What is nature based therapy?
Nature based therapy is sometimes called Ecotherapy or nature therapy or green therapy. Similar to many other forms of therapy, you have an agreed time and place to meet the therapist and the session is an opportunity for you to talk about whatever is troubling you.
Unlike most other forms of therapy, the session does not take place inside a room, but instead you and the therapist go for a walk together.
While walking and talking, there may be opportunities to reflect on the nature around you. A piece of rotting wood may represent a burden you have been carrying, a bird song may remind you of something that fills you with joy, stones, nests, trees, rivers, mole hills – anything around might become a metaphor for the therapy themes.
On occasions there may be opportunities for creative forms of therapy, perhaps creating a leaf rubbing picture or photographing something you want to remember. There may be times when you want to move like the wind or whistle back at the birds or feel the grass under your feet or make a den. The invitation to engage with your creative and playful impulses can be supported as part of the therapy journey. Or maybe you want to sit peacefully by a tree for a moment of reflection and calm or meditate while watching a stream. The invitation is there to engage with nature in whatever way would be nourishing for you.
Why nature based?
Going for a walk is known to have health benefits and can have a positive impact on your mood not just during the walk but also for up to 7 hours after you finish walking. This is particularly effective for people with anxiety and depression.
This better mood happens because walking boosts the endorphins and serotonin in your brain, hormones and chemicals which also reduce the feeling of pain in the body. Add this to breathing the fresh air and increasing blood circulation and walking gives a boost to your immune system – people who go for a walk every day take fewer sick days and are less likely to catch a cold.
Other benefits of walking include a gentle form of exercise, aiding digestion, supporting healthy sleep patterns, improving eye sight by looking at the horizon rather than at screens and close up objects.
Nature based therapy can include engagement with the spiritual side of life, connecting with creation, the wonder of the cosmos, living with mother earth. What is your relationship with the world you are a part of? What kind of footprint do you want to make?
If therapy has your healing and boosting your overall well-being as its primary goals, it makes sense to do the therapy in an environment which will have a positive impact on your overall health.
Some people don’t feel comfortable in a therapy room, perhaps having the chairs facing each other seems too intense or lying on a couch seems too disconnected. Sometimes it is easier to talk when walking side by side together.
What about the weather?
The therapy will move to an indoor location in the event of weather which is dangerous such as thunder storm, blizzards, hurricanes and hail storms. In other weathers the therapy will usually go ahead.
For this reason we recommend weather appropriate clothing:
- Rain and soggy ground weather: umbrellas, good walking boots or wellies and water proof clothes.
- Hot sunny days: sun lotion and / or sun hats.
- Cold and snow: hats, gloves and scarfs and warm layers, shoes with a good grip.
- Sessions around dawn or dusk may also need clothes which cover the skin or maybe insect repellent.
We love to moan about the weather in this country but one of the lessons of nature based therapy is that when you get rained on, you can dry again; when the wind blows you, you can stand firm; when the sun shines you can see the horizon.
Where will the therapy take place?
Ingrebourne Country Park, Hornchurch. The therapy will aim to start and finish at the same time and place each week. We may chose to walk the same route or you may wish to explore different areas depending on the theme and what else is going on.
As it is a public park, there will be times when we seek out more private areas for some parts of the conversation, even on busy sunny days these are possible to find.
I’m not very fit
The session can go at your pace, in terms of what we talk about and how far and fast we move. We may choose to rest on a bench, we might have a gentle stroll, we might have a brisk walk.
Can I bring my baby or dog
If you have a baby in a buggy or a dog, it may be possible to bring them but it is advisable to consider how distracting they may be to the therapy.
There may be things that you want to talk about which could be quite emotional which you might not want them to witness. Although it is a walk it is also your therapy session.
What about family therapy or group therapy?
Nature based therapy can work with couples, parents and children, whole families or other groups of people.
Spending time together in nature can strengthen relationships. We know in the changing seasons there are times of growth, times of nourishment, times of letting go and times when everything seems to have died which will be followed by another time of growth. Relationships can seem to follow the same cycle and nature based therapy can help to let go of the wilting leaves and find the new buds of life.
£50 per hour, usually once a week. The number of sessions will depend on your aim for the therapy.
Couples Therapy (or other pairs of people)
£75 for a 90 minute session.
Family Therapy (between 3 to 8 people)
£90 for a 2 hour session.
Group Therapy (between 3 to 8 people)
£40 per person per two hour session. Groups work best when the members are exploring a similar theme in therapy.
We have facilitated Wilderness retreats in Dartmoor National Park in 2019 and plan to facilitate another retreat to the Yorkshire Dales next year. Please email if you are interested in this: firstname.lastname@example.org