AcademicsGraduate AcademicsClinical Mental Health CounselingNature-Based Transpersonal Counseling

Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA

Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling Concentration

Embark on a transformative journey through experiential classroom learning, nature-based practices, contemplation, and nature retreats. You will integrate theory with practice as you deepen your connection to the natural world.

Over the course of this three-year master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, you’ll join a cohort of graduate students with whom you will share life experiences, create community spirit, and build personal and professional relationships in a bold and authentic learning environment. 

About this Concentration

The focus of this concentration is a belief in the healing power of nature. Building on the skills and dispositions learned throughout the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, graduates can enact their desire to be of service to others. This concentration values experiential learning within a community.

Join us and become a leader in the field of healing, where you will learn to weave together nature, mindfulness, and compassionate care to make a difference in the world.

The Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling concentration focuses on four core areas:

  1. Coursework that covers the Clinical Mental Health Counseling and theoretical knowledge needed for licensing in most states.

  2. Training in therapeutic techniques that can be employed in and out of the traditional counseling room.

  3. Incorporation of meditation and body awareness practices throughout the program.

  4. A hands-on 9- to 12-month internship to gain practical experience.

Students in the Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling Concentration move through their studies as a cohort. Through rich interpersonal exchanges, students gain increased awareness of their patterns and the ways they impact and are impacted by others. Students learn to consider other perspectives and develop tools for acknowledging and addressing power differentials, co-creating spaces of mutual bravery and vulnerability.

The uniqueness of this concentration offers students learning activities (e.g., lectures) outside in Boulder Valley, the front range, the Rocky Mountains, and the Utah Canyons. Students engage in an approximately one-week-long camping trip per semester.

These trips, along with day trips, enhance students’ skills through immersive experiences in nature. Trained faculty will support you to safely experience a range of nature-based activities and interventions, including camping, backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, animal-assisted therapies, and horticulture. On day trips to urban and rural parks, gardens, and farms, you will practice mindfulness in nature, learn about local land history and ecology, engage in reciprocal caretaking of the land, and practice facilitation skills.

Students are introduced to advocacy, i.e., the logistical, financial, and cultural constraints that may prevent people from accessing land. We explore approaches to address this. You will also be guided to explore the impacts of the climate crisis and environmental injustices while gaining skills to address the growing disconnect between humans and nature.

During your third and final year, you’ll complete a clinical internship and provide invaluable practical training and experience. Students are responsible for securing their internship sites and may partner with a vast array of traditional and non-traditional sites along the front range of Colorado and across the United States. Past interns have gained clinical experience interning at schools, equine-assisted therapy centers, residential treatment facilities, wilderness therapy programs, community mental health centers, and other counseling organizations.

To grant you the flexibility to find an internship that best matches your interests, some of your courses will be online beginning in the summer of your second year. During the Internship, you will visit campus a minimum of one time per semester.

A Transitions and Rites of Passage course in your second year is intended to help you learn about the significance of recognizing and marking life transitions. It culminates in a 3-night solo held in community with your instructors and fellow cohort members. This deeply moving ceremony draws from seasonal wisdom, myth and storytelling, personal symbolism, ancestral roots, and counseling principles. It centers the human experience of change and loss, while fostering a sense of belonging and an acknowledgement of our shared responsibility to the human and more than human world. The process will help prepare you to transition into the role of professional counselor, while giving you direct experience in creating group rituals in nature.
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Quick Facts

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Program Format

The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program focusing on Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling is a three-year program blending clinical and theoretical coursework in clinical mental health counseling, contemplative practice, and nature-based counseling.

Supported by Buddhist, transpersonal, and earth-based thought and practice, the program is grounded in the belief that we inherently belong and are interconnected with all life. 

Course Spotlight

Psychology of Meditation: Foundations of Mindfulness

Topics presented through lectures and readings deepen the understanding of essential principles of meditative awareness. The specific focus of the course is the way meditation can support the counseling relationship.

Degree
Requirements

The Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling concentration is a 66-credit, three-year, experiential, interdisciplinary, and culturally diverse program that offers graduate students a comprehensive blend of counseling and nature-informed therapeutic expertise. At the crossroads of counseling, ecopsychology, and mindfulness, this master’s degree is a transformative journey of self-discovery, skill development, and service.

Counseling Experiential Requirement:

Each student must participate in a counseling/therapy relationship with a qualified psychotherapist of their choice. A minimum of fifteen 50-minute face-to-face sessions (via telehealth or in person) within the first two years of the program is required. (The term “psychotherapist” is used to be inclusive of licensed providers from a variety of professional mental health backgrounds. The Student Guidebook outlines specific parameters of a qualified psychotherapist.)

