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The  Diploma of Ecotherapy (newly approved by IICT International Institute of Complimentary Therapies) is being first  taught at a series of retreat style workshops across the beautiful nature and wilderness of Aotearoa, from October 2018 - October 2019.

Begin, Broaden or Change your Career! 

Or you can simply retreat:   if its  a slowdown to river-time, on the Otaki river, you need,  or forest bathing in the  kauri and punga’s  on the Coramandel Penninsula, near Hot Water beach, (where you can dig yourself your own hot pool under the moonrise! ) Perhaps it’s the magnificence of the Southern Alps, to realise your enormous smallness, the retreats centers are chosen for their location  in nature,  and  gourmet, healthy cuisine ( lots grown on site and some organic/bio-dynamic.)  There is a world class labyrinth at Te Moata  and all have lots of walking trails in nature.  Of course you can join the teaching workshops for the Diploma, as you like, for creative and beautiful immersions  in and with nature.  

Cost of Retreat :  $545 NZ  Early bird -  (book by  September 20)

includes all gourmet, organic /biodynamic food ( scroll down to see sample menu) and accommodation


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             earthart by Kelly Jarvis                                          


And here are trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel its taste.  These scents of grass and stars at night, certain evenings when the heart relaxes – how shall I negate this world whose power and strength I feel?
Albert Camus


Bespoke Learning


20 years of experience  in community, teaching and environment is  condensed into an innovative and experiential diploma crafted  to prepare you for the changing world of work opportunities increasing as the field of Ecotherapy and Earth/Nature based therapies emerges.  Action research on the need for this Diploma of Ecotherapy, has informed  inspired and indeed encouraged, the creation and the writing of this course  along it’s  way, with practioners and prospective employers of Ecotherapy programs, were consulted.  The Diploma of Ecotherapy blends  vocational  needs with a strong theoretical and evidence base, designed to assist you in forging and making the most of work opportunities in the growing field of  Earth/Nature based Therapies.

The Diploma of Ecotherapy consciously develops the holistic leadership required of you, forging your professional identity as an Ecotherapist, and the confidence in your ability to create and develop  opportunities for the work of Ecotherapy.   The retreat based workshops both inform  and  nurture this  from the beginning of this course of  study.  This is a Diploma that truly enables you to and to be a part of  and indeed shape the evolution of what Thomas Berry called the great  work and Joanna Macy calls “the work that connects;”  being the change Gandhi exhorted.  


Beautiful, Affordable  Nature-Immersed Locations

Each of the retreat centers is chosen for its earthbased ethos and respect.  The food is  mindful and delicious vegetarian fare,  (some bio-dynamic) with fresh produce sourced from gardens on site.  Each is  located in /near the beautiful bush, streams, beaches,  rivers and mountains  of Aotearoa.  There is opportunity for walking, mediation, reflection and all have their own unique accommodations and provisions to enhance your stay (Te Moata has a world class labyrinth and glowworms!) Most is twin share or dorm style to keep prices cheap and cheerful 😊 (If you prefer your own room, this can often be arranged.) Camping is an option at some of the retreat centers.

( & the food!)

A peek at Riverslea Retreat Cuisine:

"We are delighted to provide in-house catering to meet your requirements. We specialise in delicious Home-made Organic Vegetarian meals, using produce from our bio-dynamic garden and local growers (where possible); most of the ingredients will be organic. Our menu is seasonal ..."Below is a list of just the salads, breads, spreads and dessert at the Riverslea Retreat Centre, Otaki.  Much of thier food is grown on site and bio-dynamic.  For a full menu go to

Salad Options:

Greek salad

Buckwheat tabbouleh

Roasted pumpkin & feta

Red cabbage/carrot/hazelnut coleslaw

Crunchy carrot salad (with walnuts & yoghurt)

Crunchy curried egg salad (with apple)

Roasted root vegetable salad with sesame seeds

Warm beetroot

Chickpea, beetroot & nut salad

Carrot and sesame salad

Warm asparagus & potato salad

Mediterranean lima bean salad

Broccoli & Cranberry salad

Sprouted mung bean salad

Asian inspired brown rice salad


Rosemary & sea salt focaccia, Tomato & oregano focaccia, Walnut bread, Onion & rosemary flat bread, Potato flatbread with feta/olives, Southern corn bread, Socca Bread (GF, V), Irish Soda Bread, Mixed Seed Bread Rolls, Cheese or Plain Scones


Hummus, Riverslea Pesto, Kale Pesto (seasonal), Sundried Tomato Tapenade, Quark, Spinach/yoghurt/garlic dip.


