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Kennedy Saves the World

Kennedy Saves the World

Feb 21, 2024

Let’s Get Outside & Talk About Our Feelings

Kennedy Saves the World: Embracing Nature to Heal the Mind with Dr. Heidi Schreiber-Pan




 

Description: In this enlightening episode of Kennedy Saves the World, Kennedy and Dr. Heidi Schreiber-Pan delve into the untapped potential of nature to transform mental health care. As we navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the quest for mental well-being has never been more critical. Dr. Schreiber-Pan, a pioneering psychologist from Maryland, introduces us to the power of 'Nature Informed Therapy,' a therapeutic approach that merges the soothing embrace of the outdoors with traditional mental health practices.

Discover why stepping outside the confines of a clinical setting could be the key to unlocking emotional depth and resilience. Learn about the innovative ways Dr. Schreiber-Pan and her team are bringing therapy into nature, making it more approachable for those apprehensive about traditional methods. From the tranquility of urban parks to the subtle awe of observing a bee's dance, this episode explores how reconnecting with the natural world can foster a sense of something greater, reduce stress, and promote kindness towards others.

Kennedy and Dr. Schreiber-Pan discuss overcoming the stigma of therapy, especially among men and younger generations, and how the environment we choose for therapy can drastically alter its impact. They touch upon the importance of evolving therapy practices to meet the needs of today's society, ensuring accessibility and fostering a bond with nature that can lead to profound healing.

Join us for a journey into the heart of healing, where nature's vastness meets the human quest for peace and connection. If you're seeking a sign to take that first step toward mental health support, let this conversation be your guide.

 

Podcast Transcript:

 

Lisa Kennedy 

Welcome to this episode of Kennedy saves the world. So what we have learned in the fallout from the pandemic, we are now entering into our fifth year of active pandemic pneus. And recovery is that a lot of people still need some help with their mental health. And there have been more and more celebrities who have come out and talked about their various struggles, and how therapy has helped them. And there are a lot of people who have no idea how to do it, or what the best road is for them to take. Because the idea of sitting in a sterile office, talking about their deepest secrets and fears is very overwhelming. But what if you were able to receive two types of therapy at once. Because, you know, when you're having a bad day, when you get outside, and you walk around, and you feel the ground beneath your feet, and you hear the rocks and grass and leaves sort of crunching, and you hear birds, and you see water, you're already put at ease, nature is in and of itself, its own form of therapy. Joining me today, Dr. Heidi Schreiber pan. She is a psychologist in Maryland, who has developed the Center for informed nature. And I might be saying that wrong, but she really has the right intentions. Because it is it is a form of therapy that seeks to take people into nature, where they might receive the therapeutic benefits more deeply if they are surrounded by beauty and the earth. And I think that is an excellent idea for people who are nervous to go to therapy in the first place. They don't know what to expect, maybe they're more comfortable being outside. So she has taken the mountain to Mohammed. Dr. Schreiber pan, welcome to Kennedy saves the world.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Thank you so much. I'm excited to have this conversation.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

So when did you first realize that it might be beneficial to have therapy sessions outside?

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Yeah, that's a great question. So I actually started talking to other therapists, and was wondering what they do for their own self care. Because our job can be pretty stressful or hold a lot of pain. And so I was just curious, what do people do for their own self care? And again, and again, and again, I got the answer. Well, I turned to nature, I take a walk, I sit by the beach, right? And I thought, well, that's interesting. So therapists are using this for their own self care. But they haven't thought about bringing this to their clients. So it's really confused by that. If there's something that works for a lot of us for self care, why are we not bringing this to our clients? And so we started thinking about kind of bridging that gap. And not only noticing that therapists, they're doing this to avoid burnout, like turning to nature, but helping them also bring it in to their sessions with clients. And people, you know, that the in the therapy world were like, well, this is a new idea. I was always taught to do this inside my office. And I said, Well, let's, let's take it out of the box, literally, like, let's think about why we're not taking our clients outdoors. Yeah, and I've started, I know, you've

 

Lisa Kennedy 

gotten some pushback from, you know, traditional therapists and organizations, which I think is a little ridiculous, because the point is to help people, and you know, maybe not every setting is useful for every single person, maybe, you know, and as therapy has evolved over time, maybe the venue and the context should evolve with it.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Yeah, that's just the point, right? Like, let's let's let it evolve to become something that is approachable for people today.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

