About

Bird Therapy is a writing project exploring the therapeutic benefits of birdwatching for people experiencing difficulties with their mental health. I’ve been writing about this topic for three years now, both as a blog and also as a book. This has led to me being asked to write a number of guest blogs and articles which can be viewed under the corresponding menu tab.

In 2017 I was asked to speak at an ‘Earth Optimism’ event at Cambridge UCCRI. The talk was a success and public speaking about Bird Therapy is something I am keen to expand. It is an important message and story and I enjoy sharing it and encouraging others to get out and explore their bird community. I had hoped to facilitate some group work but I’ve come to realise that this isn’t viable at this stage in my life; although who knows what the future may hold?

Bird Therapy is run by me – Joe Harkness. I’m a qualified teacher who has been working in the youth sector for nine years. My specialist area of work has always been the engagement of hard-to-reach target groups. I live with OCD, generalised anxiety disorder and sporadic bouts of depression and use the outdoors and birdwatching to help manage my symptoms and compulsions.

15 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, I lost my dog a few years ago and inviting birds into my garden, watching them and feeling i was “looking after them” helped with my grief. I work as a grief counsellor and began to notice bird feeding stations all around the place as patients find watching birds lower they’re stress levels. I also noticed how lonely, isolated people i would visit would also encourage birds into their gardens. A lot of elderly or ill people can’t get out into the countryside so invited it into they’re lives that way. Lowering stress levels with nature will always have positive physical/psychological/spiritual effects.
    All the best,
    Helen.

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  2. Hi Joe

    Bird watching connects me to nature in a deep way. I get a real sense of the seasons and mother earth with their song, courting, nesting, breeding and seasonal migration. This is so important in these times of sterile modern living with everyone having their noses in phones and gadgets of one sort and another and are disconnected from the precious wild life around them. Anyone can engage with birds and encourage them with a bit of food and a bird box and feel they are doing something important. The pleasure birds give in return in immeasurable. However, nature is in trouble and action needs to be taken to stop the MASSIVE decline.

    Best Wishes with your endeavours

    Polly

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  3. Hi Joe,
    A great subject for your survey and one that I agree with 100%. I have complex partial epilepsy and, whilst I have had seizures during just about every activity you can name, I can’t recall ever having an episode while I’m out and about in the countryside with my binoculars, birdwatching and simply enjoying ‘being in the moment’. It kind of makes you think. Good luck.

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  5. Hi Joe. I too am an interested in exploring this as I love bird watching (particularly raptors) & feel you may have coupled a therapy that will take away the compulsion to lock oneself away rather than squaring up & giving oneself a good talking to. Could you tweet me information about your business please? Many thanks. Neil.

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    • Hi Neil

      There’s not much to it I’m afraid… Certainly not a business. Literally just a blog, with thoughts and experiences on. Other people have shared their experiences with me and at some time in the future I hope to write a book on the subject. Thanks for the interest though and sorry it’s nothing more exciting.

      Joe

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    • I would be interested in hearing of any activities, I am a birder and am currently off sick with depression and work related stress.

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  6. Hi Joe,
    My name is Simon, I’m an ex RGN and life-long naturalist with a keen bent towards film making. All of this has conspired into me starting WILD Presentations. The WP concept comes from witnessing exactly what you’re inferring about the meditative, calming and structured way of nature and it’s effect cognitively. My years as a District Nurse found me constantly being requested to recite my latest experiences as a naturalist – where I’d been, what I’d seen and what might be beckoning. Such was the outpouring and desire to reconnect with nature from people that now found life limiting, and such was the obvious therapeutic outcome from a simple recital that I knew I could manifest it into something with much more substance. So now I make HD films from all parts of the country, based on themes from seasons to locations, near and far. Films that are then shown on a 2m wide screen with surround (mostly natural) sound and a strong live narrative. The responses, changes – some wholesale, in the people that have watched and continue to watch them have massively exceeded even my high hopes and have left staff at the sites these guys reside absolutely gobsmacked. The popularity and range of WP has rocketed as word has spread – I believe I’m the only person in the country providing this nature-based kind of therapeutic and stimulating format and there are plans to extend the tactility of it with more objects to handle related to what is on the screen. The effects on well-being often lead to tears and emotional release not witnessed from individuals since the inception of their care.
    The link to cognitive and psychological soundness and contact with the natural world (even secondary as with my audiences) is as real and as measurable as anything could ever be. I bear witness to it daily.
    Please feel free to contact me at any time if I can help in any way. It’s a good message that needs spreading!
    Cheers, Si.

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  8. Hello Joe,

    I have had a severe mental health condition since I was a very young girl. I am now 51 and this will be a lifetime condition. I am incredibly lucky however that it is so well managed that the majority of the time I am completely symptom free. As ‘an expert by experience’ I was asked to speak to a group of students training to be mental health nurses, which I did yesterday. I think what you are doing is wonderful. For a long time I have been telling people how essential connection with the natural world is to well-being. So I took the opportunity yesterday to make the trainee nurses aware of your project. I wore my Bird Therapy t-shirt and included in my handouts a copy of this blog – your words and the comments posted here.

    I have also found that simply wearing t-shirt is way of spreading word as people ask me about it. But that was probably your intent when producing them so this will come as no surprise!

    As a girl birdwatching was something that brought me real solace. Today I find it spiritual uplifting. (I have completed your survey).

    Looking forward to following your progress.
    Julie

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