Certificate in Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability

Develop a deeper connection to self, community, and the larger ecosystem.

  • Overview
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty
  • Tuition
  • Dates
  • Loans, Tuition Help

What is Ecotherapy?

Ecotherapy is an emerging idea that is predicated on this simple philosophy, that the presence or absence of nature is directly connected to individual and communal health. “Eco” is derived from the Greek word “oikos,” meaning “home.” The word “therapy” can be translated into “that which restores wholeness.” So in this sense, Ecotherapy is all about coming home into the natural world, recovering what the Indigenous have known and practiced for thousands of years. It is here that we find our innate wellness.

The Ecotherapy Certificate Program

The connection between the environment and our health cannot be overstated. Recent research indicates that interaction with nature can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, improve memory and moods, and contribute overall to greater psychological and physical well-being. Simply taking someone into a garden or park can accomplish far more than an anti-depressant, and modern medicine is finally starting to prove it.

In Western Europe, Ecotherapy is already integrated into the healthcare system. Here in the U.S., it is now recognized by the Department of Labor as a viable occupation. On a very practical level, Ecotherapy and this growing profession has everything to do with our health and the way we choose to treat and sustain it.

The certificate program in Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability is dedicated to empowering students to find their place in the natural world, while activating their ability to help others do the same. Throughout a nine-month program of study, participants engage in a variety of activities that enhance their self-sufficiency and capacity for creating sustainable cultures.

These practices include:

  • Woodland and essential survival skills,
  • Permaculture,
  • Animal-assisted therapies,
  • Holistic gardening,
  • Social/environmental/food justice
  • Natural healing
  • and more

By accessing the balance and sustenance inherent in nature and reflected in indigenous ways of knowing, students will emerge from the program with a deeper connection to self, community, and to the larger ecosystem. 


Classes in the Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability certificate program meet one weekend per month (Friday evening, from 5 to 9 pm, Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 9 am to 1 pm) for a period of nine months. In addition, each student is required to complete a 40-hour practicum experience. Several learning events will occur off-site at nature centers and sustainable farms. 

Courses and Descriptions (12 credits)

ES 581: Holistic Sustainability - 2 credits

This course explores the societal, economic, educational and political implications of Ecotherapy from an ecoliteracy perspective. Ecoliteracy, a term coined by academician David W. Orr and physicist Fritjof Capra in 1992, refers to the ability to understand the principles of the organization of natural ecosystems, and applying those principles to create ecologically sustainable human communities. The operational construct of ecoliteracy is presented as a new educational paradigm that integrates the concepts of holism, systems thinking, sustainability, and complexity theory. Program participants analyze ecotherapeutic models such as the ecosystem approach to sustainability (Lebel 2003) and ecohealth (Maller, et al, 2008). They examine how natural systems showcase strategies for the integrated management of land, water, and living resources that promote sustainable use in a manner that is equitable to each component of the ecosystem.

ES 582: Nature-Based Spirituality and Contemplative Practices - 2 credits

The course is designed to facilitate personal transformation by orienting program participants to consciousness theories grounded in contemplative practices. It includes ceremonial rituals that integrate selected aspects of natural systems. A variety of contemplative practices, including stillness practices (e.g., silence, centering prayer, insight meditation, etc.), movement practices (e.g., chi gong, t’ai chi chuan, labyrinth walking, yoga, etc.), creative process practices (e.g., channeling, journaling contemplative art, calligraphy, etc.), activist practices (e.g., volunteering, vigils and marches, pilgrimage to social justice sites), generative practices, (e.g., mantra repetition, visualization, lectio divina, etc.), ritual/ cyclical practices (e.g., vision guest, sweat lodge, Shabbat/ Sabbath, etc.), and relational practices, (e.g., Bohemian dialogue, deep listening, storytelling, etc.) are analyzed for their impact on psychological wellness. These mindfulness practices and activities are designed to engender awareness, communion, and connection to nature. Participants learn to foster a unitive understanding of humankind and nature by transforming the objectification of nature to an appreciation of its presence, beauty and powers of healing.

ES 583: The Mind-Body-Spirit-Nature Connection - 2 credits

This course is designed to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the somatic components inherent in ecotherapeutic applications. Program participants are immersed in holistic body-centered approaches that reconnect the self with nature, and promote psycho-spiritual-physical awareness and well-being. Participants learn the principles, practices, and protocols inherent in the Mind-Body-Spirit-Nature Coaching Model. Using case study analyses, they engage in a proprietary process that assesses emotional, physical, and spiritual health across six integrated life domains: 1) resilience, 2) nutrition, 3) mindfulness, 4) spirituality, 5) movement, and 6) relationship to nature. Assignments and exercises provide participants with strategies, methods, and techniques for understanding and embracing the body as a vehicle of and emissary to the natural world.

