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Mair Marsiglio is an avid birder, and they are also a psychologist with a background in trauma therapy. A few years ago Dr. Marsiglio worked with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory to facilitate mindfulness birding walks for veterans in a trauma treatment program. The walks helped participants ground themselves and provide a sense of connection.
Mair Marsiglio on Therapeutic Bird Walks
Written by Josephine McRobbie
This is BirdNote.
[Acorn Woodpecker calls]
Mair Marsiglio is an avid birder, and they are also a psychologist with a background in trauma therapy. A few years ago Dr. Marsiglio worked with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory to facilitate mindfulness birding walks for veterans in a trauma treatment program.
Mair Marsiglio: It's a very grounding experience. It's something we do a lot in therapy, is help people ground by focusing on sight, focusing on sound, focusing on the sensations that they're feeling.
[Bay area soundscape]
Mair Marsiglio: The hallmark symptoms of PTSD are hypervigilance and avoidance and negative thoughts about self and others. With birding, you can kind of turn that narrative on its head where you can say, like, ‘You're a very observant person,’ versus ‘a very hyper-vigilant person.’ And the way that you look at your environment, and the skills you use for that, can be used toward finding joy.
One favorite location for the walks was a home of an Acorn Woodpecker – a tree bored with many holes filled with acorns.
[Acorn Woodpecker calls and tapping]
Mair Marsiglio: I just remember seeing people light up in a way that we couldn't really access through other therapies.
Dr. Marsiglio has since moved from San Francisco but continues to include therapeutic outdoor recommendations in their work.
Mair Marsiglio: I think at our core we’re all looking for some sort of connection and belonging. And nature's really generous in that way.
[Acorn Woodpecker calls]
You can find links to mental health resources on our website, BirdNote dot org. I’m Josephine McRobbie.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Editor: Jazzi Johnson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Content Director: Jonese Franklin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Acorn Woodpecker ML32270631 recorded by Jay McGowan, Environmental ML126565 recorded by Thomas G. Sander, and Acorn Woodpecker ML56900 recorded by Geoffrey A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2023 BirdNote September 2023
Narrator: Josephine McRobbie
ID# marsigliom-01-2023-09-20 marsigliom-01