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Project NatureConnect
Institute of Global Education
Organic Psychology
Special NGO Consultant, United Nations Economic and Social Council
Practical distance learning that increases energy, expertise and spirit.

Counseling and education relationship careers online training; counselor degrees, marriage, pastoral and nature-connected services


Introduction to Counselor and Education Programs:


ADOPTED FROM - Common Future Magazine
MAY 1995




"Have you ever sat near a roaring brook and felt refreshed, been cheered by the vibrant song of a thrush or renewed by a sea breeze? Does a wildflower's fragrance bring you joy, a whale or snow-capped peak charge your senses?"

This is Dr. Michael Cohen's response to an interviewer's question as to how connecting with nature can heal and uplift the human psyche.

From his five decades of living and teaching as a counselor in natural areas throughout the seasons, Cohen has pioneered "applied ecopsychology," a synthesis of ecology and psychology. Applied ecopsychology was experientially derived from the observed effects of people connecting with sea breezes, roaring brooks, and wildflower fragrances. As a counselor, Cohen noticed that intimate counseling contact with nature services put people in touch with an innate wisdom that produced a deep healing marriage of self and planet.

To make the benefits of applied ecopsychology available, Cohen founded Project NatureConnect, a home study program of the Institute of Global Education and Akamai University, where he is chair of the Department of Integrated Ecology. His students--most connecting with their instructor and each other through e-mail or telephone--make use of his self-guiding counseling-with-nature creer services and training manuals, The Web of Life Imperative, Reconnecting With Nature and Well Mind, Well Earth. The manuals provide a syllabus of "124 nature relationship activities for stress management, spirit and self-esteem."

Bound by Attraction

The great systems theorist, Gregory Bateson, once noted: "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks." As a counselor and educator, Cohen verifies that the distortions in the way humans think have arisen from our loss of contact with nature. He has discovered a sensory career and degree training process that helps us regain that loss and thereby more powerfully resolve problems.

The Pullitizer Prize, Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, observes that "Only in the last moment of human history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish apart from the rest of the living world. Preliterate peoples were in intimate contact with a bewildering array of life forms." By contrast, as citizens of Western civilization we spend, according to Cohen, "an average of over 95 percent of our lives indoors, cloistered from nature. We live over 99 percent of our adult lives knowing nature through detached words, stories and pictures." This detachment of our psyche from its biological and psychological origins stressfully and hurtfully estranges us from creation, from nature's supportive, non-verbal wisdom, spirit and love within and about us." This loss creates the insatiable wants and greed that underlie our disorders. We become psychologically addicted to rewarding technologies and relationships that often have destructive side effects on our inherent marriage with nature. The consequences of our alienation from nature manifest as the myriad of lasting personal, social and environmental problems which beset the modern world.

For counselors or educators to understand Cohen's scientific analysis of why estrangement from nature disturbs our existence so profoundly, we must start with his outdoor observation that the cosmos/nature is bound by attractions. This principle of organic applied ecopsychology is in agreement with the experience of mystics. "From atoms and molecules to human beings with developed consciousness, all entities relate through attraction for one another. . . . attraction is the law of nature," affirms spiritual philosopher, P.R.Sarkar. The cosmos is united as an integral entity by what we functionally describe as connecting attraction energies, but feelingly experience as love.

As an educational counselor, Cohen avows that attraction, love and consciousness are identical. He says, "The universe and all that it includes are wordlessly conscious and connected through attraction relationships, the same "intelligent pulling together" found in atoms and weather systems. We disconnect from that natural way of knowing by mostly thinking and communicating verbally with words, with abstractions, meaning "to pull apart." Verbal abstracts are never the real thing for nature is non-verbal. Almost 100 percent of contemporary thinking consists of abstractions."

Our indoor education relationships formally and informally train our intelligence to omit more than 45 of our 53 natural attraction senses. We lose conscious contact with our inherent sensory wisdom and its nurturing connection to its origins in nature. Our nature-disconnected thinking omits nature's intelligence. This results in the deteriorating state of ecosystems and people and our inability to stop being destructive when we know full well it is reasonable to stop.

