Cover Image: Bird Therapy

Bird Therapy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Bird Therapy is the tale of two journeys.  Firstly, it is a journey from addiction and depression to a healthy life with the help of bird watching.  Secondly, it is a journey of discovery in which Joe Harkness seeks to understand that recovery and place it into a broader context.  This book is a combination of; personal narrative, psychological study, and journalistic endeavour. It seeks to explore the role of bird watching in a person’s mental well-being.    It is an engaging read.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Unbound and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is a really interesting book to me. Like many people I have struggled with my mental health and engaging with the natural world is one of the few strategies I have found to help me. I've also held a lifelong fascination and interest in birds so my interest was definitely piqued when I saw a book exploring both facets of this.

The book is part memoir, part exploration of the author's own navigation through mental health issues but also manages to talk a lot about birds which to be honest is what attracted me to the book. I don't really engage well with self-help type stuff but this book managed to explore an interesting perspective on one person's experience without being too preachy.
Was this review helpful?
Lovely book about how birdwatching can improve mental health.
A well written book that will appeal to all. Birdwatchers can be a difficult bunch to get along with but this book shows you just need to find the right ones. No superiority shown here.
Was this review helpful?
The introduction by Chris Packham certainly pulls no punches as he writes about his own struggles with mental health. He also speaks highly of the author Joe Harkness, as will any one who takes the time to read this book.

In it the author describes his own breakdown and how he reconnected with his love of birdwatching to increase his wellbeing and help him with his own life. He bases the book around the New Economics Forum’s 5 ways to wellbing - to connect, to take notice, to give, to keep learning, and to be active. All of these can be achieved through birdwatching as Harkness explains. Indeed being outdoors and enjoying it is one of life's greatest pleasures. Personally I happily spend time each day watching the birds on the feeders in the garden. It may not be a large variety, but as Harkness says when you get an unusual visitor it provides that extra bit of joy. For me the sighting of a robin or a wagtail is a treat, as both are only seen occasionally and normally only in the winter months when their regular sources of food supply are diminished.

His enthusiasm and passion for birds and the countryside in general really comes through loud and clear in his writing. If there is one drawback in the book is that of some illustrations of some of the birds mentioned. I know it is not a birds field guide, however for the casual bird watcher it could help ignite their passion further.

The author never preaches about what you need to do to help with mental well being, rather he provides his and other peoples' experiences.

Mental health is one of the last taboos and if this book can not only help people, but get people to talk anout their state of mind and feelings then this is a big step. Bird therapy can be enjoyed by anyone and it works, ticking all five of boxes in the aforementioned ways to wellbeing.
Was this review helpful?
I requested this book because of the local connection - I live in Norwich and went to UEA, with lots of talented and creative people.  I think I'm just slightly older than Joe though, so our paths didn't cross in a uni environment. 
Bird Therapy is quite raw and there were points where the directness was a bit of a surprise - this is part of what Joe stands for though, he's really open with his anxiety and suicide attempt, and it's something that I think is important to get used to talking about so we can recognise and support each other. 

He's so passionate about birds and the landscape that it's easy to be drawn in - I found myself watching birds and wildlife when I went out for runs, and actually still do that a month or so after I read the book. I have no idea what they are though so I can appreciate them only at face value!

I really recommend this as something different to try to focus on - for people struggling with mental health issues, stresses or anything like that, as Joe's journey is so inspiring.
Was this review helpful?
What a lovely addition to the nature writing genre. After a serious illness and resultant mental health problems I too started spending more time in nature, walking and birdwatching- so much of what Joe writes resonates with me.
I've not become as dedicated to birding as Joe, all nature interests me but being Norfolk based I understand the locations described and the thrill of living in such a diverse county.

I hope to follow some of Joe's tips and hope that both of our recoveries continue.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 Could birds be the answer? Although this is set in the UK and the mental health statistics are grim, in the USA they are just as bad. So many people suffer from anxiety or depression, or both that something really needs to be done. Yet, while there are some effective medications, many don't have access to them or can't afford them. It is inexcusable.

The author, candidly honest, tells of the nightmare his life has become, struggling with mental illness, to the point where he tried to take his own life. As many do who have become utterly hopeless. 
Bird watching, literally saved his life. It provided time outside of mind, healing nature and a consistency to his days. As he saw and listed birds, some rare, some common he found his mental anguish lightening. 

Maybe bird watching is not be for all, but finding something to immerse oneself in, may be helpful. I don't suffer from a mental obstacle but I do have some heavy duty physical ones, and have found that nature provides me with the piece of mind to deal with my difficulties. The other day I saw a commorant on our river, sitting on the log and sunning himself. So peaceful!

ARC from Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! As a lover of birds and birdwatching and also someone that suffers from anxiety, this book was made for me!
Joe Harkness spoke seamlessly about his journey with birdwatching and how it has helped his mental health. His stories of specific bird sightings were so detailed that I almost thought I had been there myself. I also suffer from chronic illness and am currently unable to go out birdwatching and so the stories and the details of the birds were even more lovely to read as I have a yearning to be out there seeing them.
Mental health is so important and I have long thought of how vital nature and the outdoors is to my mental health. Joe looks into this really well and without too much data but using real opinions on the subject.
I hope this book inspires more people to get out into nature and feel its calming ways.

