Nature-Deficit Disorder Balance – Keith Kurlander & Dr. Will Van Derveer – HPP 116

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Dr. Will Van Derveer

As a society we have become more and more disconnected with nature. This phenomenon and the psychological and physical stress it has placed on many of us is referred to as Nature-Deficit Disorder. It’s a growing problem that was only heightened by the pandemic. Nature can regulate the nervous system in ways that are difficult to attain otherwise. Nature is truly food for the soul.

In today’s episode we’ll dive deep into a discussion on the correlation between nature and mental health, and discuss our personal experiences with nature’s healing power.

Show Notes:

Keith’s Rediscovery With Nature – 04:39
It led to spending a lot of time hiking in the woods in Vermont and moving to Vermont and really, it was like I was intentionally like practicing being with nature to see what was there and why, you know, I was just being called to it for my early 20s And in a pretty intense way. A very large part of my identity was, I need to be in nature. This is my kind of spiritual path I need to reconnect. I’ve been dislodged from nature, which is, you know, nature deficit disorder.

A Refuge – 12:57
But I think it was also like a really big refuge from the chaos and terror that I often felt at home. You know, I was just a lot going on at home. So. So nature, I think also for me, has always been like a way to get away from difficult interpersonal relationships.

Childhood Memories in Nature – 16:10
So I think I’ve always had this sweet association with like, play, connection and putting, putting all the stress of life behind me for a minute. I’m also realizing that, you know, when you’re talking about, like, taking a sip of nature with a walk

The Nature Deficit Disorder – 21:23
I think that, for me one thing, when we talk about nature deficit disorder, and we think about people who are struggling with mental health, I think it’s just always important to ask the question of a person struggling with their mental health, or like, how’s that going for you?

Will’s Reconnection – 28:06
I think about my ego a lot as a kind of a city on a hill that’s well defended with big walls and cannons aimed outward and that kind of thing. And then there’s a whole, you know, like in a fairy tale, there’s like the fire swamp and the dark forest and the places that I’m scared to go. And so I think that’s also a dimension for me of how I relate to the wilderness, going into places that I don’t know what I’m going to encounter. And that definitely brings things up for me.

Full Episode Transcript


Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer


Dr. Will Van Derveer  00:06

Thank you for joining us for the Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Dr. Will Van Derveer with Keith Kurlander, and this is the Podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Welcome back, everyone. Keith and I are gonna talk today a little bit about a phenomenon that has grown in some circles as an area of attention for mental health, which, you know, we both have had a relationship with for a long time, which is this concept of nature deficiency disorder. And do you know who coined that phrase, Keith?


Keith Kurlander  00:52

I don’t know who coined that. Yeah.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  00:55

Yeah, I don’t, I don’t remember who originally came up with that. But if there was a person, but it’s, yeah, it’s an important aspect of mental health is, what kind of relationship we have with nature, or lack thereof, and what the impact is on our physiology, on our psychology, on our spirit, on our soul. So we’re just going to explore that topic today and look into some different aspects of how we can address in a fast paced 21st century post COVID difficult time in the world, how can we access nature and stay connected?


Keith Kurlander  01:36

Yeah, and there was actually, I just looked it up. It was Richard Love in Last Child in the Woods in 2005.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  01:44

  1. Yeah, thanks, Keith. Yeah, yeah. So I also want to acknowledge that there is this element of privilege that you and I have, and a lot of people have of having access to nature very easily. And then there are loads and loads and loads of people who live in big cities or urban environments, or suburban areas where it’s very difficult for some people to access nature, trees, grass, wilderness. So I think it’s important to mention that right off the bat that there’s a wide range of accessibility that people are experiencing on the planet right now.


Keith Kurlander  02:27

Yeah, yeah. And that’s a real, that’s a real phenomenon. I mean, there’s no way around that. And yeah, it’s good to name that at the beginning of the conversation. And I think storytelling would be a good way to start with this for both of us. I know a little bit about your childhood nature. So I think it would be good to start off with a couple of stories about nature and what it’s meant to us. And we can go from there. And unpack that a little bit. How does that sound?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  03:02

Sounds great? Yeah.


