EcoSensory Therapy started as the meeting of kindred spirits. Dr. Matthew Slavin having finished his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology researching Nature-based therapies joined Claire Pemrick and Chris West (Occupational Therapists and specialists in sensory integration) in their quest to use nature as the therapist. It was the start of something extremely special; a vision and coming together of shared minds at the sharp end of research and practice in healthcare. These beginnings have been sewn with love, nurture and passion and offer help and support to those in need through new and ancient ways. I hope that when you join us, you too will feel this ‘return to home’ that has been sewn into the very foundations of EcoSensory Therapy.
For me, time in nature has always been something special and sacred. I spent a childhood in forests, mountains, oceans and fleece sleeping bags, and I feel extremely blessed that the great outdoors was presented to me as a wondrous place. It sparked in me a great passion to explore and to leave the bustling city; to stomp up muddy hills, to climb up rocky faces, to ride the ocean’s surf and to dive into the depths of waters.
EcoSense is the start of something incredibly special. In my research and practice, I have witnessed first-hand the therapeutic power of nature and with Claire and Chris, it feels like the coming together of kindred spirits. Returning to nature, always feels like a return to home and this project of passion feels no different. With clinical foundations and nature as our clinic space, I am so excited to be part of and bear witness to EcoSense’s journey and story.
In my memories of childhood I am outside, in the woods or mud camp, climbing trees, tramping through the fields with the heavy clay sticking to my boots. The domestic dramas dissipated when my family were outside. Nature regulated us all.
When my children were small, we all loved building dens in the woods, walking in the fields and swinging on a rope swing. We bought a house in the country and the kids went to the small village school surrounded by fields. Slowly, insipidly though, even in this country ideal, we all started to spend less and less time in nature.
Rabbit holes in the school field stopped the teachers allowing the children to play on the school field. The lack of pavement for walking, meant we drove instead and devices became more interesting than digging mud pits. I sat at my computer, behind the wheel and worked indoors in a custom-designed ‘sensory enriched’ therapy centre.
This indoor life was not one we planned there was nowhere more ‘sensory enriched’ than nature. I started to think how could I move me, my children and even my therapy practice outside. The seed had been planted, but like every seed to grow it needs water and sun. For this seed this came in the form of Chris and Matt.
My love of nature began on the beaches in Devon with my family as a child, then onto the moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the gardens at Ash Cottage, and Boadicea’s dyke, before the journey with Claire through the forests of Devon, culminating in a coming together of minds in the form of EcoSense team with Claire and Matt. It is through all of these experiences that I felt the joy and sense of nature; its gentleness, stillness, power, and tranquillity.
The opportunity to create a piece that provided the opportunity to enable others to explore and consider the outside space as therapy is something I feel incredibly passionate and excited by, going back to our roots of nature and the earth, with all that it offers and gives us – coming to and using our senses to feel connected and alive to ourselves and others.
What We Do
Chris is a HCPC registered occupational therapist, with over 25 years experience of working with children and young people with a range of needs, including child and adolescent mental health, children who have been adopted and have sensory integration and attachment difficulties, and children with special needs.
Chris is the director of an Adoption agency in Devon, UK and has a specialism in working with children and young people who have sensory integration and attachment difficulties as a result of developmental trauma.
Chris has undertaken advanced level training in both Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI), and Sensory Integration (SI). Chris is passionate about supporting children who have experienced developmental trauma to develop enhanced co-regulation and self regulation, and to work alongside those caring for and working with them to develop a greater understanding of how to support them.
Chris is a trainer in the SAI approach, and delivers this, along with other sensory informed training, to a range of parents and professionals.
Dr. Matthew Slavin
Matthew is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked with people across the lifespan with a range of mental health needs and in a variety of settings. He specialised in working with Complex Trauma and family systems, and currently works with looked after young people in Essex.
Matthew started his career with a passion for the outdoors, using adventure activities and nature with vulnerable and marginalised children and young people. With growing interest in psychological practice and a desire to integrate the use of nature with more traditional therapeutic modalities, Matthew continued to complete a Masters in Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Psychological Practice, and later a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Through this journey, Matthew pursued his interest in child and family-based practice, working with young offenders and kinship care families.
Matthew completed his DClinPsych research investigating the therapeutic use of adventure and nature-based activities. He is a firm believer that in our efforts to reduce suffering and alleviate distress, Clinical Psychology and mental health settings need to think “outside the clinic” and to use the natural world as our therapeutic space – the home we have found ourselves in for hundreds of thousands of years.
Claire is an Occupational Therapist and the director of Jump Start Centre, a specialist Sensory Integration and Sensory Attachment centre in Essex.
Claire has over 20 years of experience working with children both in the UK and the US. She holds degrees in Occupational Therapy (BA Hons), and Communication Disorders (BA Hons). She has Post graduate Diploma in Sensory Integration and is an Advanced Practitioner, a Mentor to level 4 students, and was previously the co-editor of the SI networks e-newsletter emphaSIze. Claire is a visiting lecturer at the University of Essex.
Claire has many years of experience working with children who have experienced trauma, and have attachment difficulties, supporting both the children and their carers. She is Sensory Attachment intervention trained and currently training in Internal Families Systems.
Claire’s passion for using nature as a therapist lead her to train as a Shinrin Yoko practitioner and loves to take her clients on EcoSensory sessions in the local forests and beaches around Essex and Suffolk. Claire loves gardening, and runs a small holding, which is the home to the Sensory Attachment training in England.