I knocked half a star as I thought the book could have done with some more illustrations, especially for those reading the book that do not know birds that well but want to learn more. 

Please note that I was given a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Bird Therapy is a beautiful reminder to slow down, look up from your various screens, and notice the world around you.  If birds aren't your big thing, fine.  Look up anyway and notice something else that nature has to offer.  See, listen and smell the world and feel gratitude for all of these wonderful gifts.     Depression sucks all the color out of one's world and fills it with ugly noise.  Birds, animals and the natural world can give you your colors again you just have to let them in.    I requested Bird Therapy to see if I might want to buy a copy for my husband, who is an avid bird watcher.  I do think he'll enjoy it, but I also think anyone would benefit from reading this.  I take it as gentle reminder to go outside and let nature quiet the noise in my head.

#netgalley #BirdTherapy
Was this review helpful?

I don't see a way to download this book to Adobe Digital Editions. That is what I read my review copies on with this computer. 
I would like to review the title as I live in Ireland and watch birds. If there is a way to get a  Netgalley Pdf or to e-mail me a copy ARC please let me know. 
Apologies that I have to give a rating when I have not read the book. There isn't any other way provided for me to contact you and I have to give a rating or it won't go. I can't give  a top rating if i have not read the book.
Was this review helpful?
Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness is an open and honest look at Harkness' journey with debilitating mental health issues and his path towards healing. While medication and therapy did help, he found that nothing was more profound in his recovery than his connection with nature, in particular, the impact of birdwatching. 

The healing power of nature is something that is well documented but often ignored in place of more traditional treatment. I admired that Harkness was able to share his powerful experience without taking away from the beneficial inclusion of both medication and therapy. Many times when I have read about more "natural" treatment ideas, pharmaceutical drugs, in particular, are often frowned upon. 

As someone who takes medication for anxiety and also uses many other more "natural" options, I appreciate this open-minded approach. There isn't a one size fits all answer, and I was very impressed that Harkness was able to share his viewpoint without shunning other ones that can be very helpful in their own right.  

Bird Therapy approaches birdwatching in a relatable and youthful manner and takes away the stereotypical idea that is is only for people in their "retirement" years. Harkness shares his journey with his reconnection with nature and how it helped his mindfulness practices, and his passion for the avian world is infectious. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Unbound for an advanced copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
This is a great book!  I suffer from depression myself and it gave me
some great insights on how to manage that dark depression with the 
outside. and nature influence.  I do watch birds I can't get to online by
webcam. But through this book, I realize I need more. 

Thank you, NetGalley, the writer, and publisher for letting me read
this important book.
Was this review helpful?
This book is all about how birdwatching can help with mental illness and with generally gaining an increased sense of wellbeing, improving your health etc. I have always enjoyed garden birdwatching and this lovely little book has inspired to find a local "patch" and to become more mindful when watching the garden birds and wild birds. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
This is such an important and insightful book about the healing power of nature. The author writes so honestly about his and others’ mental health problems and the ongoing coping strategy of immersing oneself in nature. Sheer joy pours out of the descriptions of his connections with birds both on “his patch” and further afield which is delightful to read. The extensive research around bird therapy as well as the wealth of bird knowledge it contains means this book should be read and appreciated by all. Give it a go, absorb some of the well-birding tips and it will undoubtedly change your life.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this book! for many reasons- i am a twitcher, and have suffered with mental illness. The book is uplifting, well written and very honest I would highly recommend it for people interested in the beneficial effects of engaging with nature to improve mental health and wellbeing.
Was this review helpful?
Joe Harkness has written a charming and unusual book on the delights of bird-watching. He covers the many aspects of his enjoyment of the activity, but specifically and openly recounts how watching birds helped his recovery from a breakdown. 
He describes how the delight of being immersed in nature and the concentration required to spot and identify birds helped to calm his mind.
After each chapter on a different aspect of bird-watching, he thoughtfully provides a list of hard-earned tips with guidance for others, some for those suffering from similar issues and others for anyone interested in birds. These include tips for listening to birdsong, for making the activity more mindful rather than a box-ticking exercise and for connecting to other people through bird-watching.
A very interesting and comprehensive insight, not just into the range of ways that birdwatching can be enjoyed, but also into how it can improve mental health. It is a wonderful guide to the enjoyment of nature and  its healing powers
Was this review helpful?
know that I am unable to put into words just how important this book is. But, I will try and share my thoughts on how much I absolutely adored this book.

Joe Harkness tells his own story with honesty and warmth. He tells us of how he wanted to take his own life, and of how he hit rock bottom. He tells us of how bird therapy saved his life, and it's a beautiful, gritty, and life affirming read.

The information, stories and advice in this book make so much sense. The fact that watching birds, listening to birdsong and having a common interest with others can all help to improve our mental health and wellbeing. I read these words and found myself absorbed in their meaning. That nature truly is a healing power.

