Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-10-2019


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

William W. Adams

Committee Member

Suzanne Barnard

Committee Member

Elizabeth Fein


ecopsychology, ecofeminism, autoethnography, grief, Mojave Desert, climate change, ecocide, nature


What does it mean for human beings to be part of nature – not just as a conceptual justification for doing right by the planet, but actually as an embodied, emotional, and sensuous experience? What happens to the experience of being human when notions as fundamental as voice, absence, suffering, and psyche are re-encountered from a perspective rooted within, rather than apart from, the natural world? While this dissertation responds to these questions, it initially took shape in response to something that felt less like a research question and more like a summons. Following a startling experience of feeling called and claimed by a part of California’s Mojave Desert known as Jawbone, the author returned to Jawbone to camp without human company for a month. Interweaving ecopsychological perspectives with autoethnographic methodology allowed the author to share the story of her fieldwork in ways that disturb the expectation of an individualized, separate, and anthropocentric “auto,” or self. The experience of being with Jawbone, as well as the aftermath of that experience, prompted the author to explore what it means for humans to engage with the other-than-human natural world as a relational partner, as well as how an understanding that human beings are a part of the natural world invites those working in mental health fields to consider how their work can be of service to nature. The project that resulted is in part a love letter to a place, in part an ecopsychological exploration of the experience of relationship, and in part one human animal’s story about the grief and the joy of belonging deeply to ecology in an ecocidal time.