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Detail Mentor Profile: HILARY LEIGHTON

Graduate Institute for Transformative Learning


Hilary Leighton 

University of Victoria, Ph.D. (Interdisciplinary Studies – Ecopsychology) 2014

Hilary Leighton, MEd, PhD, IBP is an educator, ecopsychologist, integrative body (eco)psychotherapist and lifelong learner who draws insight and wisdom from ecopsychology, depth psychology, integral systems thinking, mythology, indigenous, arts and nature-based practices, literature, the poetic traditions, reflective practices and deep play. From a tender age, Hilary formed a vivid fascination and deeply imaginative relationship with the natural world. This early childhood enchantment formed the roots of her academic (re)search examining: the ethical dilemma, suffering and deep concern over our loss of relationship with the other than human world; the human quest for wholeness and maturation; and the roles that both applied ecopsychology and education can play at the confluence of these two.

With a passion to foster a sense of wonder and connection to nature, Hilary was co-creator of Get Outside: It’s In Our Nature conference in 2008 (with keynote Richard Louv), which was the impetus for the Child Nature Alliance of Canada of which she is a founding director. She was also part of a small passionate group who started the first nature kindergarten in BC to deliver Ministry curriculum hosted on the campus at Royal Roads University where she is currently Director of Individualized Studies in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies. In this role, Hilary assists graduate students in finding their unique and individual pathways toward a personalized degree and meaningful future employment. In addition, Hilary teaches in a number of areas at RRU and beyond – in public programs through Continuing Studies, as guest lecturer in a myriad of graduate and undergraduate programs, as associate faculty in the MA Environmental Education and Communication and the Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Community Development, and as co-teacher with Dr. Duncan Taylor in his fourth year undergraduate environmental program. She supervises both graduate and undergraduate students in terms of directed studies, major projects and theses. Often she is called upon to lead Open Space and café type dialogue sessions for select groups and campus-wide at the university and within the community.

Hilary is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with a private eco-psychotherapy practice in Victoria (True Nature Counselling & Psychotherapy), holds a Master’s degree in Education (curriculum and instruction) from Simon Fraser University and an Interdisciplinary Doctorate from the University of Victoria (ecopsychology) that combined her research interests of Curriculum and Instruction, Psychology and Environmental Studies. She also studied ecopsychology at the graduate level at Naropa University and through intensive workshops onThe Work That Reconnects with Dr. Joanna Macy. Hilary attributes her greatest learning thus far to a decade long apprenticeship that delved into the mysteries of nature and psyche out on the wild lands of the southwestern US with the Animas Valley Institute, its sapient guides and AVI’s founder, Dr. Bill Plotkin. Hilary views her vocation as supervisor, teacher, guide and therapist as a blessed call to encourage the genius and soul-furthering of others at all ages and stages of life.


  • Integrative Body Psychotherapy Certification
  • IBP Institute, CA, 2010 M. Ed (Curriculum & Instruction)
  • Simon Fraser University, 2004


Main Interests/Focus Areas

The philosophy of ecopsychology applied as eco-therapy practices in complement to Integrative Body Psychotherapy (IBP) and depth (Jungian-oriented) psychology where learning about self and world is initiatory (towards maturation and wholeness or individuation) working with nature-based (wild) practices (e.g. nature as co-facilitator, co-teacher, therapeutic alliance) using arts-informed, mythopoetic and embodied inquiry.

Research interests include: eco-philosophy and the development of the ecological identity through nature-based, reflective and embodied practices, phenomenology & hermeneutics, the mytho-poetic realms, heuristic analysis, panarchy and systems theories, integral systems thinking, hermetic consciousness, somatic intelligence (embodiment and meaning-making), arts-based inquiry as well as narrative inquiry. I view education as an ‘educe’ment (a drawing forth) of the natural proclivities, the genuine (genius) path of the student toward true vocation (and soul) rather than a place to simply load students up with more facts and data including the ways we (re)search what calls us to look into something.