Keith Kurlander  03:05

Do you want me to start?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  03:05

Why don’t you kick us off? Yeah.


Keith Kurlander  03:08

So during my childhood, I didn’t grow up in a family that cared much for nature ever. Like that was not the MO of my family, like, Let’s go camping, let’s go find a natural spot. Let’s go to a lake like that just wasn’t a part of my family ethos. And I grew up in suburban New Jersey, where when I first moved there from Brooklyn at five, it actually was very forested. And it’s still as far as that. So I played a lot in the woods, but outside of playing in the trees in the woods by my house, like, there wasn’t a connection or value around nature’s kid that I grew up with. And then when I left the house to go to college, and in my first few years of post college, I had a natural kind of insight and discovery that I had a nature deficit disorder. And now I didn’t frame it with those words, but I actually knew that part of my remembering who I was, like, finding who I was, was to go and be a part of nature in a deep way. And this was kind of a natural discovery in myself and it led to living in a tent in Vermont for six months of the year. It led to spending a lot of time hiking in the woods in Vermont and moving to Vermont and really, it was like I was intentionally like practicing being with nature to see what was there and why, you know, I was just being called to it for my early 20s And in a pretty intense way. A very large part of my identity was, I need to be in nature. This is my kind of spiritual path I need to reconnect. I’ve been dislodged from nature, which is, you know, nature deficit disorder, kind of the concept, right that I was dislodged from nature at a young age and didn’t have a connection to it. And what I discovered was, I was actually terrified. In nature, I was terrified in general. But I really felt that fear in nature, which we see a lot with kids in the wilderness, I worked in wilderness programs, right? Early in my career. We see this a lot where kids come and are terrified, they feel their terror in nature. Because it’s like the natural elements really, for me, allowed me to feel how anxious I was all the time. Because it’s like, you could project it on the tree, and you could project it on the crack of the branch from the squirrel that ran over it. But then you start to realize, like, wow, I am. I’m a mess here. There’s like, nothing is really going to hurt me right now. But I’m very scared and projecting a lot into this environment. It might work in those environments like, can I somehow receive from the natural world, some kind of healing process? From being around so much lifeforce in nature? And I would say that overall, that that was a nice aspect of my healing process. And I’m going to wind down here and turn it over to you. But, you know, in my last five to seven years, I’ve actually become disconnected from nature. Again, I go for hikes, probably once a week short hikes. And, you know, we’re in Colorado, so there’s so many natural elements near us and around us. But I’m disconnected again, I don’t make it a practice, like I did in my early 20s, to really try and stay connected. And I think I feel that I know, I feel that on some level, you know, we can talk more and impact is that, like, how do we balance our lives and urbanization, and that not all people live in, but many people do, and modernization and how we balance that out with the needs of nourishment from nature? So I’m going to pause there, turn it over to you.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  07:19

Yeah, there’s a lot there for us to explore. I’m curious if you’re open to it. You know, you talked about the changes you noticed in yourself, when you were working with teenagers in the woods, and you know, when you had a more immersive experience, it is in nature. And I wonder if you could share a little deeper of what you actually noticed about your mind. And you know, what changed for you when you were in those immersive experiences.


Keith Kurlander  07:50

So when I was working in wilderness therapy, mostly, let me preface this mostly, where I worked for a year, a little over a year, I actually get to go in for a day and then leave at the end of the day, okay, I would drive a four wheeler out there. So I wasn’t a trip guide, I was like, I was a therapist, I would come in and work with kids and leave. That experience for me was great. Like, I loved seeing what it did for these teenagers and the healing that it did for them. And that I could come into the wilderness like that right in and be a part like be in the world and then go home to, again, a little more of a kind of it was an urban setting were a little more of an urbanized setting for me that that was a great balance. But for the kids, what I saw was just how powerful transformations not every single teen went through that. But powerful transformations and mostly it was the wilderness that caused the transformation. The therapy was great. And the end of the boundaries. The boundaries were a part of it. And the group process, but the wilderness was the medicine, right? That was medicine, and I saw it, you know, time and time again healing, deep, deep, deep injured kids.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  09:20

