Nature-based therapies are therapeutic approaches that harness the therapeutic potential of the natural world to promote emotional and psychological well-being. In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, these therapies offer an integrative way to address physical, mental and social health concerns.
The term “Nature-based Therapies” may not be widely acknowledged in academia or professional practice, but it falls under the broader category of Outdoor Therapies. These therapies use nature to promote health and well-being and involve outdoor settings, physical activities, and collaborative relationships among the participant, the facilitator or therapist, and nature, bridging the gap between humans and the natural world (Harper and Doherty, 2020).
Spending time in nature, whether it’s a forest, a park, a garden, or simply by a stream, can have a profound impact. These therapies incorporate various activities such as Forest Bathing, Forest Therapy, Horticulture Therapy, Wilderness Therapy, and Outdoor Mindfulness Practices.
- Forest Bathing is a practice rooted in Japanese culture, a nature-based well-being practice that enhances our natural ability to adapt to change in our lives, more positively and healthily, supporting a better quality of life (FTHub 2021). It operates across various levels of healthcare, encompassing health promotion to disease prevention, and can be undertaken with or without a Guide.
- Forest Therapy is a nature-based intervention that considers the specific needs of individuals and the natural and social environment in which they live. It aims to promote positive mental health states and to enhance physical and social health by improving nature connectedness, interpersonal relationships and social cohesion (FTHub 2021). This practice involves structured and intentional nature walks guided by Forest Therapy Practitioners, in order to repair damage to mental, physical and social health caused by specific problems It operates in the areas of tertiary disease prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.
- Horticultural Therapy is a complementary, evidence-based and integral (physical, cognitive, social and psychological) approach to treatment. Administered in a variety of healthcare, rehabilitative and residential settings by a trained professional, Horticultural Therapy employs plants and gardening activities, either active or passive, as the primary means to achieve and monitor specific therapeutic or rehabilitative objectives outlined in a treatment plan. (APHTS, 2023)
- Nature-based Therapy: The official definition may vary depending on the context and the specific organization or governing body that establishes and recognizes such definitions. It can be defined as a therapeutic intervention led by a clinical professional that utilizes exposure and interaction with nature to enhance individuals’ mental health.
- Adventure Therapy: A psychotherapeutic methodology that uses nature and adventure in the intervention. Relies on outdoor activities that challenge individuals both physically and emotionally, such as hiking, climbing, kayaking, or camping. These activities can promote self-confidence, teamwork and personal growth.
Nature-based therapies are not meant to replace traditional psychotherapy or medical treatments but can be a valuable complement. They offer individuals the opportunity to disconnect from the demands of modern life, find solace in nature, and reconnect with their inner selves.
In this context, FTHub is a member of the NATURELAB Project consortium, funded through the Horizon program of the European Union. FTHub’s specific work package involves designing and implementing nature-based therapy programs tailored to populations with specific health conditions. These programs, utilizing the FTHub Method and the Liquid Interactions Model for Forest Bathing and Forest Therapy, will provide training for 600 professionals and engage around 4,000 participants across 15 diverse locations in Peru, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, and Greece. The project’s primary goal is to promote the utilization of natural environments for healthcare and well-being, catering to a broad spectrum of demographics. The consortium comprises 13 entities, including research centers, universities, hospitals, municipalities, NGOs, and private companies from various countries.
Nature-based therapies remind us that the power of nature is readily accessible, offering a unique path towards physical, emotional and psychological well-being.