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Stories from the Field: Mental Health and the Outdoors

Mar 9, 2022

Dr. Thomas Doherty is one of the foremost authorities on Ecopsychology and is a widely sought-after researcher and speaker on how climate change impacts mental health. He is the co-host of the new podcast, Climate Change and Happiness, and has a private practice in Portland, Oregon. Thomas shares his early career highlights of being a field guide in a wilderness therapy program for inner-city youth in Arizona and a therapist in a wilderness therapy program in Oregon. Thomas discusses how he transitioned to Ecopsychology and dives into the differences between Ecotherapy, Wilderness Therapy, and Adventure Therapy and how climate change impacts mental health.  

Link to "Climate Change Enters the Therapy Room" New York Times article that Thomas is profiled in.

Link to Ministry of for the Future book mentioned in this episode.

Link to Thomas's website.

Bio from website:


About: Dr. Thomas J. Doherty is a psychologist from Portland, Oregon who specializes in applying an environmental perspective to mental health and well-being. Thomas provides individual and couples services through his business Sustainable Self, and also consults about climate change, health and wellbeing to groups and organizations.

Therapy Approach: Thomas Doherty’s approach with individuals is highly interactive and positively-focused. He integrates techniques that have been demonstrated to be effective into a unique plan for each client. A collaborative relationship with clear feedback is at the core of the work. See client testimonials.

Research and Teaching: Thomas Doherty is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and Past President of the Society for Environmental, Population and Conservation Psychology. He has multiple publications and professional presentations on nature, mental health and well-being; his groundbreaking paper on the psychological impacts of global climate change, co-authored by Susan Clayton has been cited over 700 times. Thomas Doherty was an adjunct professor at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling in Portland where he founded one of the first environmentally-focused certificate programs for mental health counselors and therapists. Thomas was also the founding editor of the peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal Ecopsychology.

Presentations and Workshops: Thomas Doherty has provided workshops and trainings for the Technology Association of Oregon, US National Park Service, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, the American Psychological Association, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Oregon and California Department of Health.

Background: Thomas is originally from Buffalo, New York and received his BA from Columbia University and Psy.D. in Psychology from Antioch New England Graduate School. In addition to his psychology training, Thomas draws on his professional leadership experience and early career adventures as a wilderness therapy and professional whitewater rafting guide, and as an environmental advocate for Greenpeace. Thomas lost his wife to breast cancer in 2017. He lives in Portland with his daughter.

Read and Listen to Thomas Doherty on his Personal Sustainability blog and his podcast Climate Change and Happiness.