ES 584: Theory and Practice of Ecotherapy - 2 credits

This course examines the evolutionary history of Ecotherapy, including the work of notable luminaries such as Eugene Warming (Ecology), Max Planck (Quantum Theory), Freud and Jung (Depth Psychology), Arne Naess (Deep Ecology) and Fritjof Capra (Non-Linear Systems Theory). Program participants analyze the sources, symptoms and actions of humankind’s pathological relationship with the environment (i.e., Natural System Dysfunctional Disorder). Participants also conduct an extensive literature review on the efficacy of specific ecotherapeutic models, examining practices and activities that impact the physical and spiritual health and well-being of individuals and communities in specific geographic settings (i.e., diverse environments). Participants also analyze and evaluate Howard Clinebell’s Ecological Circle construct from both a philosophical and ethical perspective. Further, the vision, goals, and activities of the Environmental Justice Movement are examined.

ES 585: Working with Plants and Animals - 2 credits

This course provides an overview of selected horticultural therapies (e.g., organic food production and the benefits of community-based agriculture), and specific animal-assisted therapies (e.g., equine, dog, cat, etc.) that enable program participants to serve various clients (individuals, family units, community-based organizations, and corporate/ business enterprises) using ecotherapeutic-based modalities, strategies, protocols, and plans of action to facilitate body-mind-spirit wellness. Participants learn how to facilitate the balance of sustainable living using the aforementioned therapies. Cohort members design and construct strategic plans of action that facilitate the implementation of therapeutic “green” spaces, initiate animal-assisted therapeutic programs at local hospitals, and galvanize communities to develop collective agriculture initiatives.

ES 586: Ecotherapy Practicum - 2 credits

Program participants complete a field-based, 45-hour, Ecotherapy Practicum in which participants self-select designated field placements that offer opportunities to apply what they have learned, access and self-assess instruments, practices and policies that are ecotherapeutic and eco-psychological in scope, and be supervised and evaluated by program faculty who provide formative, embedded, and summative assessment feedback to each participant on a daily basis during the 5-day Practicum. Participants are empowered to select various practicum settings that will directly contribute to Connecticut’s green economy (e.g., farm, community-based agricultural sites, mentoring communities on sustainable systems, etc.), and identify specific ecotherapeutic modalities (e.g., Horticultural Therapy, Animal-Assisted Therapy, Environmental Justice Advocacy, Wilderness Excursions, etc.) The Practicum provides a venue for program participants to demonstrate their skills, achieve prescribed proficiency levels of performance, and document field-based experiences in the application of designated ecotherapeutic modalities, policies, practices, and protocols.


   Full course descriptions are available in our Catalog of Programs.

The faculty for the Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability Certificate program is comprised of many pioneers and visionaries in this emerging field. 

Core Faculty

  Ed O'Malley, PhD
Academic Director


Dr. Ed O’Malley is a Naturalist and founder of Your Optimal Nature, an education and consulting company created to bring optimal states of awareness to people through programs designed to foster direct experience of spirit, through a deep abiding awareness of the Immensity of the Natural World. Ed earned a PhD in Neurobiology at Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences followed by postdoctoral research in EEG brain-mapping and a clinical fellowship culminating with board certification in Sleep Medicine at NYU School of Medicine Sleep Center. He founded his Optimal Sleep and Optimal Neurofeedback companies to provide these services holistically. In recent years Ed studied with Tom Brown, Jr. noted wilderness expert and founder of the Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School. He also completed teacher certification through The Children of the Earth Foundation and has facilitated Nature Awareness Programs for children and their families. In 2008 Ed completed a two-year program and was ordained as an interfaith minister. To broaden his training in indigenous spirituality and healing he completed shaman training with the Four Winds Light Body School based on the Peruvian Q’ero people, where he continues his energy medicine work. As an ordained Interfaith Minister and Shaman, Ed takes a broad approach to wellness through spirit in nature. Together with his Naturalist training, he brings people to spiritual awareness and health through deep exposure to the natural world.

Visiting Faculty

Gabriele Ganswindt, Ph.D.

Gabriele Ganswindt is an executive coach and leadership consultant located near Boston, MA. As a German native, she partners with leaders of both European and US organizations to support results oriented, life-affirming leadership and sustainable organizational transformation. Gabriele serves her clients as an executive coach, designer and facilitator of a wide range of leadership development programs, as well as large-scale organizational change efforts. For over 20 years, she has worked nationally and internationally and regularly leads workshops and retreats, addressing the strategic-and organizational leadership needs of the client system. She is trained in several large systems change technologies (i.e. Open Space, Future Search, Appreciative Inquiry, World Café Conversations) as well as the art and science of generative thinking (dialogue). Facilitating the transformation of new leaders into savvy leaders producing sustainable results is one of her greatest joys

Mary O'Malley, MD, PhD

Mary O'Malley is a psychiatrist in private practice with specialization in sleep disorders. She is the Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director at the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, the Senior Fellow for the Center for Nature and Humans, and the co-founder and past president of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section the Ecological Society of America.

