The Code of Conduct & Guidelines at the Shinrin Yoku Association has been developed and written by the founder of Shinrin Yoku Association, Milena A. Guziak (MChem, PhDEng, MScPsy), who led multiple Shinrin Yoku experiences, developed Shinrin Yoku Guide and Instructor trainings and trained numerous Shinrin Yoku Guides and Instructors for The Mindful Tourist – The Code of Conduct has been now reviewed tree times based on the input of feedback of participants and practitioners. The Code of Conduct is vital for several reasons. The Ethics Committee of Shinrin Yoku Association holds an annual meeting to revise the code of conduct and guidelines.
Ensuring Consistency and Quality: The code of conduct provides a clear set of expectations for the behavior and performance of guides and instructors. It helps ensure consistency and quality across all Shinrin Yoku sessions, regardless of where they take place or who is leading them. This leads to a more reliable and positive experience for participants.
Protecting Participants: The guidelines around safety, confidentiality, inclusivity, and respect help to protect participants’ physical and emotional well-being. This fosters trust and allows participants to fully engage with the practice without worry.
Upholding Professionalism: The code promotes a high standard of professionalism among guides and instructors. It sets expectations for ethical behavior, continuous learning, and professional development. This helps maintain the reputation of the Shinrin Yoku Association and the practice of forest bathing itself.
Preserving the Environment: Since Shinrin Yoku involves deep interaction with nature, guidelines around environmental stewardship and respect for nature ensure that the practice is sustainable and does not harm the environment.
Promoting Inclusivity: By outlining the commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, the code of conduct ensures that Shinrin Yoku is a welcoming and inclusive practice for all individuals, regardless of their background or abilities.
Guidance for Conflict Resolution: The code of conduct also provides a basis for resolving conflicts or handling any issues that may arise among guides, instructors, and participants.
Respect for Nature: As Shinrin Yoku (forest bathing) is centered around deepening the connection with nature, guides and instructors should uphold the principle of respect for nature above all else. This includes not only appreciating the beauty of the natural world but also understanding its ecological complexities and fostering a sense of stewardship among participants. They should lead by example, emphasizing leave-no-trace practices, advocating for sustainable use of forest resources, and imparting knowledge about local flora and fauna. This respect is also extended to recognizing the rights of all creatures within the forest environment.
Professional Conduct: Upholding professionalism is paramount in any teaching role. Guides and instructors should be honest, trustworthy, and respectful at all times, providing accurate information and setting a positive example for participants. They should maintain confidentiality, respecting the privacy of participants and their experiences during Shinrin Yoku sessions. Potential conflicts of interest should be managed transparently, and practitioners should always strive to protect and uphold the reputation of SYA and the practice of Shinrin Yoku itself.
Inclusivity and Accessibility: Shinrin Yoku is a practice that should be open and accessible to all, transcending social, cultural, and physical boundaries. Guides and instructors are encouraged to create a welcoming, inclusive environment that respects and appreciates individual differences. They should also aim to provide accessible sessions that accommodate individuals of varying physical abilities, ensuring that everyone can experience the benefits of forest bathing, but also recognising their own limitations in order to provide mental and physical safe space.
Safety and Responsibility: The safety of participants is a critical responsibility for guides and instructors. They must be well-versed in safety guidelines and protocols, prepared for a range of potential emergencies by assessing psychological and physical risks. This could involve basic first aid training, knowledge of local hazards, and a clear plan for emergency situations. In addition, they should also understand the potential risks and precautions related to specific health conditions that participants may have.
Continuous Learning and Development: In order to provide the best possible guidance to participants, instructors should be committed to lifelong learning and professional growth. They should stay informed about the latest scientific research related to Shinrin Yoku and broader nature therapy fields, integrate best practices, and continue to refine their skills. Regular professional development and sharing knowledge within the SYA community is also a key aspect of this point.