Course Schedule

  • CNSN 610, Nature Based Counseling I: Foundations (1)
  • CMHC 600, Foundations and Orientation of Clinical Mental Health Counseling (3)
  • CMHC 602, Human Growth and Development (3)
  • CMHC 606, Legal and Ethical Aspects of Counseling (3)
  • CNST 622, Psychology of Meditation (2)

Credits: 12

  • CNSN 612, Nature Based Counseling II: Theory in Practice (2)
  • CMHC 603, Counseling and Helping Relationships I (3)
  • CMHC 601, Social/Multicultural Foundations (3)
  • CMHC 605, Group Counseling (3)
  • CNST 721, Cultivating Mindful Presence (2)

Credits: 13

  • CMHC 604, Counseling and Helping Relationships II (3)
  • CMHC 608, Assessment (3)
  • CNSN 621, Person/Plants/Land: Horticulture in Counseling (1)
  • CNSN 620, Nature Based Counseling III: Connection & Disconnection (1)
  • CNSN 622, Family Systems (3)

Credits: 11

  • CMHC 620, Counseling Practicum (3)
  • CMHC 607, Diagnosis & Treatment Planning (3)
  • CNSN 630, Nature-Based Facilitation (2)
  • CNSN 626, Transitions Through the Lifespan (2)

Credits: 10

  • CMHC 610, Career Development (3)
  • CMHC 621, Initial Internship (2)
  • CNSN 631, Contemplative Perspectives & Practice (1)

Credits: 6

  • CMHC 622, Internship I (3)
  • CMHC 615, Capstone I (1)
  • CNSN 632, Crisis, Trauma & Disaster Counseling (3)

Credits: 7

  • CMHC 623, Winter Intercession Internship (0)
  • CMHC 624, Internship II (3)
  • CMHC 616, Capstone II (1)
  • CMHC 609, Research & Program Evaluation (3)

Credits: 7

Why Choose Naropa?

Learn in Relationship with Others and the Natural World

Over the course of three years, students are supported to develop relationships with fellow cohort members, while also engaging in reciprocal relationships with the more-than-human world.

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Contemplative Education

We augment the traditional counseling curriculum with additional teachings and experiences, including Earth-based practices that support individual and collective wellbeing.

Career Readiness

Our students learn how to work creatively with the tools and resources at hand and to make use of the natural metaphors that we as humans intuitively understand.

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White wildflowers with yellow center.

How this Program Prepares You

Internship Outcomes

In the final year of your graduate degree program, you will serve as a supervised intern in a community agency, gaining crucial experience in a specialty area such as addiction counseling or crisis intervention. Throughout the internship, you’ll be supported by on-site supervision, faculty mentorship, and career development counseling.

Diverse Fields of Learning

Naropa’s master’s in Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling degree is one-of-a-kind. Integrating classroom learning, hands-on experience, and contemplative practice, students will gain knowledge in a wide array of fields, from ecopsychology to outdoor therapy and leadership.

Introspective System

A foundational belief of this experiential program is that understanding and working with others begins with an ability to understand and work with oneself. Moving through the cohorted program, students learn to be mindful of their own reactions as well as their impact on others. They are supported to approach challenges in a compassionate way that reduces the tendency to pathologize the self and others. Finally, they are encouraged to reflect upon and, where appropriate, share their own experiences in the world, thus learning how to create and maintain spaces of mutual bravery and vulnerability.

What You'll Learn

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Clinical Counseling

Finish the necessary coursework for professional licensure in most states.

Counseling Aptitude

Obtain knowledge of core counseling curriculum and professional competence in counseling.

Nature-Informed Counseling Outdoor Therapy

Learn to effectively incorporate nature-based approaches into counseling.

Natural World

Learn how culture and social structures influence relationships with nature.

Buddhist Tradition

Engage in reflective insight and body awareness throughout the program.

Transpersonal Psychotherapy

Find grounding in the belief that we are interconnected and inherently belong with the earth and all beings.

Career Opportunitites for Nature-Based Transpersonal Counselors

The master’s degree in nature-based counseling combines elements of psychology and spirituality. At its core, it offers an intensely experiential, interdisciplinary, and multicultural approach, equipping graduate students with diverse counseling and nature-informed experiences.

From agency to private practice to wilderness therapy programs, our Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling concentration unlocks diverse career paths in mental health, education, and beyond. Our graduates bring their unique perspective to their work in agency, non-profit, and private practice settings, as well as in groundbreaking programs in horticulture, animal therapy, and outdoor experiences. 

Discover Career Pathways for Nature-Based Transpersonal Counselors

Hear from a Graduate

It has always been a dream of mine to serve people through the vehicle of wilderness experience, and this program had everything I was looking for. Not only is Naropa providing great professional development and opportunities to succeed in the workplace, but I also credit the amount of attention that is devoted to working with each individual’s inner process. I think that when we truly look within ourselves that we often find the best ways of serving others as well.

