedy. The loss of human and animal lives, the loss of the forest trees, the plants and animals, the irreplaceable flora and fauna and our homes. I truly wondered, “How are we going to heal”? I learned grief work is important work. 
I consider myself a lifelong learner. During the 2020 year, the ANFT program was a perfect balm for the mental health ailments experienced as a result of the Camp Fire disaster trauma compounded with the pandemic requirements of social isolation. The Nature and Forest Therapy taught somatic alternative modalities that offered trauma informed and safe ways to reconnect to the land. Our Forest Therapy program states the, “Forest is the Therapist and the Guide opens the doors”. The forest walks offer invitations which allow participants to decide at all times. Nature knows trauma. After the shock, grief and loss, it took time for me to feel safe and it took practice to slow down. Nature has cycles and seasons, it has timing, it has complexities and vulnerability. I began to remember and reconnect with myself and with our cohort in healing alongside the community. During time spent in the Forest I remembered my childlike sense of wonder! 
Each year we have new wildfires, new fire adapted landscape and more fire adapted people! During our program we learned about the indigenous people of our community, the Mechoopda and Maidu, and collaborated in their cultural practices in TEK, Traditional Ecological Knowledge from tribal education programs. This TEK information has informed me personally as a fire survivor and inspired my interest in the term GOOD FIRE, which is used as intentional burning of the land. This fire treatment has been used in nationwide forest areas since time immemorial by indigenous peoples to caretake and maintain the land. This is precious knowledge in a time of policies. 
In Forest Therapy I view my role as a guide to support people in their ability to have a unique personal relationship with nature. To feel safe in the wind, in the woods and in the forests again after the trauma of the wildfires. To remember the forest is our home. 
I specialize in Fire Trauma Stewardship in private practice at my local small business, Cedar Creek, A Place For Healing, with offices located in Chico and Paradise.
I invite you to view more information on my website: in new window)
Portrait of Laura Nelson