Explains what ecotherapy is, how to get involved in a programme, and what to do if no ecotherapy is available in your area.
Ecotherapy is a formal type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature. There isn't one single definition of ecotherapy, but it's often used to describe a regular, structured activity that:
“As someone who's socially anxious, I've found it much easier to chat to people and make friends when you have a practical task to do together. You have easy common ground and there's never pressure to chat if you don't feel like it. I've got to know some of the best people I've ever known whilst de-lousing chickens and cleaning donkey hooves. This kind of work is extremely bonding.”
This short video introduces the main ideas behind ecotherapy, and explains how using nature and the outdoors can improve mental wellbeing:
“Being at a supported gardening project has transformed my life and saved the life of my partner who had attempted suicide four times before she regained hope.”
Ecotherapy can take place in both rural and urban settings, including parks, gardens, farms and woodlands. It involves varying amounts of physical activity, depending on the type of programme. It can include activities that focus on:
Some ecotherapy sessions follow a set structure. Others can be more informal, or vary depending on the time of year and what work needs doing. People in the group may or may not have experience of mental health problems, but the main focus is usually working together on the shared activity.
Ecotherapy programmes can involve a wide range of activities. For example:
“I have depression, anxiety and BPD. Doing ecotherapy has allowed me somewhere that's my safe place, a place of my own. Where I can be quiet and peaceful. The act of growing and caring for something else helps me stop thinking about what is going on in my head.”
If you'd like to find an ecotherapy programme in your local area, you could:
Some ecotherapy programmes need you to have a referral. This might need to come from your GP, or they may accept a referral from another professional you see regularly. The cost of ecotherapy programmes varies, although some are free.
If you can't find any ecotherapy programmes in your local area, you could:
“I do ecotherapy to get sunlight onto my skin and into my mind. It shines light through the dark fog of depression.”
This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
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