Choose 1 option – all served with Home-made Ice-cream    Raspberry and Apple-Crumble      Chocolate Brownie

Banana Cake    Berry Crumble Cake       Baked Lemon Cheesecake   Sticky Date Pudding & Butterscotch Sauce

Italian Fig and Apple cake    Self-Saucing Chocolate Cake    Almond Honey Spice Cake  Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

+ 12 more!   V = Vegan, GF = Gluten Free, DF = Dairy Free, NS=No Sugar


Unique Reflexive and Experiential ways of Learning:

The diploma of Ecotherapy is crafted to respect and engage many ways learning, or multiple intelligences.   Experiential  and reflective, with invitation and opportunity  for your  individual and collective process,  ensure your effectiveness as a practioner of this work.   This foundation  prepares you for both the realities of working as an Ecotherapist, and the changing environment and opportunities that are emerging in this beautiful work.

  • ·      The retreat workshops are designed to be experiential.   In this the learning is with opportunity to be transformational for both learner and teacher.  The assessments will have an emphasis on an awareness of and a reflection on the dynamics of this process, for you. 
  • ·       Assessments will be a requirement of each module and due within a month of module completion.  ( Application can be made for later assessments due to unforeseen circumstances.) Some of them are designed to encourage creative responses to this course material, and your own inner processes integrating the learnings. As such they can include (but are not limited to) poetry, songs, dance, art/sculpture installations etc. that express and evidence the impact and  potential of the learnings. This will compliment the more academic style of some other more theory based assessment, and aims to engage, respect and embody  the variety of multiple intelligence's or ways of learning ( See Howard Gardener’s research ) including earthways.

  • ·       The weekend workshop modules will run concurrently with a retreat stream.  Participants who do not wish to complete the Diploma or the assessments but are interested in participating in the discussions/workshops can choose what to attend.  Retreat time is theirs to walk/write/rest as they need. If they then choose to take the assessments and enroll in the Diploma of Ecotherapy a fee would apply to cover this, equivalent to the module cost of studying.
  • ·       A balance of theory and practical will comprise this Diploma.  Invitations to ground the theory will be an integral part of the ways of learning. The diploma will have a focus on the evidence base amassing for Ecotherapy /Nature Based Therapies.  It will also explore the theoretical frameworks that support the practice of Ecotherapy.  Alongside this will be offered  a variety of practical and creative activities, based on and emerging from this theory, that can make up a program in Ecotherapy. 
  • ·       Peer to peer learning will be an integral part of the delivery and each student will be invited to present a workshop in consultation with the course lecturer.  This will enhance the emphasis in group facilitation skills and leadership, as much of the work opportunities arising in Ecotherapy are in group settings.  As such 360 degree feedback ( from all course participants) and the teacher will be invited and offered for reflection and growth.
  • ·       Creativity is the way Earth renews and expresses itself.   Invitations to your own creativity will be a feature and a focus, sitting alongside growing its skilled  facilitation for your client groups, in earth inspired  ways.  We will draw our inspiration and indeed sometimes mimic nature (e.g self care principals  based on trees, rhizomes and fungi  and the way they stay strong together
  • ·       Readings offered before some modules, from current thinkers, movers and shakers shaping the field of Ecotherapy.  Discussions of these will be part of  some modules.
Ecotherapy is ecopsychology’s success story. Mainstream psychologists such s Reser, Koger and Winter endorse it, noting the impressive and growing body of evidence for the therapeutic effects of contact with the living worlds and the need for clinicians to validate the distress that people experience over the ruination of the earth. “
Andy Fischer “Radical Ecopsychology Psychology in the Service of Life.

Conscious Communitas  - returning Joy to learning

 Communitas happens, when we form and cohabit in temporary  learning community, and  is harnessed  in an intentional way, during the length of the Diploma of Ecotherapy, to enhance the powerful aspects and the joy, of experiential learning.  Edith Turner,   an anthropologist published  a definitive overview of the anthropology of communitas, outlining the concept in relation to the natural history of joy.   She explored the nature of human experience , in relation to the sacred, nature and spirit. Communitas often occurs spontaneously,  (delightfully) deepening learning and connection to fellow learners.

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Will be roughly 2000 words length per module.  Some are more theoretical ( because there is nothing so practical as a good theory!) and there is such an exciting research base that supports the work of Ecotherapy that is critical.   Others comprise a mix of writing and presentation methods, including expressive modes such as poetry, dance, prose, songs/music etc.  Toward the end of the modules,  focus will be on developing your skills to  write a program of Ecotherapy, and honing your group work facilitation skills, to engage and be effective with the client base of your choice, for your 50 hour placement.