Collaboration and Respect: A healthy community thrives on mutual respect and collaboration. Guides and instructors should treat their peers with respect, fostering a sense of camaraderie within the SYA. They should collaborate, share knowledge, support each other, and approach disagreements with constructive dialogue. Openness to feedback is also essential for continuous improvement and community growth.
Quality of Service: The commitment to provide high-quality services should guide every aspect of a practitioner’s work. This includes thoughtful planning and execution of Shinrin Yoku sessions, attentiveness to participants’ needs and feedback, and constant efforts to enhance the overall experience. Striving for excellence should be a continuous process, driven by feedback and evolving best practices.
Ethics of Care: An ethic of care involves nurturing a deep sense of compassion and empathy. Guides and instructors should exhibit this towards both the participants and the natural world. They should be attentive to the emotional and physical wellbeing of participants, ensuring that each individual feels comfortable, safe, and heard. Moreover, their care should also extend to the forest environment, manifesting in actions that promote the preservation and health of the natural world.
The Shinrin Yoku Association, have distinct guidelines for Shinrin Yoku guides, instructors, and teachers, particularly those involved in curriculum development and teaching. These guidelines help to ensure that everyone involved is working towards the same goals and maintaining the same standards.
Guides are generally responsible for leading Shinrin Yoku sessions. Their guidelines would likely emphasize practical skills such as knowledge of local flora and fauna (however, recognizing that a Shinrin Yoku Guide is not a botanist , ecologist, etc.), understanding of the principles of Shinrin Yoku, and the ability to create a peaceful and immersive environment. They also need to focus on safety and wellbeing of participants, managing the group dynamics, and responding to the needs and queries of individuals during the sessions.
Instructors, in addition to leading Shinrin Yoku sessions, may also be responsible for training new guides or leading more specialized sessions. Therefore, their guidelines may include advanced skills such as pedagogical techniques, deeper understanding of the scientific research behind Shinrin Yoku, and the ability to handle a wider range of situations and participants. Instructors may also need to know how to give constructive feedback and support to the guides they are training.
Teachers are generally those who teach and develop the curriculum for Shinrin Yoku courses, whether for participants or for training new guides and instructors. Therefore, they would need to have a deep and broad understanding of Shinrin Yoku and its related fields. They should also have strong pedagogical skills, the ability to evaluate and improve the curriculum based on latest research and feedback
Competency 1: Meeting Ethical Code of Conduct
A Shinrin Yoku guide’s adherence to the Ethical Code of Conduct is paramount to their practice. This competency involves understanding, internalizing, and upholding the Shinrin Yoku Association’s Code of Ethics, and it manifests in several ways:
1.1 Understanding the Code: Guides must first demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the Code of Ethics. This includes knowledge of each principle and guideline, its purpose, and how it shapes the role and behavior of the guide.
1.2 Applying the Code: Understanding the Code of Ethics is just the first step; guides must also consistently apply it in their work. This involves following the guidelines during Shinrin Yoku sessions, such as respecting confidentiality, managing conflicts of interest, promoting inclusivity and accessibility, and demonstrating a deep respect for nature.
1.3 Advocacy: Guides should be advocates for the Code of Ethics. This could involve explaining the Code to participants when relevant, promoting its principles in their wider communities, and serving as a role model of ethical conduct in Shinrin Yoku practice.
1.4 Staying Current: As the Code of Ethics may evolve over time, guides should make an effort to stay updated on any changes or additions to the Code. They should be committed to continuous learning and professional development in the field of ethics.
1.5 Self-Reflection and Improvement: Ethical competency also involves regular self-reflection. Guides should periodically evaluate their own conduct and identify areas where they can better align with the Code of Ethics. This may involve seeking feedback from participants, peers, or supervisors, and taking steps to improve.
1.6 Ethical Decision-Making: Guides will inevitably face situations that require ethical decision-making. They should be able to apply the principles of the Code of Ethics in these situations, even when it is challenging to do so.
