Go get your doctorate in Ecopsychology!, by Andrea Bell, SEP™, D.A. 


I enrolled in Somatic Experiencing® training in 2008, because I wanted to become a good, competent trauma therapist. I liked my clients and I wanted to keep them; I didn't want to have to refer them out when complex trauma surfaced. As I progressed through the SE™ training, it quickly became apparent to me that this perpetually amazing work was, in fact, the most important work in the world. Because humans—not any other species—are causing basically all of the world's awful situations.

In SE™ I learned how so many problems result from our nervous systems becoming stuck in the trauma response, and that this tendency towards overwhelm and stuckness is a direct result of our complex psychophysiology. So then, I realized that if we can help deactivate these human trauma responses and support people returning to calm, presence, relationality, and well-being—then we are deactivating a problem at its very core. So, the SE™ skill set, applied with skill and creativity, is a very useful remedy that we can apply to darn near anything!

I was an ecotherapist before I became a SEP™, though. The more deeply I delved into SE, the more I could see these patterns of trauma-based stuckness in the massive problem of anthropogenic biospheric collapse. To this day, ecological collapse continues accelerating. We're collectively destroying more and more of the natural world, and the plants and animals in it, even though we know our practices are threatening Earth's capacity to support life. This seems really irrational—why are we destroying everything we need and love? The scientists, who are directly connected to the results of our ecocidal behaviors, are yelling louder. The businesses fight more aggressively for profits, and people become overwhelmed, turning away into avoidance or denial. In fact, we often turn towards overconsumption to numb the anxiety and the pain, which only worsens the destruction. So then, why is the human trauma response so conspicuously absent from most efforts to address ecological destruction? Surely, SE™ must offer many answers for this conundrum.

The problem fermented somewhere in the back of my mind until late 2020. The vaccines hadn't come into wide availability yet, so most people were still quarantined. This scenario had left me mostly isolated with only a human housemate, my dog, and a seemingly endless cascade of SE™ sessions over telehealth. This scenario left me mostly alone, working with trauma, day in and day out, without the camaraderie of my clients in the same room with me. By the end of the year, few of my own personal regenerative self-care needs were being met (because of the quarantine), and I was getting really burnt out. The bottom-up message my felt sense was clearly telling me, was that if I were to go on like this, I would become quite sick or possibly even die.

One day, I sat on my porch, pondering this conundrum. Suddenly, an epiphany struck, from the depths of my unconscious or I don't know where. “Go get your doctorate in Ecopsychology!” “What?!?” I exclaimed aloud. “Surely the remedy for burnout is not MORE work!” And yet, this bottom-up epiphany just would not go away. Turns out, it was correct. This doctoral paper is a direct result, and it (along with the end of quarantine) has refocused and revitalized my work in the world. It is my first major effort in this emerging field of Ecosomatics; and as such, undoubtedly requires field testing and further refinement. I welcome any dialogue around it.