Assessments will be given considered and depth  feedback and may include a professional discussion with teacher, with emphasis on the learning process.  The final module only, the  work placement, will be assessed satisfactory/unsatisfactory.


The Diploma of Ecotherapy - 9 modules

Module 1 – 7 will be delivered at 4 weekend workshops across Aotearoa  New Zealand.  The schedule is as follows;

Module 1  Introduction to Ecotherapy Overview of  benefits, current practice opportunities emerging, research/evidence base and weaving together useful theoretical frameworks for Nature Based Therapies.

Module 2 Creativity the  Joy Of Earth Creative responses to earth, Co-creation, Change and Contentment.

Attendance  accredited retrospectively at previously held Introduction workshops at Te Moata April 2017 & 2018 (pending completion of assessment+ payment of discounted catch-up fee NZ( $200)


catch up modules 1 & 2 for those who need it 2 ½ days (October 22 -24 ) at the end of Module 2 & 3 held at Riversleigh Otaki (near Wellington ) October 19 – 22 2018.

Module 3 Indigenous Earthways     Earth Mothers & Green Men.  The context of colonization. Dadirri (Deep Listening) & the reconciliation potential of Ecotherapy                    

Module 4 Green Dharma from the East  Comparison to Western individualism /narcissism epidemic, The work of Joanna Macy with despair and others. Mindful Gardening/ Seasonal Planting

Riversleigh Retreat Centre Otaki  ( an hour from Wellington) October 19 – 22 2018.

the retreat space at Riverslea Retreat Centre, Otaki Aotearoa

the retreat space at Riverslea Retreat Centre, Otaki Aotearoa

Module 5  Anxiety  &  Depression  – the great malady of our time    The worried well and the impact of social media on mental health.  FOMO (fear of missing out) Nature deficit disorder

Module 6 Ecotherapy’s answer:  Mindfulness, Meaning and Re-connection Natures gentle invitation:  into the  now, The innate capacity of humans to make meaning.  Re:  the root word from the sun

Will be taught at a weekend workshop Te Moata  (Coramandel Peninsula – I.5 hours from Auckland)  May 2-5 May 2019.


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Module 7  Therapeutic Facilitation of Ecotherapy Creating trust, safe  therapeutic space, boundaries, Therapeutic Communication and Emotional Intelligence.

Module 8 Elements of Group Work The Art of Facilitating, Effective and Engaging Group Process in Nature Based Therapies. Inhabiting outdoor spaces.  Group Dynamics.

These final retreat modules, will be taught at a small  mountain retreat in the Alps of the South Island St Arnaud ( an hour from  Nelson)  on a 3 day weekend in October  25 – 28 2019.

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 Includes a visit to the Flying Flower Famer Jenine Wardman’s farm. 


Be part of the evolution (re-volution) of Ecotherapy!


 Feedback from  participants in Introduction to Ecotherapy - Te Moata 2017/18

Working with the land art I felt connected to the earth our mother…I loved the smell of the warm soil…and feeling that source with my bare feet.  I will introduce Ecotherapy to the families I work with  confidence that I am doing the right thing.  Before when using nature, although I felt intuitively that is was right I believed I had nothing to support this;   now I do.  Thankyou for bringing this work to us.”   Family Violence Worker

“the course will  help me in supporting staff who work in the frontline with teaching to support clients and their families with mental health and addictions issues”    Emerge Aotearoa

“It gave me a better understanding of the ngahere (bush) …being in tune with everything…”  Maori family worker


“Other centred therapy is a powerful focus:  I liked the idea of the eco-self…it’s something I want to notice more…and an awareness of eco-anxiety is useful for understanding students.”  University student counsellor

“It will play a very important role within my professional role and personal journey”  Nurse

“ A greater understanding of unspoken values and beliefs through immersion in nature and gentle guidance – this workshop will impact my work and a  greater sense of self through affirmation of the possibilities of be-ing in natural spaces.”

“ an new creativity is seeded …”

”re-affirming of our work, our medicine”

“I feel more present, more connected with my eco-self”

“a softening, and a deeper realisation of what is important…


 Poem “Find me a word”  (written after Ecotherapy weekend)

by NZ poet Gus Simonovic - a beautiful film version produced by Martin Sercombe    (



IICT has a  two part aproval process:  the first is gaining professional indemnity/public liability  insurance  for Ecotherapy as a modality. This offers  insurance cover  to you as a student, while you are on your professional placement. 

