Helping Culturally Diverse Students Connect through Nature

Dr Darline Hunter,
Dr. Cheryl Sawyer
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Culturally diverse students often feel disconnected from peers, family, school, society and themselves. Feeling different and being different makes it difficult to fit into the classroom, the playground, and conversations in the school cafeteria or a congruent self-image. Including the "connection dimension" in the counseling treatment plan through the use of pets, nature, and the therapeutic relationship can increase a sense of connectedness for the student and decrease problematic behaviors. By adding "connectivity" to the usually addressed counseling targets of feelings, thoughts, and behavior, the counselor can teach students to find the lesson in their problems, use tools for releasing feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration and provide a foundation to support them in times of crises or chronic stress.

Students who feel an attachment to nature and animals are more likely than others to have a solid footing in the world, less likely to see themselves as victims, more inclined to trust that there is some meaning in the universe, more giving, and less threatened by loss. When including "connectivity" in the counseling process, counselors should teach: the benefits of connecting with others, nature, and animals; principles rather than rules; inclusion rather than exclusion; joy rather than fear; and gratefulness rather than resentfulness.

By addressing the "connection dimension" with students in counseling sessions, students can develop attitudes and feelings of: compassion, gratefulness, security, acceptance of self and others, stewardship of nature, and service to others.

Keywords: Culturally diverse, Counseling, Nature, Pets
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Helping Culturally Diverse Students Connect through Nature

Dr Darline Hunter

Assistant Professor, Counseling Program, University of Houston Clear Lake

Dr Hunter is Assistant Professor of Counseling at University of Houston Clear Lake and Director of Counseling Practicum and Internship. She has been in private practice for over twenty years working with children, adolescents, and adults in individual, group, and family therapy. She has experience in the schools, hospitals, and social service agencies.

Dr. Cheryl Sawyer

Assistant Professor of Counseling, School of Education, University of Houston Clear Lake

Dr Cheryl Sawyer is Coordinator of the Counselor Education Program at the University of Houston Clear Lake. Cheryl enjoys traveling, camping, and playing with her teenage children and her husband. Cheryl and her husband, Gary, and her family live on a mini-ranch in Galveston County, TX but spend as much time as possible enjoying the beauty of the United States national parks and seashores. She is an avid reader, writes just for fun, and loves all kinds of music, especially country western, rock & roll, and classical. Cheryl is a poet and her poem, "One" (written after 9/11), was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has presented at over 100 local, state, regional, national, and international professional conferences. Her field of specialty is counseling traumatized children and in developing creative methodologies for helping these children to share their emotions in non-traditional expressive therapies. Cheryl has also received multiple grants to train bilingual teachers to become bilingual and cross cultural school counselors.

Ref: H05P0172