Explains the mental health benefits of nature and gives tips and ideas to try. Also provides information on formal ecotherapy programmes, and where to find out more.
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:
This short video introduces the main ideas behind ecotherapy, and explains how using nature and the outdoors can improve mental wellbeing:
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, and incorporate types of talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). 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:
"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."
"I have depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Doing ecotherapy has allowed me somewhere that is 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 to 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 require a referral – this might need to come from your GP, or they might accept a referral from another professional you see regularly. Costs involved can vary, although some programmes 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 May 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
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