Alexander Bailey

MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling

Faculty Highlight

We invite ourselves to slow down and to question the conventional approach of speediness, goal orientation, and the accumulation of material goods and power, striving instead for a wholesome and life-affirming existence—a life where we can be of service and in relationship, with a purpose to sustain ourselves and the earth and also to celebrate and delight in our existence.

Giovannina Jobson

Mindfulness instructor

FAQS about
Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling

Graduates of our program don’t just receive a certificate tacked on to their counseling degree. Regular outings and a weeklong intensive each semester take students outside of the classroom, where they are able to practice nature-based therapeutic interventions while deepening their own connection to nature. These interactions will resource you personally and provide you with the experience, tools, and confidence to lead innovative and effective counseling sessions in a wide array of settings. The experiential and contemplative aspects of the program contribute to counselor success and longevity in the field.

Learn more about nature-based transpersonal counseling in our suggested reading list for this program.

In 2024 we announced a name change. The new name suggests a shift away from more rugged, adventure-based interventions toward practices that are accessible to a wider range of people. While in Colorado, our towering peaks and wide-open plains beckon, we recognize that many potential counselors and clients find their access to wilderness limited by geographic, financial, physical, and cultural constraints.

From the inception of the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy program in 2002, our faculty and graduates have resisted the notion that nature lies outside of us and can mostly be experienced in wilderness, a place where, by definition, humans don’t really belong. Our new name recognizes that we are always seated firmly in nature. Grounded in our physical body, we belong to this world, and the world belongs to us–not to be dominated but to be cared for and appreciated. This sense of belonging is essential to our mental and physical health.

Read more about the name change. 

Prospective students should be confident that they can safely tend to their needs while learning in a dynamic, outdoor environment. Participation in the field sections requires knowledge of wilderness travel, campcraft, and leave-no-trace principles. A degree of physical fitness is crucial for program activities such as rock climbing, gardening, and backpacking.

ADay trips and field sections include contemplative activities such as the following:

  • The incorporation of mindful movement while hiking, finding a way to move safely as a collective in a way that supports and honors the needs of the individual.

  • Establishing routines to support one another and accomplish tasks like setting up camp and making meals while respecting the natural environment.

  • Canoeing, noticing the flow of the river, and paddling in rhythm.

  • The use of basic rock climbing techniques to explore themes of groundedness, connection, boundaries, and safety through the mindful use of ropes, harnesses, belays, and rock walls.

  • Forming relationships with other beings, including plants and animals, with respect and curiosity.

The experiences you’ll acquire during the program will grant you the confidence to work with individuals or groups in the most traditional to the most alternative of settings. Our students and graduates thrive in schools, agencies, non-profits, and private practice, as well as in groundbreaking programs in horticulture, animal assisted therapy, and outdoor programming. They are lauded for their ability to adapt and respond to the changing needs of clients and organizations.

Drawing inspiration from Buddhism and the dynamic pairing of Eastern meditation practices and Western counseling psychology, the foundation of any Naropa education rests on a commitment to personal practice and experience. 

Nature-informed experiences often inspire people to adopt a stance of reverence and respect for all beings, and this approach infuses the client-counselor relationship. Clients often remark that they feel uniquely valued by Naropa-trained counselors and that this gives clients the courage to truly engage in the therapeutic process.

Learn More About the Program

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Connect
with your counselor

Olivia Phipps

Graduate Admissions Counselor

Ready to Apply?

Admission Requirements

At Naropa, we value both academic excellence and the willingness to carry out introspective work.

Learn more about admission requirements and the application process for the Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling Concentration. 

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Individuals who have finished their undergraduate studies, are physically fit and have outdoor skills and experience are encouraged to apply to Naropa. Applicants must submit an online application with the following information:

  • Transcripts of completed undergraduate coursework
  • Statement of interest (must include general and concentration-specific prompts)
  • Resume/CV with all pertinent academic, employment, and volunteer history with exact dates of participation
  • Two letters of recommendation from pertinent academic or professional sources


Applicants who meet the qualifying criteria will then attend an interview day and participate in both group interview sessions. If accepted into the program, you will be required to fill out a medical form before the first day of classes.

Learn more about admission requirements

No matter where you’re from or how far you’ve traveled, you can feel at home at Naropa. Applicants with undergraduate degrees from foreign universities can apply to the program by submitting a regular application plus some additional documentation required to evaluate their academic record.

Learn more about application requirements for international students. 

Costs and Financial Aid

3 out of 4 of Naropa’s graduate students receive financial support through federal or institutional aid initiatives. For detailed information on tuition, grants, scholarships, and financial support opportunities, please visit our “Costs & Aids” page.

Graduate Scholarship Opportunities

Scholarships are a great way to help with the costs of going to school. Naropa University offers an array of scholarship opportunities to graduate students. Students may be eligible to receive scholarships through their admissions application, by applying for scholarships, or by being nominated for a scholarship.

For more detailed information about the different scholarships available and how to receive them, please review our graduate scholarship page.

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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.