The second stage is  becoming  an approved training provider with IICT.  This requires the submission for approval of the following: ( part of enrollment package)

  • ·       A student refund policy
  • ·       A dispute policy
  • ·       An overview of course content and student contact  hours
  • ·       Detail of assessments students must complete satisfactorily to receive Diploma
  • ·       Business Registration and current insurance/professional indemnity
  • ·       C.V of teacher of the course

While IICT are not a registered training authority, they have over 11,000 members across the world, specializing in approving modalities that have no traditional pathways of study.  In effect, making it possible to study in this growing field of Nature based Therapies, at this time.  I am confident that they are professional and represent emerging therapies and modalities while in the crucial stage of becoming established  - this process has been traversed  with other expressive  /values based therapies that are more established than Ecotherapy, but are similar to it,  such as Art Therapy,  Pet Therapy  and Music Therapy etc.  Catalytic Validity is a term used to refer  to the validity of values based work in  the stage during which the evidence base is being consolidated/action researched.  It is a critical part of development and change.   Typically mainstream practices need time to catch up to cutting edge/emerging research and this can take some years to integrate into other more established modes.  Meanwhile those who experienced the effectiveness of the   Nature Based Therapies, forge and develop its application into the community, while having the assurance of insurance cover.  It is a way of participating in change:  BEING the change.


We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them
Albert Einstein

I also believe that the integrity of this course of study, based firmly in many years as a horticultural and art therapist in mental health and community work, will speak for itself.  I have mentored many student placements  in nature based work, and supported work placements and assessments.  This diploma has emerged out of direct experience with the evolving work of Nature/Earth Based therapies and I have witnessed the rapidly increasingly demand for professionals, competent  in the particular range of skills,  and expertise needed in this unique career pathway.   I believe  the Diploma of Ecotherapy will stand up boldly, and help to meet this demand AND go on to merge with other online forms of study emerging in Nature/Earth Based Therapies, to be the collective basis for accredited pathways of study, like a Bachelor of Ecotherapy   (oooh don’t you like the ring to that?:)



The total cost for The Diploma of Ecotherapy, including professional placement, is NZ $3960

Each module  is $440 .

 Cost includes:

1.       All accommodation and meals at 4 retreat beautiful retreat centers across Aotearoa

2.       200 hours +  of face to face experiential, retreat styled learning, and assessment and placement completion.

3.        Assessments designed to creatively nurture your own eco-self integration/development as well as your own leadership  facilitation in working with others.

4.       All professional Insurances  while studying, covering student placement, as well as student membership with IICT for $1 per year.

5.       Ongoing feedback and supervision/support  with locating  industry placement.

6.       Diploma of Ecotherapy accredited (pending*) with International Body for Complimentary Therapists.

Payment can be  staged over 18 months of the course duration (including placement) and is due a month before each module commences.  For each retreat ( 2 modules ) $880 is due 4 weeks before  commencement.

*transport to and from retreat venues is at own cost


Open now  email :

for more information and an enrollment package

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Founder/Facilitator of the Diploma of Ecotherapy

Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis  spent her formative years in Aotearoa/NZ.    She started her career as a school teacher.  With a passion for Environmental Education,  she completed post graduate studies with a Masters in Social Ecology.   Essentially a philosophy of enquiry drawing inspiration from what emerges when traditional  silos of knowledge, ( psychology, ecology and sociology) and blended.    Both ancient wisdom and new sciences belong here, and this foundation,( and a lens) is an underpinning basis to navigate  the uncertainty at  the frontier of the emerging field of Earth-based Therapies. 

 She has  been a community worker and manager with Relationships Australia, and taught in adult vocational education for over 15 years, including the Diploma  of Youthwork, Case work  and Community Services, and on the Bachelor of Human Services.  She served  on the management committee of Cultivate (NSW Horticultural Therapy Society) for 2 years and created an introductory course for them , with colleague and Horticulturalist, Karen Grey.  She has trained in Poetry Therapy, and Art Therapy  and taught Transpersonal Art  Therapy,  and works with youth at risk.  And as  both an  art and  horticultural therapist, in clinical mental health services as  group facilitator  with addictions, mood and eating disorders .

Kerryn is also the co-author ( with Karen Grey and Virginia Field) of a book “Nature Heals: Horticultural Therapy, Ecotherapy and Nature Based Therapies in Australia and New Zealand” being self published & crowd funded currently - available March  2019.

B.Ed, M. Social Ecology,(UWS) Dip Transpersonal Art Therapy, Cert. Horticultural Therapy (TAFE NSW)  Cert IV Workplace Training/Assessment,  Cert. Organic Agriculture (Nutritech) and Cert. Professional Supervision  (Relationships Australia) 


The Peak professional association  for Creative Arts Therapies in Australia, New Zealand and Asia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Member Number #504

The Peak professional association  for Creative Arts Therapies in Australia, New Zealand and Asia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Member Number #504

Member Number 1806154162

Member Number 1806154162