The work and wisdom of Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Rumi, Hafiz, Keats, Rainer Marie Rilke, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, William Stafford, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Erich Neumann, Carl Jung, Maria von Franz, William James, Aldo Leopold, Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, James Hollis, David Richo, David Abram, Theodore Roszak, Rick Tarnas, Bill Plotkin, Gary Snyder, Paul Sheppard, David Orr, Joanna Macy, Helen Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Clark Moustakas, Max van Manen, Parker Palmer, Maxine Greene, Carl Leggo, Celeste Snowber, and many other psychologists, poets, artists, researchers, and educators continue to inform my research and practice

Kathleen lives southeast of Vancouver, BC


Personal Statement 

Three things formed the triadic inquiry of my interdisciplinary doctoral research. First, the deep concern and ethical dilemma I face as both educator and psychotherapist in witness to the systemic illusion of separateness from an intimacy with the natural world that much of Western culture experiences, and as a result, the suffering many carry (and act out) from a disconnection to their own natures. Our loss of relationship with the other than human world (with anima mundi or the soul of the world) is in essence a loss of relationship to our own souls, and I believe, at the crux of our ecological crises, as well as a significant contributor to alarmingly increasing rates of physical and mental illness. Secondly, from a Jung-oriented, depth psychology perspective, I am also fascinated by the human quest for wholeness and maturation (the psychology of individuation) through tracking and following a genuine (or genius) path. Third, I find myself situated at this confluence of consideration about the role education (and psychotherapy) can play in integrating these two toward a form of initiatory education toward calling (true vocation or soul’s calling) while engendering ecological responsibility. In effect, how might education help (co)create the conditions for consciously turning around the whole human with potential for turning around the whole world? And what are the implications for our future when we invite soul to school?

My own practices include deep, phenomenological, threshold-crossing immersions into nature, where a (re)search of self and more of my own calling is revealed to me through the hermeneutics of powerful, wild teachings. “From the woods” – my findings become pedagogical, embodied ways of being human, being teacher designing learning with the whole person—body, mind, and soul—(and earth), in mind to support students (and other teachers) in discovering their particular and deeply fulfilling ways of belonging to and contributing toward a living ecology. Drawing from insights and wisdom from ecopsychology, ecotherapy, depth psychology, mythology and story-telling, philosophy, the poetic traditions, literature, nature-based, arts-based, indigenous and spiritual traditions, and curriculum studies, I tirelessly seek to fully flesh out and discover how we might reclaim and embody our original genius (genuine) path and then live to give it away.


SDGI Mentorships

Finding My Roots: Gardening with the Spirit of the Buffalo (3 credits)

Self-Praxis As Self-Directed Study (3 credits)


Professional website currently under development


Publications/Presentations/Professional Projects

  • In-Situ: At the Wild Confluence of People, Place and Practice or How to Have a Conversation the Size of the Psyche (pending article in peer-reviewed journal). Leighton, H. (2016).
  • Wild (re)turns: Tracking the epistemological and ecological implications of learning as an initiatory journey toward true vocation and soul. Leighton, H. (2014). Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Victoria, BC. Retrieved (date) from


  • Keynote November 5, 2016, for the Nanaimo Child Development Centre: Rx: Nature-Based Play – An Essential Medicine For Human Health and Development


  • Ecopsychological Dimensions in Environmental Education and Communication (RRU) – graduate level three week residency course in the MA in Environmental Education and Communication
  • Certificate in Sustainable Community Development with Dr. Ann Dale – 10 day residency intensive held at City Studio, Victoria – 2016
  • 415 Integral Systems: It’s Practical Application – undergraduate class at the University of Victoria in the Environmental School – co-taught with Dr. Duncan Taylor 2011-present
  • Continuing Studies at Royal Roads University public programs (2006-present):
    • Wild Ethics: Respect for the Animate World in Its Own Right
    • Counselling As If The Earth Mattered: An Introduction to Ecotherapy
    • A Little Course in Human Shadow: Reclaiming the Gold
    • Your Genius is Calling: The Courage to Be Who You Really Are
    • Eco-Poetic Inklings: Exploring the Nature of Poetry and the Poetry of Nature
    • The Way of Council – Level 1 Training
  • Guest Lectures (2008 – present):
    • Eco-citizenry, Introduction to the Learning Journal as Reflective Writing Practice, Writing as Research, Ecopsychology, Wild Ethics, MBTI – Gifts Differing.

Prior to coming to RRU, I taught at the University of Northern BC in Continuing Education (as well as led the department) and prior to 2002, designed and delivered various curricula for Open Learning Agency, Prince George, BC for 3 years created for adults in employment and life transition.