I feel like there’s something energetic. You’ve spoken about lifeforce you know, few minutes ago, there’s something powerful about the resonance of that energetic waveform of the life force of wilderness, Mother Nature that and this is just a kind of a subjective interpretation in my experience, but it feels like my monkey mind my default mode network, my chatter in my head. Intellectual, you know, mental All, just random thinking has a much higher frequency, somehow, then that wave form of nature. And I noticed that because the presence of that energy is so overwhelming that it just the longer I’m out in nature, the more it’s like I come into some kind of vibration or some kind of compatibility or something that feels like a returning home in a way, the mind quiets down and, and there’s, you know, less distraction, if I don’t have a cell signal, or in cases where I choose to leave my phone and go for a walk without my phone, that kind of thing. It’s just deeply resetting to the nervous system. In LA, it is one of the big things I noticed. I would say my relationship with the wilderness started pretty young. When I was an infant, my parents moved to a log cabin that was in the back of a bigger home, in the countryside, in Tennessee. And I spent most of my time outdoors wandering around, and my mom was there with me watching the stories that she told me, you know, barefooted and naked, or wearing a diaper maybe, or something like that. So there was this really strong connection from the very beginning there. And, and then, as I got older, you know, camps and Boy Scouts, and I was in a Boy Scout troop that, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of problems with the Boy Scouts, you know, we can poke them and you know, there’s issues there, but, but for me, as a little boy, my boy scout troop went camping once a month, for eight years of my life. That’s a lot of camping, you know, and it was year round. So we had this test of our strength in the winter, when we would do our January camping trip, and it was freezing cold, you know, and getting up and making meals on the stove in the morning, playing Capture the Flag. And so those, those are all really positive memories for me, the campfire, and just running through the woods and the South, all over state parks and national parks. And so that was a really big part of my experience as a child. And there was a way that I was really looking forward to those weekends. Planning the meals, making sure I had my gear. But I didn’t have words for it at the time. But I think it was also like a really big refuge from the chaos and terror that I often felt at home. You know, I was just a lot going on at home. So. So nature, I think also for me, has always been like a way to get away from difficult interpersonal relationships. So there’s a connection there for me with that.


Keith Kurlander  13:21

When going back to what you said about the energy that you feel the nature like for you, do you calm down? When you go into nature? Like do you feel your system just immediately starting to calm down? If you’re going for a walk? Or?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  13:40

Yeah, it takes time. I mean, and there’s a depth that I think I haven’t ever fully plumbed. As far as like, you know, what would happen if I was out for twice as long or five times as long as what I’ve done before in the past? You know, what if I was out there like you in a tent for six months, in Vermont, like I’ve never lived in a tent for six months, I’ve done it for a week or two at the most. But I wonder how deep that regulation and that resonance can go


Keith Kurlander  14:13

within Taichi for me, but just because for me like settling is work. Many people it is but it’s very confronting for me to pause. And so for me, that’s the six months and that was also bear in mind. The six months was, you know, 2020 to 24 years ago and I was so severely traumatized that, you know, sitting in a 10 alone in the woods was actually deeply, deeply confronting to how jarred my nervous system was. So it was healing and a lot of work. And still is, I go for a walk, you know, by myself, I tend to do at least one A week typically. And I noticed like as soon as I’m alone walking that, usually the starting point isn’t amping up for me. I feel a little heightened. And like, you know, my mind’s going everywhere, like I really see like all of a sudden my actually kicked up from the level of monkey mind that I’m normally in for a little bit when I’m just like walking in the woods. And then it’s like work for me, it feels like, it’s just this process for me and like, can I take it in? And can I be present and you know, some people just go in the woods. I’ve talked to people, they go in the woods, and they’re like, I’m just in a flow state, I go to the woods, and I walk and immediately enter the flow. I have that more like, at work and other places. But when I’m pausing like that, actually, it’s working for me to enter the flow. And it’s good, it’s good to do that. But I am also disconnected from nature, too. And I was and I think that’s, you know, a part of what’s happening for me is feeling that disconnection.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  16:09