Cohen observes that it is natural and sustaining for humans to seek and experience attractions and careers in the setting of nature. That is why this "love" connection produces good feelings in sentient beings. The feelings are natural "marrriage with nature" rewards that encourage us to keep making contact with nature. To biologist Wilson, this human tendency seems so fundamental that he coined the term "biophilia" to signify the "connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life." Our expression of biophilia is manifested, according to Cohen, by some 53 "natural senses" that he has identified. It is through sustainable pastoral and similar counseling using these sensory loves--from the perceptual senses like smell and touch, to primary drives like thirst and hunger, to subtle feelings like trust and nurturing, to mental expressions like reason and discrimination--that we link our being to the natural systems that run through and about us. Cohen's career work validates sensation itself, not just the words describing it.

Through the use of a long established web-of-life string model, Cohen shows that our natural senses are designed to act in congress as a marriage to bring our being into harmony, fulfillment and community with the world. Cohen calls the resultant functioning of the senses "self evidence" and "natural wisdom." He finds that it arises when we are able to freely follow nature's callings and learn how to genuinely connect our complex array of felt senses with the authentic natural world. In this state, our beings function in a manner that desires, mirrors, or receives, "earth wisdom." "Through its natural attraction intelligence," says Cohen, "Earth's global life community cooperatively self-organizes to cooperatively produce an optimum of life and diversity without producing our garbage, war, insanity or excessive abusiveness. Nature reconnecting services, careers and activities help us become conscious of and think with that wisdom. The documented health, psychological and environmental benefits speak for themselves."

Disconnect humans from rich, immediate sensory contact with nature, and we lose our profound natural fulfillments and wisdom. This loss causes us to want, and when we want there is never enough. Our need for sensory relationship fulfillment overcomes our sense of reason. We can't stop obtaining satisfactions from materials and relationships even when we know they are environmentally and personally destructive. Too often they produce our dysfunctions of toxic garbage, cravings, mass conflict, stress, depression, abusiveness and dependency that deteriorates people and natural systems. Cohen says, "Knowledgeably seeking destructive rewards symptomizes addiction and madness. It is insane for us to knowingly destroy our life support system."

Nature as Therapy

A counselors online counseling process of Applied ecopsychology teaches us how to use nature as a therapy for our troubles It is organic because moments of conscious sensory contact with natural systems help us register nature-congruent information.

Cohen's home study career and degree internet course at www.ecopsych.com gets people to reconnect with nature, whether in their backyards or in remote wilderness, for the purpose of nurturing "their ability to make sense of their lives as global citizens." The relationship techniques presented in the course enable counselors, educatiors, leaders and other participants "to use a variety of nature-connecting activities to discover, strengthen and fulfill their 53 natural sensations and feelings. This marriage energizes these sensitivities into our consciousness so that we may include their intelligence in our thinking and relationship building."

In an article in the American Psychological Association Division Journal, "The Humanistic Psychologist," on the effects of Project NatureConnect, Cohen reports subsidence in personality disorders, increase in cognitive skills, dissipation of violence and prejudice, and a reduction of dependencies and stress. Cohen himself has effortlessly broken a 58 year habit of biting his fingernails--a habit which resisted repeated attempts to overcome--through contact with nature.

If, as Gregory Bateson asserts, the problems of society and environment ultimately stem from our ignorance of how nature works, and if applied ecopsychology organically puts people in touch with "earth wisdom," then its healing potential could be more than personal in scope. Cohen would like to see "people who are trained to connect with this wisdom inject nature-connected learning into every facet of society." To this end he offers accredited, online courses and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. They are inexpensive because they incorporate a person's prior experiences and operate through online cooperative distant learning. Through them, educators, counselors, families and students reduce their estrangement from nature and increase their marketability, credibility and effectiveness.

Recently a psychologist who took this program said: "This is the course that every civilized person will be required to take if we are to reverse our runaway disorders."

Dramatic claims are made for applied ecopsychology. Can reconnecting our consciousness and thinking with nature's systems really provide a panacea to human problems? Such an assertion seems overreaching. Wisdom is not accessible only through sensory engagement with creation. Many have achieved great depth of wisdom by going within themselves, rather than into wilderness. (Cohen insists these two sources are each natural systems and therefore identical; sensory contact with the natural environment nurtures our inherent natural inner wisdom into our consciousness and thinking. He says the advantage to reconnecting is that it helps us use nature's grace, balance and restorative powers to renew and purify our inner nature; the latter is too often contaminated by long term contact with our society's disorders.) But it is certainly true, as Edward O. Wilson reminds us, that "Wilderness settles peace on the soul." And peace of soul is certainly prerequisite to peace in the world.