There is so much advice in this book, alongside useful refrences, ideas to try and research to read. It's a refreshing read, and I found myself being lulled and calmed with the words on the page.

I really do think that everyone would benefit from reading Bird Therapy, even if you are not a birdwatcher. It's about embracing nature, going for a walk in the countryside, along the canal or to your local bird reserve. It's about looking up at the sky and noticing the birds, the clouds, the sounds around us. It's about getting away from screens, the internet, our smartphones and simply being with nature.

Reading this book is good for out mental health. Ultimately it is a stepping stone to good mental health. And I really do believe it will be a lifeline for many people.
Was this review helpful?
This is a sensitive, insightful and vital book, and it’s reading will have a positive impact on many people. It has wide appeal, for those struggling with mental health issues, for those who want to improve their wellness through connecting with nature and for those who are interested in birds. 

The foreword by Chris Packham is succint and hard hitting, highlighting effectively the difficulty of telling others about suicidal thoughts. Mental health is a difficult subject to talk about and I think there is a spectrum of difficulty when it comes to the topics it encompasses. As we see certain conditions (depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD) portrayed in popular culture, they become easier, more ‘mainstream’ to discuss. Male suicide however, seems to be one of the last taboos. Joe claims he isn’t brave for talking about his breakdown, that what he’s done should be an ordinary thing. Absolutely it should be ordinary; but there’s still a way to go before such conversations are normalised. By telling his story with such unflinching honesty, Joe paves the way for others to share their stories too. Because that’s ultimately what’s needed: for people to feel that they can talk about their struggles, especially when it’s very hard to do so.

I liked the accessible tone of this book, Joe’s language is informal and factual (rather than being either academic or overly emotive). He briefly talks about the amount of people affected by mental health conditions and the statistics from the charity MIND are stark. He moves on to power of nature for health, the New Economics Forum’s 5 ways to wellbing: to connect, to take notice, to give, to keep learning, and to be active. He makes a convincing argument for how birdwatching fits this brief perfectly. Joe tried all of the usual therapies, from counselling to medication, but nothing was as effective for his wellbeing journey as Bird Therapy. He’s not alone in this, as the survey he ran and other research can attest. Joe tells us “Nature and birdwatching can offer us a great deal of stability. In the life of someone living with daily mental health issues these consistencies can act as an anchor to the present and provide grounding.” Throughout the book there are two interwoven, inextricable strands: Joe’s bird watching encounters and his journey to wellbeing. Over the course of the book he shares touching accounts of his birdwatching adventures, sharing practical insights and tips for those wanting to give it a try. It is a very accessible activity and there is a lot of support and resources freely available. He also candidly describes the stages of his journey and how his mental health improved, I think this would be encouraging and supportive to those going through similar experiences. 

Overall, I think this is a very appealing book to those going through mental health difficulties, or those who simply want to harness the benefits to wellbeing which connecting with nature brings.
Was this review helpful?
My favorite line from this book is "Birds and nature are my anchor to the present." The author's honesty about his struggle with anxiety is both refreshing and informative, and his therapy of choice is a good one.
If you like birds, this is a lovely read that will affirm for you that the hobby of birding is a wonderful way to encounter nature and appreciate it: Harkness gives ample description of places he goes and the birds he sees and hears, so you almost feel like you're birding with him.
If you suffer with depression, his book offers a natural antidote backed by science as well as personal experiences. As scientific research points out, engaging with nature is very healing for people, and birding is one, very accessible, way to connect with the natural world, making it a great choice for therapy. Having found my own healing from depression in my connection with my dog, who forced me to spend more time outdoors, I could relate to the author's experiences and his desire to share the therapy that worked for him, since depression and anxiety afflict so many. I hope his book reaches those who can benefit from it!
Harkness also offers quick tips at the end of each chapter to help you move ahead in taking up birding, which may be helpful for some readers. As far as his writing style, I had a little trouble with his mixing of complete sentences with phrases in his narrative; I'm obsessive about using correct English grammar, so it made the reading a bit awkward for me. Since he is British, some of his expressions, and certainly some of the places to which he refers, were unfamiliar to me, as well, but his story was enjoyable.
(I was provided a free ecopy of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Was this review helpful?
I was curious to read an advanced reviewer copy of this book because it seemed highly relevant to me.  I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD, and depression 10+ years ago and although my mental illness is generally managed, I have periods where the symptoms are debilitating.  In particular, the loss of a close aunt sent me into a deep depression and observing birds was one of the few activities that made me feel connected not just to her but life in general.  

I found the beginning of the book interesting but personally lost steam from there.   Given the degree to which this was marketed as 'groundbreaking' I had been hoping for more scientific validation that was included. To his credit, the author does caveat that the research he did was not rigorous but I found myself wanting more of an understanding of bird watching vs. other kinds of more traditional therapy.
And then for whatever reason with the chapters that followed I just couldn't seem to get into the book. Given this book was the product of crowd funding it clearly resonates with people, but I unfortunately was not one of them.
Was this review helpful?