Yeah, I think there was, for me, an early association with play in the forest. My best friends in elementary school, Harrison, Dean. And Harrison lived in a house where there was a big forest on a hill behind him. And, you know, from an adult perspective, looking back and thinking, whose property was that I don’t even know if it was public. Or if we were trespassing, or if there were no fences, there was nothing. There was just forest. And Harrison and I found this fallen tree. We called it the spaceship and it was our, it was sort of like a fort. And we would, you know, act out all these things that were happening. And then pretty soon after that, one of the Star Wars movies came out with the Ewoks. And this forest with all these huge fallen trees, and I, I saw the movie after Harrison and I were kind of already doing this thing in the forest with the spaceship and in the tree and sounds like wow, like we knew what was going on before it was even in the movie.


Keith Kurlander  17:13

Or were you an ewok or were you like Han Solo? Yeah,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  17:20

Yeah. So I think I’ve always had this sweet association with love, play, and connection and putting, putting all the stress of life behind me for a minute. I’m also realizing that, you know, when you’re talking about, like, taking a sip of nature with a walk, you know, once a week that in a previous lifetime, when I was a psychiatrist, had a practice, where I worked three days a week and was able to cover my bills and didn’t run my life. On a three day work week, I spent quite a bit more time in nature, there were fewer people looking for me, or trying to get a hold of me. Since you and I started the clinic, and we, when we started the institute, you know, there’s a lot more people who need to talk to me, especially now that we’ve grown so much. And so it feels like it’s a little bit harder for me to turn things off and, and get away.


Keith Kurlander  18:24

Yeah, I think this concept of nourishment is important, like, nature is food, right for our systems in a different way than food is. And, you know, we can’t remove that we’re just really in an animal body that, you know, lives in the natural world. And that’s real. And that’s what’s happening. And I think that we don’t often really critically look at, you know, that animals receive something from the natural world, not just what they eat, they do receive something from being in the natural world. And we see that with animals that get put in cages and zoos, and you can see depression, and all these different elements that happen. And so I think that’s a real thing. And it’s okay, so here we are, we’ve built this incredible world around us, you know, in the last whatever, couple 1000 years, or really the last 1000 years where we really went crazy. And we built this thing. And it’s cool, and it’s exciting. And for some people, it’s more exciting than for others, depending on where you are and who you are. And yet, we definitely, probably as a global community, not local communities have started to forget that. We do get nourishment from the natural world. And what does that mean? If we forget that over time, and we keep forgetting that and how well are we going to do it? It’s a really important question in terms of where to go as individuals, and how important is it for an individual to have this connection? How do they get it? If they can’t access it out their door? And there’s a lot of questions there.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  20:16

Yeah, and in a world that, especially, you know, in the pandemic, and kind of the work from home environment, that kind of process after the pandemic, there’s even less venturing out of where we live, than there used to be. Which is not to say that people were getting out into nature necessarily more, but there’s more of a center of gravity around, you know, where we dwell, and how are we, you know, as the world becomes more digital, and we have more and more of our interactions with other people over the internet, like you and I are right now, like, how do we meet that need? You know, is there going to be some kind of immersive virtual reality, nature experience that triggers off the beneficial cascade of chemical signaling in the body?


Keith Kurlander  21:12

Well probably, I mean, over time, but I don’t know what to make of that. But that’s probably going to happen if it already isn’t. I mean, it’s probably already happened. Yeah. I think that, for me one thing, when we talk about nature deficit disorder, and we think about people who are struggling with mental health, I think it’s just always important to ask the question of a person struggling with their mental health, or like, how’s that going for you? Some people have that completely covered, and they’re still deeply struggling with their mental health, right? So it’s not, that’s not what we’re talking about here. There are plenty of mentally ill people that go to the woods every day, or, you know, they love the woods, and all of that. But I do think it’s really important from a mental health perspective to always ask the question like, What is your connection to the natural world and to nature? And how are you fulfilling that connection? And have you explored that connection? And I think another element here is, you know, you and I have explored this in ourselves. I’m more disconnected now than I used to be. But I also live in Colorado and still get it right. So Right. But a lot of people haven’t even asked a question. Like, to themselves, just nature is important. There’s many people I met in my practice over the years, and especially when I’ve worked with people from cities, who grew up in cities, there’s many people that I met that never asked a question, actually, they just said, I don’t like nature, is that a response? I like I don’t like the woods. I don’t like to hike. I don’t like nature. And, you know, I get why. I know why. Because when I went to nature, and to some level, still, do I get uncomfortable. But I think that if we’re talking about mental health, it’s a very important thing to ask someone if they’re struggling, this was their connection to nature, and why haven’t they explored it? Why haven’t they explored it? If they haven’t explored it? Why did they make conclusions about it? Right, that are so fixed if they’ve never even explored it.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  23:12