So how do you do it? Like do you do you go to a busy Park? Because I think that I would be self conscious, if I was, you know, trying to divulge something or access something or do you or do you find really remote places? And if you do, is that difficult to reproduce in a city? Right, right.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Well, you know, we know that like the estimate is that by 2050, we have 70% of human population in urban settings. So we really need to adjust this model to work in urban settings, just as well as you know, in more remote settings, so we look for green spaces, urban parks, pocket parks, we Help, you know, churches connect church grounds, with therapists that have some green spaces. And what we really kind of believe is that nature is everywhere. And it's for everyone. And so there are pocket parks where there are parts of the park that are not, you know, overrun as much as others. So we always in our trainings, for therapists, we will make sure that they go, they explore the spaces, they look at different, you know, spots or kind of, you know, corners that could go. And then sometimes it's just people walking, right, and it looks like just two friends walking, when it's really actually a therapy session. But one thing that I want to address that you brought up, which is this idea of like confidentiality, right, that you're sharing from your soul about something, and you want to make sure it stays private. And so what I always tell my clients is like, we're gonna go to this, this park. And what are we going to do if someone walks up to us and says, hey, it's good to see you. So how do we like deal with that? And we actually practice this in the session, what we're going to say, if a person walks up to us to how do we, you know, our body language? How do we communicate that we're not open for conversation right now?

 

Lisa Kennedy 

I would say I would say, Hey, I would love to talk to you right now. But I'm actually interviewing for a job at the CIA. So, you know, we kind of need to keep this between us. And they'll be like, Oh, yes, of course, I'll leave you two alone.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

I have to tell you this funny story. This was hilarious. So I practice with my clients, but we're gonna say and he says, I'm just gonna say that I'm in the middle of something, and I'll catch you later. So I ended up really happening, someone walked up to us. And this was like a 20, something graduate, you know, graduate student, and he goes, Hey, dude, I'm in the middle of my therapy session. That's my therapist. And I was like, Okay, hi.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

I could see that being generational. I think that it is much more acceptable, because now there's more therapy in schools, and people are talking about it. And, you know, it's all over tick tock. So it is there, there isn't as much of a stigma was older generations. Having said that, do you think that adolescents and people in their early 20s, do you think that combining nature and therapy is better for them?

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Yeah, I mean, we see that we have some nature programming a group nature groups, and we see an increase in men attending, where a lot of times, we see, you know, therapy groups being mostly women. And that's been an interesting observation that it seems to be appealing more to the male population to integrate nature, we do these therapeutic hikes. And we see enrollment of men that we don't hear from other group counseling practices that run indoor groups. So that's one population that I think nature and from therapy is really reaching. And then I think, too, it's like the younger generation that's, that wants to walk and be they have to try to fit it all in right exercise all that stuff. So like you said, early on, we were getting to two things at the same time therapy, and then perhaps even walking, right.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

Yeah, yeah. And it's I don't think that they take away from each other. And it's interesting, as you say, this, like, I can see there certain men who the stigma for being in a sterile office is even worse for them. You know, it's like, it's hard for people to go to a doctor. And obviously, they, you know, people put it off for a long time, to their own detriment. But if you can be like, Hey, let's go chop, some wouldn't be lumberjacks for an hour, I could see that being appealing to a part of the population that wouldn't traditionally be served by therapy. Yes,

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

and I think a lot of parents out there, you've had this experience, where you're driving your kid to school, and all of a sudden, your kid like opens up to you, right? And that's because you're sitting next to each other. And you don't have that intense, like, you're not staring at each other. And that's what we're noticing too, is like when we're walking, we're not you know, we're next to each other. And our eyes are focused on the natural world, and we're sort of moving together. And some people just need that and they open up and in a whole different way than they would be able to do in the intensity of like the small room where you're sitting across from each other and having kind of eye contact

 

Lisa Kennedy 

that makes sense. And you feel you know, you can feel like you're being judged. And that's you know, that's that's the last thing that that someone wants when they're trying to get better. All right, we got more of this interview after this. Ready for spring break to remember. And so what are you hearing from people more and more like what what are people seeking therapy for that might be different than it was five years ago?

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Yeah, I think that In terms of anxiety and stress, just seeing people really trying to figure out how can they bring that that anxious response down. And what we always talk about with the nature and form pieces that know we're living in, in modern day environments where there's this constant activation of your stress response through traffic sounds and deadlines and emails, and the natural world works on a very different pace. And so when we go into the natural world, we're leaving behind that sort of modern day agitation that happens. And people are hungry for tools to help that sort of stress response, calm down, because we're constantly bombarded with it in modern day environments.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

So it's interesting because Dana Perino shared with me an article recently about people diagnosing themselves with anxiety, and exacerbating their anxiety and making themselves more anxious by reading about anxiety. Is there something in your form of therapy that can help hypochondriacs?