Robin Kimmerer, PhD

Dr. Kimmerer is a mother, plant ecologist, writer and SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. She serves as the founding Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. Her research interests include the role of traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration and the ecology of mosses. In collaboration with tribal partners, she and her students have an active research program in the ecology and restoration of plants of cultural significance to Native people. She is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science education for Native students, and to create new models for integration of indigenous philosophy and scientific tools on behalf of land and culture. She is engaged in programs which introduce the benefits of traditional ecological knowledge to the scientific community, in a way that respects and protects indigenous knowledge.

Simon Harrison, MEd

Simon is the author of The Truly Alive Child, a visionary and life-changing book and the founder and director of Wild Earth s Children, a non-profit dedicated to re-connecting people to nature. For the past 15 years Simon has been discovering how to re-connect with nature, and with life, and what this means for you and the world we live in. The results, through his programs and writings are inspiring and empowering, allowing us all to lead lives of love, peace, joy and purpose. Simon began working with children as an elementary school teacher in his native England. After a number of years he came to America to learn from world renowned tracker and survivalist Tom Brown Jr. Simon fell in love with the natural world and never looked back. He worked for Tom Brown s Tracker School before becoming the director of The Children of The Earth Foundation (COTEF), a non-profit that Tom founded to lead children back to the Earth. Simon enjoyed a number of successful years with COTEF, teaching all over North America, including Alaska, New England, and the Cree Nation in Quebec. Simon felt the calling of his vision urging him westwards where he founded Wild Earth s Children and wrote The Truly Alive Child. He lives in Colorado with his wife Katherine.


Tuition and Fees

Tuition for Master of Arts Degree Programs

Total tuition for each 36-credit MA program is $15,408, at $428 per credit. A one-time, non-refundable, application fee of $60 – and a program fee of $385 – are also required. The graduation fee is $90.

After paying the application fee of $60, MA students pay a deposit of $483 upon acceptance or conditional acceptance to the program. Students then make 20 monthly payments of $770, which includes the program fee of $385 and the graduation fee of $90. The total of all tuition and fees is $15,943.

Tuition for Certificate Programs

Tuition for certificate programs is $428 per credit. A one-time, non-refundable, application fee of $60 – and a program fee of $195 – are also required. The graduation fee is $90.

After paying the $60 Application fee, Certificate students pay as follows:

12-Credit Certificate Program students pay a deposit of $521 upon acceptance or conditional acceptance to the program. Students then make 7 monthly payments of $700, which includes the program fee of $195 and the graduation fee of $90. The total of all tuition and fees is $5,481. If the student decides to matriculate to an MA program, the student will pay $1,222 in the 8th month, followed by 12 monthly payments of $770. (Certificates in Ecotherapy, Applied Storytelling, and Positive Psychology)

11-Credit Certificate Program students pay a deposit of $793 upon acceptance or conditional acceptance to the program. Students then make 6 monthly payments of $700 which includes the program fee of $195 and the graduation fee of $90. The total of all tuition and fees is $5,053. If the student decides to matriculate to an MA program, the student will pay $880 in the 7th month, followed by 13 monthly payments of $770. (Certificate in Integrative Energy and Eastern Medicine)

9-Credit Certificate Program students pay a deposit of $637 upon acceptance or conditional acceptance to the program. Students then make 5 monthly payments of $700 which includes the program fee of $195 and the graduation fee of $90. The total of all tuition and fees is $4,197. If the student decides to matriculate to an MA program, the student will pay $966 in the 6th month, followed by 14 monthly payments of $770. (Certificate in Integrative Health and Healing)

6-Credit Certificate Program students pay a deposit of $753 upon acceptance or conditional acceptance to the program. Students then make 3 monthly payments of $700 which includes the program fee of $195 and the graduation fee of $90. The total of all tuition and fees is $2,913. If the student decides to matriculate to an MA program, the student will pay $710 in the 4th month, followed by 16 monthly payments of $770. (Certificate in Consciousness, Transformation and Mindfulness)

Tuition for Coaching Program

Tuition for the Transformative Coaching program is $ 3,168 which includes three one-on-one mentor coaching sessions with Guthrie Sayen, PCC. 

A one-time, non-refundable, application fee of $60 is also required. 

Students pay a deposit of $918 after acceptance to the program. Students then make 3 monthly payments of $750.

