Animal Assisted Therapy


Personal Story: Chiara’s nature experience

This is Chiara. She is studying counseling psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Growing up in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago, Chiara’s family made it a priority to have consistent connections with nature. While some families where inside watching TV, her family was exploring the local natural spots that her suburban city had to offer. Chiara talked to me about her trips to the beach which was only a few blocks away, they walked the local nature trails, and even just spending time out in the backyard.

When talking to Chiara about her extended family I quickly found out where her family got this need for a connection with nature. Her entire family has this notion to connect with nature. Chiara’s extended family are from Italy and India and both families spent a considerable amount of time in nature. There were trips up into the Matheran Mountains where the family owns a hotel in the Deccan Plateau, they have made many hiking trips in India and Austria, and even did a family 2 day backpacking trip in France. From daily rituals to weekend retreats nature seemed to be a part of this family’s identity.

Upon realizing how integral nature was to Chiara’s family I wanted to know why. One of the main overarching themes I heard from her was nature is just an escape. She talked a lot about how nature allows you to clear all the noise that comes with everyday life. There is just this natural build up of tension coming from stressors of your life, and nature can act as a safe space where you can simply take in a deep breath and breath out all those stressors. Nature is a place where your shoulders get a little bit lower and you feel that negative energy leave your body and then you allow yourself to just be you.

 Nature allowed Chiara to also look at life from a different perspective. When we are rushing around doing our daily tasks it may be hard to take a step back to really look at problems from a different perspective. Chiara talked about thinking about life in general from a deeper level. In the grand scheme of things our individual problems are to a degree meaningless. Yes, to you your fight with your roommate may seem distressing, but does this really have an impact on the grand scheme of things? No. Chiara explains how viewing the world in this manner allows her to look at her problems in a sort of weightless manner. Since these problems don’t have an impact on the overall world, they almost seem weightless to the world. If they are weightless to the world, then why should they have a huge impact on me. With this Chiara is able to push away problems that just don’t seem to be beneficial to her, and only allow the things in her life that are beneficial. Since we are just “little guys” (Chiara) out living in this world we can only handle so much. Why not only hold on to the stuff that matters.