At Ellesmere Counselling and Psychotherapy Training, we are very nosey with a particular interest in mental health and wellness provision in our local community. Today, we are looking at Rewilding Youth, a Hull and East Yorkshire based organisation with a passion for mental wellness and the outdoors.

We asked Dr Charlotte Dean, Director at Rewilding Youth to tell us more.

Hi Charlotte, please can you tell me about Rewilding Youth and what you do?

Rewilding Youth is a not-for-profit organisation that myself and Co-Director Les Moss set up in 2021 to provide space, activities and opportunities for young people to connect with the natural world, particularly for young people for whom connection – with people, school, peers and themselves might be proving difficult. We are privileged to be the  guardians of a beautiful rewilding space up at East Hull Community Farm upon which we have built a traditional wood and cob roundhouse which we use to ground young people and reconnect them to the natural world. Our talented team includes outdoor education practitioners; youth workers and therapists and activities include fire-lighting; shelter-building; natural crafts; green woodwork; campfire cooking and lots more – all underpinned with the principles and theories of Wild Pedagogy and Wild Therapy.

How did you get involved with working in the outdoors?

My doctoral thesis explored different ways of engaging young people who were struggling to maintain their participation in mainstream school. As part of my research I visited lots of alternative education providers across the country and found that those who worked with young people outdoors seemed to be the most successful. I then applied for some funding to test out whether being outside and engaging in nature connection activities really did work to reconnect young people, previously disengaged, with learning. The project was really successful and identified that there was a real need for this work in Hull so I looked around for funding and support to set up Rewilding Youth. Around the same time I also developed my interest in Wild Therapy and Wild Pedagogy through reading a lot about the subjects and also through attending an immersive Wild Therapy Training programme in North Yorkshire, this approach, together with my background in Youth Work was perfect for working with young people who may present more challenging and neuro-diverse behaviours.

What does a typical day look like for you and for Rewilding Youth?

For me it is often based around ensuring that the project has enough funding to do what we need to do so I am often found huddled in front of the laptop researching or writing a funding bid or updating our website and social media. The rest of the team will be up at East Hull Community Farm getting ready for whichever groups we have in that day – we have lots of alternative provision groups for young people for whom attendance at a mainstream school is untenable, we do one to one work and (very) small group work using the principles of Wild Therapy. We might be telling stories around the fire in the roundhouse, going on a wild walk across the Wolds, den-building, cooking over campfires or just swaying in a hammock! Young people choose what they want to do with us and we work hard to make sure that our activities and the spaces we use are as responsive as possible to their individual needs.

What’s your personal favourite project that Rewilding Youth are involved with?

I would say our Wild Camps! We pack up our minibus with tents, hammocks, sleeping bags, food and cooking gear and take off into the woods. Last summer we ran two of these for young people living in Hull and it was a real chance for them to truly connect with nature in a way that they wouldn’t normally on a more ’conventional’ camping experience. Young people got the opportunity to learn bushcraft skills, make dens, go on walks, sleep in hammocks and experience being outside for 5 days!

Another favourite is the building of our roundhouse last summer, where we employed 9 x young people aged 18+ who had previously been unemployed and not in education or training, to work with some amazing people to learn traditional earth building techniques.

What does a Wild Therapist do?

A Wild Therapist essentially works outside and uses the outdoors as the therapeutic space. Rather than the dyadic relationship between the therapist and client, as commonly experienced indoors, Wild Therapy works using a triadic model, whereby another element – the ‘more than human’ enters into the therapeutic relationship.

Nature connection is a really important aspect of Wild Therapy and whilst there are lots of wild spaces to work in – woods, fields, rivers, the sea for example, we are really interested in exploring how this can happen in an urban wildscape as it surrounds us in Hull.

We are really influenced by the work of Nick Totton and there is some really exciting work being shared through the Eco TA work of Hayley Marshall and Giles Barrow that your readers may be interested in.

How can people get involved with what you are doing?

In lots of ways, we can provide one to one and group sessions for young people who would benefit and we also run lots of events and workshops for the general public in nature connection experiences, bushcraft, green woodworking and earth-building.

We really encourage people to visit us to find out more about what we do and can even offer placement opportunities for those who wish to develop their nature connection and Wild Therapy experience and understanding further.

We already offer training to teachers, youth workers and educators in working therapeutically outside with young people and later this year we will be offering Wild Therapy training as a professional development module for counsellors and psychotherapists.

What plans do Rewilding Youth have for the future?

Oh, where do I start! There are so many areas that we are currently developing – training is a big one as I’ve already mentioned and we are also working closely with EBUKI (Earth Building UK and Ireland) to develop our work around using earth building techniques as a literally hands-on way to connect young people to this beautiful world around us. I’d also really like to develop the research aspect of what we do and will be working more on developing our research into the effects that nature connection can have on developing the environmental agency of young people. Keep in touch with what we are up to on social media (@rewildingyouth) and also through our website!