The competency of Meeting the Ethical Code of Conduct is fundamental to the role of a Shinrin Yoku guide. By adhering to the Code of Ethics, guides uphold the integrity of Shinrin Yoku practice, protect the well-being of participants, and contribute to a culture of respect, inclusivity, and sustainability.
Competency 2: Shinrin Yoku Session Opening
A successful Shinrin Yoku session begins with a well-managed opening segment. This competency is broken down into four components:
2.1 Introduction and Welcoming: This involves the guide introducing themselves and facilitating introductions among participants. The guide should create a warm, welcoming environment that puts participants at ease. They can ask participants how they’re feeling and engage in a bonding activity to foster trust and familiarity. This activity could be a simple icebreaker game, a shared observation of the natural surroundings, or a mindfulness exercise to bring the group’s focus to the present moment.
2.2 Session Overview and Risk Assessment: Once introductions are complete, the guide should clearly outline what the session will involve. This includes the activities to be conducted, the expected duration, and any breaks or pauses. Guides should also inform participants of any potential risks associated with spending time in nature, such as uneven terrain, potential allergens, or the presence of wildlife, etc.; as well as psychological risks assessment . Providing this information up front allows participants to engage in the session mindfully and safely.
2.3 Exploring Shinrin Yoku: Here, the guide educates participants about Shinrin Yoku. They should discuss the origins of the practice, its significance, and its benefits. The guide should also set expectations for the session outcomes – for example, relaxation, a deeper connection to nature, and mindfulness. This part of the opening segment can also involve answering any questions participants may have about the practice.
2.4 Intention Setting: Before the session begins, the guide can provide an opportunity for participants to set personal intentions. An intention could be a goal or a mindset that a participant wants to focus on during the session, such as relaxation, mindfulness, exploration, or connection. This helps to align participants’ mindsets with the forthcoming activities and allows them to get the most out of the session.
2.5 Activity Participation and Adaptation: After explaining the plan for the session, the guide should inform participants about the various activities that will be included during the Shinrin Yoku session. It is essential to convey to participants that while these activities are designed to enhance their experience and connection with nature, participation is completely voluntary. The guide should create an atmosphere of respect and choice, emphasizing that each participant is free to engage with the activities at their own comfort level. If a participant feels uncomfortable or unable to participate in an activity, they should feel free to abstain without any judgment or pressure. Additionally, guides should also be open to adapting activities to meet the needs of the participants. If a participant has a physical limitation or is not comfortable with an activity, the guide should be prepared to offer modifications or alternatives. This flexibility respects the individuality and autonomy of each participant and ensures that everyone has a positive and comfortable experience during the Shinrin Yoku session. It supports the principles of inclusivity and accessibility, allowing all participants to engage with the session in a way that works best for them. Having this competency reflects the guide’s understanding and empathy, which are crucial in fostering a trusting and welcoming environment during Shinrin Yoku sessions. However, where is a need a guide take on a leadership position to ensure safety of participants.
A Shinrin Yoku guide should have the competency to open sessions effectively. The introduction is a crucial part of the session because it sets the tone, prepares participants for what to expect, and creates a supportive, inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and valued.
Competency 3: Creating Intimacy and Trust
Trust and intimacy are crucial elements in any group activity, especially in a mindful and reflective practice like Shinrin Yoku. This competency involves building a safe and inclusive environment that encourages participants to be open and expressive. Here’s how each point contributes to this:
3.1 Acknowledging and Respecting Choices: The guide should always respect the autonomy of participants. This includes inviting, rather than commanding, participants to join activities, and acknowledging that every participant has a choice in how they engage with the session. This respect for individual choices and preferences fosters trust and helps create a safe, non-judgmental space.
3.2 Seeking Permission: There may be situations where the guide needs to ask for permission, such as if a certain activity requires physical contact (like a partner exercise) or delves into personal experiences. Recognizing these situations and explicitly seeking consent is critical in respecting participants’ boundaries and fostering an environment of trust.