In addition, Non-TGI costs associated with the acquisition of the ICF ACC coaching credential are:

  ICF membership dues paid directly to the ICF $245
  ICF exam fee, member rate, paid directly to the ICF $300

NOTE: Admission to the Transformative Coach Training program only requires a completed Application form, the application fee of $60, and Proof of Immunization.

Acceptable Forms of Payment 

Payment may be made by check or money order (payable to The Graduate Institute), or online payments can be made using credit or debit cards through PayPal. Please click here for more information on making a PayPal tuition payment.

Admission: Acceptance and Conditional Acceptance 

Please see Admissions section for complete information about Admission requirements.

Students are given Conditional Acceptance after they have submitted their application, paid the application fee and submitted a resume, CV, or employment and educational history. 




Enrollment Dates

All of The Graduate Institute's programs operate via a cohort model, which means you will join a group of approximately 12-15 students and complete the entire program of study as a cohesive learning community. We are continually starting new cohorts as existing cohorts become filled. 

Most of our programs begin in the fall (September/October), although certain Master of Arts degrees and certificate programs are also available in the spring (April/May) of each year. Please check back frequently for new cohort start dates.

The dates listed below reflect the current cohorts that are available for each of our programs. If you have any questions about admission to a particular program, please contact Admissions at (203) 874-4252, or email admissions@learn.edu.

To fill out an inquiry form: Click Here

Master of Arts Degrees and Certificates in Emerging Fields of Inquiry:

MA Programs First Session Apply By Link to Schedule
Writing and Oral Traditions May 26 - 27, 2017  Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Integrative Health and Healing June 9 - 10, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Consciousness Studies & Transpersonal Psychology June 9 - 11, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Organizational Leadership Aug. 18 - 20, 2017 July 1, 2017 Link to Full Class Schedule
Learning and Thinking - Bethany Oct. 20-21,2017 Sept. 15, 2017  
Learning and Thinking - Middletown Oct. 27-28, 2017 Sept 15, 2017  
Certificate Programs      
Positive PsychologyEmotional Wellbeing and Happiness June 2 - 4, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule 
Applied Storytelling May 26 - 27, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Integrative Health and Healing May 19 - 21, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Energy and Eastern Medicine Sept. 15 - 16, 2017 Aug. 1, 2017 Link to Full Class Schedule
Ecotherapy and Cultural Sustainability June 23-25, 2017 Call! Link to Full Class Schedule
Non-Credit Program      
Transformative Coach Training - ICF Approved Sept. 15 - 17, 2017 August 1, 2017 Link to Full Class Schedule and Details


Request Information

Student Loan Opportunities

Students may apply for Connecticut state loans through the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA), which offers low-fixed-interest-rate loans, with no application fees. Applicants – or co-applicants, if any – must have a minimum $20,000 gross annual income, and monthly loan installment payments must amount to 40% or less of monthly gross income. Students may defer interest while in school and for a 6-month grace period (interest is capitalized annually). The CALS Graduate Institute School Code is 117777-00. Access the loan hotline at 800-935-2275 or visit www.chesla.org for more information.

Alumni Partial Tuition Waiver 

An alumnus of any of The Graduate Institute's Master of Arts degree programs qualifies for a partial tuition waiver of $2,000 towards another MA degree, or $1,000 towards a Certificate program, or $300 towards the TCT coaching program. 

Tuition Waiver for Six Credits for Educators

Applicants for the spring of 2017 for MA degrees who teach full time in Priority and Alliance School Districts* are eligible for a $2,568 tuition waiver. 

*Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bristol, Bridgeport, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, East Windsor, Hamden, Hartford, Killingly, Manchester, Middletown, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Putnam, Stamford, Vernon, Waterbury, West Haven, Winchester, Windham, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.

Tuition Waiver for up to Six Credits for an MA Program

Master of Arts students may apply for a tuition waiver for up to six (6) credits if they show evidence (official transcript) for credits of graduate study as a non-matriculated student. Requests for this tuition waiver are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The Academic Affairs Committee renders all decisions regarding transfer of credit.  

Need-Based Scholarship

Need-based scholarships are available to eligible candidates who have financial hardship and can provide documentation (most recent tax return and asset statement) to support their need. Fill out and mail the TGI Need-Based Scholarship Form, link below, to: The Graduate Institute, 171 Amity Road, Bethany, CT 06524 Attention: Bursar

   TGI Need-Based Scholarship Form


Important considerations regarding tuition waivers:

  • Tuition Waivers will be credited at the end of the degree program.
  • Tuition Waivers may not be combined.
  • Tuition Waivers will not be applied retroactively.
  • Other restrictions may apply. Policies are subject to change.



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