An introduction to ecotherapy, a range of nature-based programmes that can support your wellbeing. Includes guidance on finding ecotherapy programmes near you, and how you can do it by yourself.

Your stories

Ecotherapy saved my life

Posted on 19/11/2013

What different types are there?

The main types of ecotherapy programmes are listed below alphabetically, including a brief description of what might happen in a session.


What does it involve?

Adventure therapy

(adventure activities focused on psychological support)

Fairly strenuous physical activities incorporated with psychological exercises.

  • It's usually done in a group.
  • Might include activities such as rafting, rock climbing and caving, as ways to build trust and raise confidence.

Animal assisted interventions (AAI)

(spending time with animals)

Being in spaces such as farms where you will come into contact with animals.

  • Spending relaxed time with animals, feeding or petting them.
  • Can be used to assist mobility and improve coordination.
  • It's less structured than animal assisted therapy (AAT).

Animal assisted therapy (AAT)

(building a therapeutic relationship with animals)

Formal therapy using guided contact with animals such as horses or dogs.

  • The focus is on the interaction and bonding between you and the animal.
  • It's led by an experienced therapist.
  • Could be one-to-one or group therapy.

Care Farming

(working on farms)

Looking after farm animals, growing crops or helping to manage woodland.

  • Sessions generally run for half days.
  • Many farms hold open days with taster sessions for you to go along and try things out before joining a programme.
  • There are several hundred care farm sites in the UK, in both rural and urban areas.

For more information visit the Care Farming UK website.


(strengthening your relationship to nature)

All programmes listed on this page can be considered types of ecotherapy, but in its strictest sense, a formal ecotherapy (or eco-therapy) programme is where a trained therapist leads you through different activities to develop a balanced relationship with nature that benefits your wellbeing.

Environmental conservation – sometimes called Green Gyms

(combining physical exercise with conservation work)

Protecting and conserving natural spaces and habitats.

  • Tasks vary depending on location and time of year.
  • Sessions include plenty of breaks and you can work at your own pace.
  • The group leader will show you how to exercise and use tools safely.

For more information, visit the The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) website.

Green exercise therapy

(doing exercise in nature)

Physical activities in green spaces, such as walking, running and cycling.

  • Can include a range of walks from gentle strolls to strenuous hiking.
  • Usually run by a trained leader.

For more information, visit the websites for Let's Walk Cymru and Walking for Health.

Nature arts and crafts

(doing art in or with nature)

Artistic activities which might take place in the natural environment, and use natural materials such as wood, grass and clay.

Social and therapeutic horticulture (STH)


Gardening or growing food in allotments.

  • You can choose from a variety of tasks.
  • Can be adapted to suit a wide range of abilities and mobility levels.
  • Usually takes place outside in community gardens or nurseries, or inside village halls and libraries.
  • Run by qualified and experienced tutors.
  • Could lead to work experience such as selling produce at a market garden, or the opportunity to take horticulture qualifications.

For more information, visit the websites for Carry on Gardening, Groundwork and Thrive.

Wilderness therapy

(being out in the wild)

Spending time in the wild with a group, doing physical and group-building activities such as making shelters and hiking.

  • A structured and supported opportunity to challenge yourself in a wilderness or remote setting. Building a relationship with an outdoors environment is central to this therapy.
  • Usually involves some therapy to help you improve your self-awareness and remove mental blocks that are holding you back.

For more information visit the Wilderness Foundation website.

It's usually the role of the programme or group leader to make sure that you understand clearly how the programme works. They should be available throughout the programme to answer any questions you have about the activities and to monitor how things are going for you.

I just joined a group called Get up and Grow. [Now I] look forward to Tuesday afternoon even if I'm having a tough time – I always seem to come home happier.

This information was published in October 2015. We will revise it in 2018.


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