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Outdoor Group Therapy Mental Health

Learn about outdoor therapy and how it can help treat mental health conditions and improve life.

What Is Outdoor Therapy?

Outdoor therapy is an immersive treatment that occurs outside the confines of an office space or room, typically involving two or more people. It is intended to help people who have experienced trauma or are struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression by providing them with an opportunity to reconnect with nature, face their fears, and build new healthy coping mechanisms.

Outdoor mental health therapy uses natural elements to help people feel better and spur feelings of ease. Ultimately, it's not just about the number of hours spent outdoors; it falls back on the activities and connecting with others. 

Outdoor Group Therapy

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Scope of Outdoor Therapy

Mental health outdoor therapy programs have been used for years by mental health professionals to help patients cope with stress and anxiety, combat depression, manage anger issues, and much more. This treatment method is usually recommended as recovery improves, as a change of scenery can benefit the patient.

How Does Outdoor Therapy Work?

There are several key necessities in an outdoor group therapy setting:

  • A safe, comfortable location outside, such as a park, beach, garden, or forest
  • A group of people willing to share and grow
  • A therapist, counselor, or moderator 

The exact form of outdoor therapy would depend on the environment and the activities that are chosen for the day. Patients are encouraged to be as free as possible while participating in outdoor speech therapy activities, outdoor physical therapy, wilderness therapy for depression, and more. These activities allow people to express themselves fully without filtering anything they say or do.

Types of Outdoor Therapy

There are many different types of outdoor therapy, with some more intensive than others, but they all have the same goal. These varieties may include outdoor speech therapy activities, outdoor physical therapy, and wilderness therapy diagnosed for various mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

The following is a list of the common types of mental health outdoor therapy based on the chosen environment:

  • Beach therapy
  • Wilderness therapy
  • Horticulture/gardening therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Nature meditation
  • Adventure therapy

Why Does Outdoor Therapy Work?

Numerous studies have shown that outdoor time can help improve moods and reduce stress, a mainstay of mental health treatments. One study found that people who spent time in nature experienced a boost in psychological, cognitive, physiological, social, and spiritual well-being. For example, participants reported increased positive emotions, self-esteem, physical condition, and inspiration and decreased negative emotions, stress, loneliness, and physical strain.1

Outdoor therapy works by helping patients with the following:

  • Staying engaged in treatment
  • Promoting relaxation
  • Better physical and mental health
  • Gain new perspectives
  • Learn valuable life skills
  • Develop a positive leisure lifestyle

What Outdoor Therapy Can Help With

Outdoor therapy is often used as a part of group therapy because it allows patients to interact with others in a safe environment where they can express themselves freely without fear of judgment or stigma. In addition, numerous studies suggest that exposure to nature can increase cognitive function and working memory.2

Some of the conditions outdoor therapy programs can help with during the treatment process include:

  • Anxiety
  • Asperger's syndrome
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Trauma

What Are the Benefits of Being Outside?

Being outdoors has many benefits, such as:

  • Social Benefits: Spending time outside is a great way to make new friends, meet interesting people, and improve mental health. For example, during outdoor wilderness therapy or behavioral health outdoor garden therapy, there is an avenue for individuals to bond over common interests beyond treatment, leading to better relationships with others.
  • Health Benefits: Outside therapy has an innate effect that increases wellness and alleviates mental health concerns like stress and anxiety. Reports show that spending time outside increases life expectancy, improves sleep cycles, and reduces cancer risk, stress, and several risk factors of cardiovascular disease.3

How Does Being Outdoors Support Recovery?

Being in a safe and calming environment is an essential part of recovery, as it provides a better opportunity to ease the mind and heal. Fortunately, outdoor therapy games and other outdoor group therapy activities for adults allow people to be comfortable and enjoy the benefits of being outside while also participating in a group setting.

Spending time outdoors can support recovery in a variety of ways; these will be detailed below.

Physical Health

There is a strong connection between physical and mental health, meaning people’s physical health can affect their mental state and vice versa. Being outdoors can improve physical well-being by increasing energy levels, improving sleep quality, lowering blood pressure, and reducing stress. Thus, outdoor therapy activities for adults boost physical health and go on to support recovery from mental health conditions.

Emotional and Mental Health

Outdoor mental health therapy can help people feel more positive about themselves and foster recovery. For example, outdoor therapy for anxiety and depression provides more opportunities to be exposed to sunlight, which has been shown to improve sleep, mood, and well-being effectively.4

Building Community

Building community support for mental health recovery can be a powerful way to reduce isolation and increase the chances of recovery. Outdoor therapy allows individuals to meet others with similar experiences, share stories, and learn from each other. These activities help boost recovery and wellness across large groups of people. Art therapy outdoors and outdoor family therapy activities are also healthy for family bonding.

Why Choose Outdoor Therapy?

Overall, outdoor therapy is usually more engaging when compared to stay-in therapy sessions. Irrespective of the progress made during therapy sessions, outdoor group therapy can help patients explore new horizons, stay energized, and increase motivation in the treatment process.

Furthermore, outdoor group therapy sessions function as support groups. Support groups can greatly reduce feelings of loneliness, depression, distress, and anxiety. While helping patients open up healthily, stay motivated, and build the right coping strategies to overcome mental and physical challenges.

How to Prepare for Outdoor Therapy

The following tips should help any individual looking to try out outdoor group therapy:

  • Talk with the therapist to discuss convenient times for everyone involved.
  • Pick a safe environment and choose a comfortable location free of distractions and interruptions.
  • Make a mental note to be expressive and engage fully in every activity.
  • Dress appropriately for the chosen environment or activity.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and ensure it's not going to rain or snow during the session.
Outdoor Group Therapy

Get Outdoor Group Therapy for Mental Health at Boardwalk Recovery

Including outdoor group therapy in mental health treatment plans helps boost various aspects of a patient's mental health. Boardwalk Recovery is a behavioral health center providing outdoor experiential therapy and outdoor group therapy for mental health to improve people’s recovery journey, well-being, and quality of life.

Our outdoor therapy program offers the opportunity to develop healthy coping skills, connect with others experiencing similar issues, and engage in activities that help alleviate adverse physical and mental symptoms.

Reach Out Today

Contact Boardwalk Recovery today for more information on mental health outdoor therapy and the variety of outdoor therapy programs we offer.
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