3.3 Encouraging Self-Expression: During the session, the guide should encourage participants to express themselves freely. This could be during group discussions, reflections on the natural surroundings, or personal interpretations of mindfulness exercises. By valuing and validating participants’ perspectives and experiences, the guide helps create an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusivity.
Competency 4: Guide’s Presence
The presence of a Shinrin Yoku guide plays a significant role in the overall experience of participants. This competency focuses on how a guide manages themselves, the group, and the session:
4.1 Acknowledging Individual Differences: The guide should always be aware of the diverse needs and backgrounds of participants. By acknowledging these individual differences, they can better adapt activities, instructions, and discussions to suit everyone in the group.
4.2 Being Observant, Empathetic, and Responsive: A competent guide is alert to the needs and reactions of participants and is capable of adjusting the session as needed. This includes offering comfort or assistance to participants who are struggling, facilitating discussions, and fostering a safe and inclusive environment.
4.3 Inviting, Not Forcing: The guide should present each activity or invitation in a way that emphasizes participant choice. This ensures that participants feel comfortable and free to engage with the session in the way that feels best for them.
4.4 Creating Human-Nature Connections: The guide should create opportunities for participants to connect with nature during the session. This might involve guiding participants to engage their senses, observe their surroundings, or reflect on their experience in nature.
4.5 Creating Human-Human Connections: Alongside fostering connections with nature, the guide should also promote connections among participants. This might involve facilitating group discussions, encouraging shared observations, or initiating group activities.
4.6 Managing Time and Direction: The guide should keep track of the session’s progress, ensuring it runs smoothly and on time. This includes managing the sequence and duration of activities and leading the group through the forest environment.
4.7 Creating Takeaway Opportunities: The guide should aim to create a meaningful and memorable experience for participants. This might involve providing resources for further learning, encouraging participants to reflect on their experience, or facilitating a closing activity that helps participants consider how they might bring their Shinrin Yoku experience into their daily lives.
4.8 Maintaining Core Elements: While each guide can bring their unique style and structure to a session, they should maintain the core elements of a Shinrin Yoku session as outlined by the Shinrin Yoku Association framework partially led out by herein.
Competency 5: Guide’s Knowledge
A Shinrin Yoku guide’s knowledge underpins their ability to facilitate impactful sessions. This competency includes understanding the practice of Shinrin Yoku, the principles of nature connectedness and wellness, and the ability to draw from personal experiences:
5.1 Demonstrating Subject Knowledge: The guide should have a thorough understanding of Shinrin Yoku and nature connectedness fields. This includes the theory, research, and practical applications of these subjects. They should be able to share this knowledge with participants when appropriate, answering questions and adding depth to the activities and discussions within the session.
5.2 Understanding Core Components of Shinrin Yoku: The guide should be familiar with the core components of a Shinrin Yoku session.
5.3 Drawing From Personal Experience: A competent guide should also draw from their personal experiences. This might involve sharing personal anecdotes or lessons learned from their journey as a Shinrin Yoku guide. Personal experiences can make the session more relatable and engaging for participants, and provide real-life examples of the benefits and challenges of nature connectedness and mindfulness practices.
Competency 6: Direct & Compassionate Communication
Effective communication is fundamental for a Shinrin Yoku guide. This competency focuses on the guide’s ability to communicate clearly, respectfully, and directly with participants:
6.1 Sharing Observations and Holding Space: The guide should feel comfortable sharing their observations, intuitions, and thoughts during the session, as long as it serves the participants’ experience. This could involve drawing attention to interesting natural phenomena, offering reflections on the practice, or sharing relevant insights or anecdotes. However, the guide should avoid scolding or criticizing participants if their reactions or experiences don’t align with the guide’s expectations. Instead, the guide should allow each participant to have their unique experience, offering support and holding space for them to explore their feelings and thoughts without judgment.
6.2 Clarity and Non-Violent Communication: The guide should aim to use clear, simple language in their communication. This includes providing instructions, answering questions, and facilitating discussions. The guide should also practice non-violent communication, expressing themselves honestly and respectfully and showing empathy and understanding towards participants’ feelings and needs. This approach to communication fosters a safe, supportive environment where participants feel respected, heard, and free to express themselves.