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Well, you know, the thing is, like being anxious is part of being human, like, you can't find a single human is gonna say they've never been anxious, it's part of our survival mechanism, right? If you're part of your brain that says, hey, I'm in charge of keeping you alive. And I'm going to make sure there's no threat coming towards you. So that's why I'm looking around. So it's what would we find this though, that, you know, being exposed to the natural world and connecting with that, there are not those many triggers that are, you know, sort of this threat response that happens often in these modern day environments. So I think normalizing is really helpful, because when people self diagnose, and they said, Oh, my gosh, I've done anxiety disorder, well, let's talk about you know, what's normal, what's not knowing that every human has anxiety at some point, it's part of your survival instinct. And just giving you itself tools to make it manageable. Yeah,

 

Lisa Kennedy 

I mean, that's what helped me when I was diagnosed with panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. When I was in my 20s, and it was, it was overwhelming, I could no longer take it, I couldn't treat it on my own. And it would go away for a little while, and then we would come back worse. And that's I had to, I was fortunate to see a therapist who gave me those tools that I still use to this day, because I will always tend toward the anxious side of the spectrum, like I will always be a more anxious person. But now I've learned enough in therapy and in life, to rely on the tools whenever I need them. And then as you go, you learn more tools, which I think are incredibly helpful. And it's funny, because in a culture where people, I think that kind of therapy could be beneficial for them, because, you know, people go and watch all these How To videos. So if you can have, how to, for anxiety, and think of it like that, and think of it like a series of tools, the same way you would have, if you were learning how to make a latte in your kitchen, without any equipment or learning how to apply makeup, as my teenage daughters like to watch videos for. I think that would be extremely helpful. And getting out of the electronic world and being in nature and being forced to feel is one of the things that reconnects you with yourself. And, you know, a lot of anxiety is trying to get away from that and trying to escape that and trying to escape the feelings of anxiety, which just create even more anxiety, which, you know, is what intrigued me about your program? Having said that, as a professional? Do you think there are too many people in cities? And do you encourage people to move away from them and to move into nature if they can? Is that necessary?

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Well, I'm glad you asked that question. Because I think that at this point, right, definition of nature, and sort of distinguishing from the wilderness idea, because I think that nature being everywhere, and you know, making it accessible to people is where we have to head and our idea of nature and from therapy is also based on a relationship with nature and it's very, like bonding with a part of your family almost. And that can happen really in any setting. We also talk about like the experience of all right, which three fourths of people when you ask them, Where do you experience ah, they will talk about something I happen to them in nature. But if you ever seen a bee, land on a flower, and watch how the bee does her amazing vibration dance to collect the pollen, that is a moment of all, and that moment can happen in an urban setting. But we have to have the eyes to see it. Yeah,

 

Lisa Kennedy 

I saw an old lady feeding raccoons in Central Park. And I'm like, I have now seen it all. Maybe it is it is truly everywhere. And you know, whenever you see people clumped together, looking up in Central Park, there's always some rare bird, oftentimes, an owl, but it really is everywhere. And you know, it's, it's within us to want to seek it. And I think it's also so helpful because nature is greater than we are. And we get so wrapped up in our own lives and knowing that there is a constant out there, that is more powerful, and more unpredictable, but will always be there. There's something very soothing about that.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Yes, and you know, what I love about that, what you were just saying is that when we talk to people about their experiences in nature, they often talk about the sense of touching on the something greater than themselves when they have had this experience in nature, right. And what happens in the human brain is like, our ego starts shrinking and we become bigger, like, we feel connected to something bigger, right? Like you were saying it's this constant. And, and that actually creates in people a sense of interconnectedness, they feel more kind towards other people, which is the research that's happening in the Greater Good Science Center, and UC Berkeley. So it's so fascinating to see the sense of sort of all and wonder and interconnectedness that happens when we can get out of our own heads and touch on to something larger, which nature is that larger piece?

 

Lisa Kennedy 

No, I think I think it's beautiful. And I think that you could be doing such a great service. If this catches on. And you know, there's so many beautiful parts of the country, and people deserve this. So if they want to try and find a therapist who has the same mindset as you were, can they access maybe some names or guidance? Yeah, we

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

started doing a directory of nature on form therapists, and it can be found on our website, which is nature informed. therapy.com

 

Lisa Kennedy 

Nature informed therapy.com Dr. Heidi Schreiter. Pam, thank you so much for taking time. I really appreciate it.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

I really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks for having me.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

Yes. And you are you're going to help so many people. And you know, even people who really need it who haven't gotten the help. This may be the extra step that encourages them to go find it. So thank you for all you do.

 

Dr. Schreiber-Pan 

Thank you.

 

Lisa Kennedy 

This has been Kennedy saves the world. I'm Kennedy

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