Outdoor therapy provides a refreshing opportunity to step back from your life. It gives you the chance to tune into the healing power of nature. Moreover, it gives you the chance to tune into your deepest inner self.
What is Outdoor Therapy?
Outdoor therapy, as the name suggests, is therapy that takes place in nature. The core idea is that it gives you breathing room, away from all of the distractions of modern day society.
Without your electronic gadgets and the demands of everyday life, you can finally hear yourself think again.
This is a therapeutic experience that takes place outside, usually in a remote natural area such as a forest or desert. Outdoor therapy is led by qualified, licensed professionals who also have specific training working in nature. It includes components of individual and group therapy combined with hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
People may use outdoor therapy to treat a variety of different issues. However, most commonly, it’s used to treat:
- Internet addiction and gaming disorders
- Substance use issues
- Teen emotional and behavioral challenges
- Anxiety disorders inclluding social anxiety
- Depression, especially seasonal depression
How Does Outdoor Therapy Work?
There are many different types of outdoor therapy. Wilderness retreats and adventure therapy camps work a bit like inpatient therapy in that they are long-term, immersive, and distraction-free. In contrast, walking therapy is more of an outpatient version of outdoor therapy, giving you the chance to experience therapy in nature for an hour at a time each week.
The majority of outdoor therapy programs are those such as wilderness retreats. The idea is that you need time to completely disconnect from technology and “real life” in order to truly connect with nature, the group, and your inner or higher self. These camps may last several days or several months.
Adventure therapy programs are one form of wilderness therapy. They include challenging physical activities that help individuals develop both self-reliance and reliance on their peers.
People who like the idea of ecotherapy but who aren’t ready to commit to a retreat program may benefit from walking therapy. This is a typical one hour meeting with a therapist but instead of taking place in a therapy office, it takes place walking through a natural setting.
Benefits of Outdoor Therapy Programs
The number one benefit that you receive from outdoor therapy is that you spend time in nature. Humans need nature.
Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, author of the book Biophilia, argues that humans have an innate need to connect with nature. Modern life increasingly takes us away from that connection. We spend our time in our cars, in our offices, and on our phones.
Similarly, author Johann Hari argues that the prevalence of depression in society today is due in large part to a sense of disconnection. It’s a disconnection from many different key things that we need in life.
One of the things that we need most, yet from which we are most disconnected today, is a sense of connection with the natural world.
More than anything else, outdoor therapy offers the benefit of giving you the chance to reconnect with nature. This, in and of itself, is healing.
Outdoor Therapy Offers Opportunities for Self-Reliance
One of the other major benefits of outdoor therapy, particularly adventure therapy, is that it gives you the chance to really learn how to rely on yourself. Many people struggle with low self-esteem, are afraid to take risks, or simply don’t trust themselves and the world around them.
Testing your own ability to survive out in nature, in scenarios where you might be completely out of your comfort zone, can help build your sense of self-reliance.
This allows you to go back to the rest of your life with confidence and ease. You begin to realize, at a deep, core level, that you are strong, capable, and amazing.
Additional Benefits of Outdoor Therapy
Some of the other major benefits of this unique form of therapy are:
- A break from outside responsibilities that helps with indecision in life
- Discoveries of new metaphors in nature can help you frame your own issues in new ways
- Group bonding in a way that helps with everything from anxiety to anger management
- Opportunity for therapeutic play
- Physical exercise has many healing properties including emotional regulation
- Therapy that’s new and different from what you’re used to can shake you out of your old way of thinking
How to Prepare for Outdoor Therapy
Outdoor therapy isn’t right for everyone. However, it can provide countless benefits for many people. If you think that it might be something that works well for you, then there are some initial next steps that you can take.
First, begin researching the different types of outdoor therapy in depth. Are you going to benefit more from a retreat setting or one where you hike for miles each day? What programs are available that treat your specific issues?
Once you’ve settled on the right type of program, it’s time to find the specific program that is right for you. Anytime that you try a new therapist, you should engage in an initial interview to see if it’s a good fit. This is particularly true with outdoor therapy. Ask all of your questions to make sure that it’s the right type of therapy for you at this time.
Your therapist will provide you with a list of things that you need to bring with you. Make sure to read that carefully. Pack everything on the list to facilitate your own safety and success.
Once you’ve signed up, it’s time to really commit yourself. Therapy works best when you’re all in. Give it a chance to work its magic. Trust the process.