Competency 7: Awareness and Reflective Practice
A Shinrin Yoku guide facilitates awareness and reflection, both of which are key elements of this mindfulness-based practice. Here’s how this competency could manifest:
7.1 Building Awareness through Invitations and Observations: The guide’s invitations to participate in activities or shared observations about the natural environment should have the potential to build awareness in participants. This could involve guiding participants to tune into their senses, notice details in their surroundings, or observe their thoughts and feelings, but never judge on whet they are noticing. This process of building awareness helps participants connect more deeply with themselves and their environment.
7.2 Encouraging Reflection: The guide should create opportunities for participants to reflect on their experiences. This might involve facilitating group discussions, inviting participants to journal or share their thoughts, or asking reflective questions that encourage participants to consider the impact of the Shinrin Yoku session on their thoughts, feelings, and overall wellbeing. By encouraging participants to formulate their own reflections, the guide helps them process their experiences and gain deeper insights from the session.
Competency 8: Shinrin Yoku Guide’s Preparedness
Preparedness is an important aspect of a Shinrin Yoku guide’s role. This competency involves understanding and managing the potential risks associated with Shinrin Yoku sessions:
8.1 Risk Assessment of the Site: The guide should conduct a thorough risk assessment of the site where the Shinrin Yoku session will take place. This involves identifying any potential hazards, such as difficult terrain, dangerous wildlife, or adverse weather conditions, and planning accordingly to minimize these risks.
8.2 Psychological and Physical Risk Assessment: In addition to assessing physical risks, the guide should also consider potential psychological risks associated with the session. This might involve managing expectations, addressing any anxieties or fears participants might have about the session, and ensuring that the activities and discussions are conducted in a sensitive and supportive manner. The guide should also be prepared to respond to any physical health issues that may arise during the session, such as injuries or illness.
8.3 Terms and Conditions: The guide should develop clear terms and conditions for their Shinrin Yoku sessions, in line with their region’s regulations. This should include information about participant responsibilities, cancellation policies, and any waivers or disclaimers.
8.4 Adherence to GDPR or Other Data Protection Regulations: Depending on the guide’s region, they may need to adhere to certain data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. This involves obtaining informed consent from participants for the collection and use of their personal data, protecting this data appropriately, and respecting participants’ data rights.
Competency 9: Closing a Shinrin Yoku Session
The closure of a Shinrin Yoku session is just as important as its initiation and progression. Here’s how this might manifest:
9.1 Reflections and Gratitude: The guide should provide time for debriefing and reflections at the end of the session. This could include inviting participants to share their experiences, feelings, or insights. The guide should also express gratitude to the participants for their engagement and participation.
9.2 Providing Information on Next Steps: The guide should provide participants with information about what they might do following the session. This could be suggestions for further practicing Shinrin Yoku, resources for further learning, or information on future sessions.
9.3 Post-Session Support: The guide should provide post-session support if needed. This could include answering questions, providing additional information or resources, or providing emotional support if participants are having difficulty processing experiences from the session.
9.4 Acknowledging and Honoring Nature: It’s important for the guide to emphasize the role of nature in the Shinrin Yoku experience and express gratitude towards it. This could include symbolic gestures such as leaving an offering made of natural materials, or a moment of silence in honor of nature.
A guide’s competency is not only in effectively facilitating a Shinrin Yoku session but also in appropriately closing it. Properly closing a session helps participants to wrap up their experience, reflect on what they have encountered, and prepare to return to their daily routine with an awareness of what they have experienced during the session.
By demonstrating these competencies, a Shinrin Yoku guide ensures that their sessions are conducted safely, responsibly, and in compliance with relevant regulations. This not only helps to protect the wellbeing of participants, but also supports the integrity and professionalism of the Shinrin Yoku practice.
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