Cohen has certainly done counselors, leaders and the public a service by drawing attention to the detrimental effects of our alienation from nature, and by creating holistic and sustainable counseling tools for healing this alienation. In recognition of his 35 years developing and promoting nature-connected learning, the World Peace University, a United Nations non-governmental organization, honored Cohen as recipient of its 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award. If Cohen's organic ecopsychology process gets enough people reestablished in natural wisdom, the earth may honor him with a proliferation of butterflies, purification of streams, and peace among nations.

--Ron Logan with Mike Cohen



For references to topics in this article select here

Since the publication of this 1995 article by Ron Logan, Dr. Cohen has written two books:
"Reconnecting With Nature: finding wellness through restoring your bond with the Earth"
and its companion volume
The Web of Life Imperative: regenerative ecopsychology activities that help people think in balance with natural systems."

In a review of Dr. Cohen's work by Richard Fuller, Senior Editor of Metaphysical Reviews, Fuller states:

"If the higher purpose of literature is to provoke thought...then Dr. Michael J. Cohen has written a masterpiece! "Reconnecting With Nature" is as provocative a book as this reviewer has seen. One of its purposes is to show how to let nature place its wisdom and spirit into our thinking and overcome our separation from its intelligence.

Dr. Cohen presents the case that we have separated from nature's nurture and that is the root cause of our maladies and discomforts. Worse...our natural abilities have been significantly reduced by our society. We live our lives in cement and steel structures that have greatly reduced our appreciation and respect for nature and all that nature offers and teaches.

Thus, "Reconnecting With Nature" is about awareness...and enlightenment and enablement. Dr. Cohen makes us aware of the situation in a bold, forthright yet compassionate fashion. He then shows us that the circumstance is not only solvable...it is do-able. You see, Dr. Cohen has lived, researched and taught in nature for over thirty-six years, now. Not cement and steel...nature, and so he knows of what he writes. He then gives us simple, practical solutions to enable us to find our way back to the loves, truths and integrity that some of our Native American forebears lived, daily.

Reconnecting With Nature is a waker-upper! Michael J. Cohen has sounded the alarm, defined the problem and given us the tools to put out the fire. This eye-opener is a brilliant self-help book for all seeking renewal in our relationships with our environment, and our selves!"


In the March 1996 edition of Infozine, psychiatric worker, Becky Kaiser says:

"In Reconnecting With Nature Cohen describes numerous nature-connecting activities to help us reach moments of peace and connectedness. The activities are simple and effective. Most involve spending time in a natural setting, although some can be done with "nature" as accessible as a house plant. He encourages doing the activities with a group or partner, but they can be performed alone.

I did not do all of the activities as I read the text of the book, however, I felt a great sense of connectedness and inner peace even as I applied Cohens's ideas to my "indoor life." The validation of my senses (feelings) and the principal of seeking pleasure or affiliation in each moment have already given me periods of contentment and joy. This seemed very similar to therapy techniques involving listening to one's "inner voice" or getting in touch with feelings, except that this feeling of wholeness seemed quite easily attained using Cohen's approach. From reading the interview at the end of the book, I know Cohen sees nature contact as an essential component of his approach. I believe this is true; that we need contact with the natural world to be sane, both as individuals and as a society."


For additional reviews of Dr. Cohen's environmental counseling work select here


 "We are dysfunctional socially and environmentally because we are cut off and isolated from the world of nature and the natural."

-Albert Gore

"Project NatureConnect provides readily available sensory tools for counselors and others that help our psyche genuinely connect with nature. Our well-being improves through sustainable counseling and education techniques that enable us to thoughtfully tap into nature's balance, grace and restorative powers."

-Michael J. Cohen


After you obtain information about the Project NatureConnect program from this web site by using the Navigation guide (left column), a free, helpful 15 minute discussion by phone with a faculty member is the most efficient way to customize the program to your goals.



Special NGO consultant United Nations Economic and Social Council

Online, counselor and counseling relationship services with
nature: sustainable degrees, jobs and careers.

P.O. Box 1605, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
360-378-6313 <email> www.ecopsych.com
The Natural Systems Thinking Process

Dr. Michael J. Cohen, Director

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All programs start with the Orientation Course contained in the book
The Web of Life Imperative.

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