Montse Subirana Malaret

Studying the therapeutic value of nature: an approach from psychology, tourism and well-being

Montse Subirana Malaret holds a PhD in Psychology and works as a researcher and as a professor at the University of Barcelona, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and other institutes of high education. Her professional roots in tourism and her experience with diverse groups and cultures awakened her passion for human personality and behavior.

This combination of passions and interests also ignites the spark of writing: she is the author of several titles of travel literature and some other wonderful stories about adventures and landscapes for children.

At the III Ibero-American Summit Nature, Health and Wellbeing she presents her research on the therapeutic value of nature on a route very close to her own history, the Route of the Cathars in the Catalan Pyrenees.

Distant landscapes, nearby landscapes

« The therapeutic value of nature is an area that especially motivates me, and how this relates to sustainable and regenerative tourism, and to health promotion and prevention.

« When we hear about great journeys we tend to think of those remote and enormous places, like Alaska, the Amazon, Australia… But just as I appreciate these long-distance destinations, I have always valued what my homeland treasures. In Catalonia, where I was born and where I currently live, more than 130 different landscapes have been identified by their combination of natural, cultural and symbolic elements ».

« At the Ibero-American Summit I will precisely address the results of the Melhorament Project, which aims to explore the therapeutic value of doing the Cathar Route, an itinerary of just over 200 kilometers located in the Catalan Pyrenees. Through this project I have met Forest Therapy Hub and a super stimulating network of people with similar interests.

« It has been very satisfying and rewarding to see the results of the Melhorament Project, in which the therapeutic value of nature converges within the framework of sustainable tourism in the Pyrenees. They clearly indicate several areas of psychological and emotional well-being in which prevention and intervention programs can be developed in this biome, we have explored its therapeutic potential as well as it has been observed in distant routes and have it the Japanese forests, pioneers in forest therapy. »

Snow and jet birth

« I was born in a small village surrounded by mountains in the area of l’Alt Berguedà, in the north of Catalonia, under the influence of the Pyrenees and Pre-Pyrenees. The village lies on the banks of the Llobregat, the river that supplies the city of Barcelona. Nature, forest and mountains are my roots. Now it is easily accessible, but at the end of the 20th century it could still be cut off for several days by snow.

« When I was in high school it took us an hour to get to the Institute, and under the threat of snow we were sent to our homes in case we couldn’t return because of the snow on the road. In those years it was a remote place and skiing was different: there were very few families who practiced it. The slopes were two hours away from the village, but my parents were never stopped by the cold or the snow, which is something I have greatly appreciated.

« My father instilled in me his love for nature and animals. One night a jet-black colt was born in a complicated delivery and we were there until he came out, almost at dawn, we didn’t want to go home to be by his side even though we were exhausted ».

« I am equally passionate about forests, the desert, the sea. When I was little I had a globe lamp on my bedside table, I wanted to know what all the countries and places were like. I asked about them all. I grew up thinking and making decisions in my life that would allow me to travel, know the world and live in different places and countries ».

The route that links travel and the study of personality

« I did a Diploma in Tourism and a Postgraduate Degree in Management and Development of Tourism Activities. I had already made some trips, but after studying I started working as a guide during the springs and summers. I traveled all over Europe with tour groups and specialized in Scandinavia, in winter I was a ski instructor.

« Later I went to Madrid to the Government Delegation of Catalonia, and I was in a traveling exhibition in Spain that lasted almost two years. Then I settled in Barcelona, joined the team of Tourism Promotion of Catalonia, until I moved to the Department of Strategic Alliances as Account Executive.

« The fascination for travel, cultures and societies led me to meet people from all over the world and it was clear to me that I wanted to know and understand personality and behavior. I was able to choose Education on the one hand and Clinical on the other. I learned about inclusivity in the educational system of adolescents with functional diversity on the one hand, and treatment of victims and gender violence and delinquency on the other. »

Research and passion

« This sparked my interest in pursuing research, since in order to implement good practices, in whatever field, you have to have a good knowledge of what works, what good results it gives and why it works. This is how I came to what is now the Master’s Degree in Research and later to the PhD in Psychology, to set my sights on prevention.

« Currently I combine teaching at the University of Barcelona in different areas in the Faculty of Psychology, Degrees and Masters, with the development of projects, some linked to tourism, the environment and nature and travel literature. »

« In the end, everything is related: the binomial people and places in a way fits in the ‘famous’ nature & nurture debate. Psychology, tourism and travel are transposed in literature as characters and settings. I feel very fortunate to have been able to fulfill my childhood dream of getting to know so much of the world, cultures, societies, people, landscapes and experiences, and to now have such a versatile background and be able to use it as knowledge for professional practice in various fields ».


Ph: Courtesy Montse Subirana Malaret

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