There’s also this interesting kind of like, meta kind of cultural phenomenon around our cultural relationship with nature and wilderness. And a kind of, I would say, adversarial, or fear and scarcity kind of driven relationship with nature. I remember in high school getting introduced to Nathaniel Hawthorne and some of the early American fiction writers. And we were looking at how early colonial Americans related to nature out beyond the fort, or the perimeter of the town, you know, and there was a tremendous amount of fear in the sellers, right, because the forest was full of animals that might attack them. There were Native Americans who were not happy about the appropriation of lands and who might come in and raid them or attack them. And so there’s this interesting kind of problematic relationship with nature that I think is also not just personal, but it’s also cultural. And I think there’s also an extension of that, which is that we kind of now that most of the places that we have urbanized or that we have appropriated, you know, belong to someone else, before we came in and took control of the land, and so, I feel that acutely when I’m walking through nature in Colorado, or you know, places I’ve been that the lineage of people that I come from, in Europe are not the earliest people who came there. So, I think it just brings up a lot, not necessarily just personal experience of growing up disconnected from nature but also like the messaging, cultural messaging.


Keith Kurlander  25:07

You know, where you’re taking this, I think is really important, which is, I think that the more you can stay connected to the natural environment and land, you start to actually feel the history and you’re willing to actually recognize the history of where you are. And, you know, a lot of people, and I’m definitely subject to this at times to like, don’t want to look at the history of why we have certain opportunities on the land that we’re on. And the history is actually really violent and really dark, a lot of land. In the world, there’s a lot of dark history, right. And so when we stay connected, unwilling to really deeply connect, when we talk about the land, there’s that relationship, we have to relate to a lot of things about the environment around us. And it’s not just, I’m taking this in a little different place. But it’s not only that we get to relate to like, oh, the sunshine is so warm, right, we also have to relate to the history that’s not just about us, and our immediacy, and there’s a richness there of being able to do that, staying connected in that way. But it’s humbling to have to do that. Because then we’re willing to look at what happened to provide certain opportunities, then, of course, I’m speaking mostly about this country in the moment. This country has a violent history, LM land, in order to claim the land here, and, you know, overtake people that were here. So staying connected to nature opens up a very rich, deep dynamic of being a part of human history, and the good and the bad there, and really ugly, in a good way to open that up for oneself. And also, I think a lot of people don’t, it’s not on their radar to go there and do that to stay connected to the land. And maybe you open up this piece, and but you know, also you don’t get the magic of the land, if we don’t relate to it. Right, right. Yeah.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  27:20

Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of interesting to me, it’s sort of like an interesting metaphor, or the micro and the macro of when I think about a person’s psychology. Like, there’s certain things that we’re aware of, there are certain things that we know, we have thought patterns we have, we have an ego. And we’re conscious of some of our thoughts. But there’s an awful lot of things that we’re not conscious of that we’re not aware of. And when I think about going into the wilderness, I think about kind of the metaphor of going into the part of myself, or the part of my mind that I don’t know, you think about your your psychology as a landscape, I think about my ego a lot as a kind of a city on a hill that’s well defended with big walls and cannons aimed outward and that kind of thing. And then there’s a whole, you know, like in a fairy tale, there’s like the fire swamp and the dark forest and the places that I’m scared to go. And so I think that’s also a dimension for me of how I relate to the wilderness, going into places that I don’t know what I’m going to encounter. And that definitely brings things up for me.


