I do ecotherapy to get sunlight onto my skin and into my mind. It shines light through the dark fog of depression.

Different terms to describe ecotherapy

The language around ecotherapy is evolving and sometimes different words are used to describe the same thing. For example, you might sometimes hear people use phrases such as:

  • green exercise
  • green care
  • green therapy
  • horticultural therapy

These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to a whole range of outdoor activities, but sometimes might describe a specific type of ecotherapy programme. (See our page on types of ecotherapy for more information.)

What happens in ecotherapy?

Ecotherapy can take place in both rural and urban settings, such as parks, gardens, farms and woodlands. It can include activities that focus on:

  • Working in nature, such as a conservation project, gardening or farming.
  • Experiencing nature, such as enjoying the views on a walk or cycling through some woodland.

Formal programmes are usually a group activity and are run by trained professionals. These groups can be a mix of people of all ages. Participants may or may not have experience of mental health problems, but the main focus of the sessions is usually working together on the shared activity.

Some ecotherapy sessions follow a set structure, and include psychological treatment like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Others can be more informal, or vary depending on the time of year and what work needs doing. Sessions include varying amounts of physical activity, depending on the type of programme.

It's also possible to do informal ecotherapy on your own, without being led by a professional. (See our page on doing ecotherapy by yourself for more information.)

It gives me structure, makes me utilise the daylight and get out of bed. It gives me something outside of myself to nurture and look after and that helps me to better look after myself.

Talking about ecotherapy

This short film introduces the main ideas behind ecotherapy, and explains how using nature and the outdoors can improve mental wellbeing.