Keith Kurlander  28:44

Yeah, I think back, you’re making me think back again, well, not making me recall the wilderness therapy or where it was actually a year. And then they also did another section in the wilderness. And just who was this view held? I was in a program in Idaho. And the view is that wilderness will inherently heal these teams, as part of the thing that was that was one view being held there. Another view was that what you’re talking about, which is that how we perceive the wilderness is just a manifestation of the wild wilderness in our own mind. And that was another view that it’s just a mirror of how we relate to the wilderness is a mirror to the wilderness in ourselves. And that, you know, by exploring the wilderness, externally, we get to explore the wilderness internally, that was a view. I think that the evidence I have to offer. His programs had a lot of kids in them. So you know, I probably worked with a few 100 kids when I was there, not that many, but enough, who were you know, deeply, deeply, deeply injured human beings, deep, deep trauma in almost every Quebec Even there, there was some kind of trauma, obviously. And complex mental illness of some sort. Basically, I saw these teens start to naturally speak about the wilderness in themselves, without even having to push that agenda. You know, I saw them starting to surface and discover aspects of themselves they didn’t knew existed. So, I think this is the magic and of the wilderness is that, you know, nature and particularly, I mean, there’s nature, like, we could go to a park, right, and like to shoot trees, and that’s, that’s one thing. And that needs to happen. We need trees and parks and things around us, that’s great. But when you’re in the wilderness, or like, what’s, you know, there’s your little off grid, and like, you’re maybe you see a person here and there, but you’re, you feel like you’re with nature, predominantly, something else happens there. And that’s unique for every person. What happens there? Right?


Dr. Will Van Derveer  31:06

Yeah, it’s an important distinction. You’re saying, I mean, a city park or, you know, a manicured kind of human designed or human controlled, natural environment really, really different from, you know, that country?


Keith Kurlander  31:22

Yeah. So I think that where I’m going with that is, I think, people who live in cities mean, you know, I think that visiting parks is very important. And it’s, you know, getting to be surrounded by more green and natural elements. And that’s great. And then I think, for people who have not made it a practice and can somehow get to the wilderness , wilderness has a lot of forms. I mean, the desert is a wilderness. Right? Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s just a non urbanized environment that still has natural elements is the wilderness in my mind. So I think that that is essential to explore that somehow. And to visit the wilderness, for some period of your life or even to touch back in at times. And if you can create that access, I think it’s an amazing place to get to know oneself, and to heal parts of ourselves that, you know, honestly, maybe the recipe is to be in wilderness for certain parts of ourselves, you know, maybe many people, I would say, probably, from what I saw, many people have parts of ourselves, that the way they will get healed is to be a wilderness, not the whole self. But there are aspects that need the wilderness. And that’s the nature deficit disorder, I think,


Dr. Will Van Derveer  32:52

that I’m speaking to here. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there’s, the way it shows up in me is, what you’re talking about is like, when I get really anxious, I’m a pretty anxious person by nature. Anyway, every one of my family is anxious. So I mean, I don’t know. I mean, maybe I would meet criteria for generalized anxiety or something. I don’t know. But in any case, one of the things that happens for me in nature, that’s so beautiful, and healing for me is a question I asked myself often, and my life has a different answer when I’m in nature. And the question is, am I okay, right now? Is there anything that would suggest to me that I’m not okay, right now. And when I’m in a natural environment, I look around. I mean, obviously, if I see a bear or a mountain lion, it’s a different answer. But in general, there’s this well being, this is wellness and this, I’m okay. I’m okay. Right now, in this moment, you know, and that’s really powerful and healing for me to, to come into contact with that, and then fall out of it. And, you know, ask the question, again, come back into it, but nature has been a huge ally for me, in that regard, in my life,


Keith Kurlander  34:23

was winding down. I’m telling another short story here. Because I’ve just, it just kind of came through me. It’s sort of a more granular look at the story I started with. So when I graduated college, you know, you know, this part of the story, I won’t tell the aspect that you know, really well, which is, you know, I had this thing to either work on Wall Street, or you know, to work on Wall Street and so I was facing in myself to I live in the concrete jungle, which was I was like, That’s curious to, you know, the bad I was just like, that’s really interest. thing, or do I need to go? You know, an aspect of this story you’ve heard many times I haven’t told much is the order I need to go live in the forest in Vermont. So anyways, I chose Vermont, but the story briefly wants to tell us I ended up at the highest southern peak in Vermont, and Bennington, Vermont, like at the southern peak of this mountain, they ended up in this beautiful, rustic farmhouse right at the top of the peak. And it was in a meadow that was rolling hills down the mountain. It was like a 200 acre meadow that, you know, I would draw this mat off at the top. And this house was actually owned by Do you remember the show taxicab confessions on? Do you remember the show? It was on HBO back in the late 80s, early 90s. David David went in taxi cabs and like just film, the person in the back and it’d be like, Oh, fashion there was it was just a funny show, this guy owned. This guy was the producer of that show he owned. He built this place. And so this is a little side note. But so I was living, I got to rent this house. And I woke up every morning and would look out at this field and the sun was rising, I would always wake up for the sun and that simple process. And I would go outside and have my tea, sit in my chair in this like looking out of this expanse of mountains and you know, 100 acres of just this huge pasture up on this mountain and the environment. And it was like, in that moment, I’m recalling, like, I felt something else was there for me. Because I was so traumatized. And in this world, I actually felt nature has me and nature and nature is an intelligence that can heal me. There’s something else here. So I just wanted to share this as we’re wrapping up. That something I was fortunate to experience, you know, was that there’s natural intelligence in the world, in nature. And that intelligence actually is a healing intelligence, if you can let it in, even if we’re struggling in nature, or whatever, but it’s there. There’s a principle of healing and growth and creativity in nature that you can receive, if you want to. So I just wanted to wrap up with that story. Because it was an incredible time in my life of receiving the healing power of nature. And that, you know, when I asked for it, I got like, the most magical thing I could possibly imagine to do, right. And nature gave that to me. I didn’t, ya know, nature gave that to me is like, here’s your retreat center. You could stay here as long as you want. And you have the most magical retreat center you could ever imagine. Right? And we’re gonna make that available to you. I had no money. And I figured it out. But like, the world gave that to me. So I just want to offer that as we enter here that I think nature is behind us here. Behind Yeah, and


Dr. Will Van Derveer  38:23

Thanks for sharing that story. It feels like the story wakes up for me this memory of how, you know, we’re not anything other than nature. Like our bodies are of the soil, the molecules, the atoms, the physicality of matter is of the earth. And when I feel like there’s no separation between myself and the natural environment, it extends out to the universe as well. And I feel a deep relaxation as opposed to the way I often feel when I’m stressed. Or when I forget that connection, I feel separate. There’s a separateness and it sounds like you waking up in the morning and watching the sunrise over this meadow was a deep sense of connectivity with what was actually there and what was happening.


Keith Kurlander  39:18

Yeah, yes, the deep connectivity and it was what he was receiving. I mean, the best way to say it is it was a kind of mother Gaia, you know that the energy of the earth and just like and I don’t even think that way. Like I don’t talk that way. I don’t think that way, but that’s what was happening. And I felt it. I felt the earth helping me. Be okay. And I think that we can rely on nature and this way.


Dr. Will Van Derveer  39:54

We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast where we explore What it takes to achieve optimal mental health

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC is the Co-Founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI) and Integrative Psychiatry Centers (IPC), and the co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast. He graduated Naropa University in 2005 with a master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, and he has practiced integrative psychotherapy and coaching with individuals, couples and groups for over 15 years. After years of treating highly complex patients, as well as a personal journey of overcoming complex trauma and mental illness, he turned toward integrative psychiatric practices as a key component to achieving mental health and understanding the healing process. He brings a professional and personal passion toward innovating the field of mental healthcare.

Dr. Will Van Derveer

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute, co-founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, and co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast.

Dr. Van Derveer is a leader in the integrative revolution in psychiatry and is passionate about weaving together the art and science of medicine. He has published in the field of psychedelic medicine, and he has provided MDMA – psychotherapy for chronic treatment resistant PTSD in clinical trials with MAPS, the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies.

As medical director of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, he oversees a busy ketamine assisted psychotherapy practice.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). He studied medicine at Vanderbilt University and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.