Abstract: Ecotherapy interventions encouraging healing through nature

Ecotherapy is a form of psychology that allows nature to encourage growth and healing. This healing can be in the form of stress, cognitive fatigue, or mental illness. Healing with nature has become more important in recent years because humans have broken their deep relationship with nature. Human connection with nature is important because of a term Edward Wilson created called “biophilia,” which describes humans’ innate desire to connect with nature and other life. Recent studies have indicated that ecotherapy practices have reduced stress, depression and anxiety, and have increased pro-social behavior and overall well-being. Some interventions include horticultural therapy and animal-assisted therapy, while more commonplace ecotherapy practices include mindfulness walks, learning more about local nature, spending more time outside in general, and adding more greenspace to an indoor environment.

The purpose of our research is to discover more about the topic of ecotherapy and how to best implement ecotherapy interventions. While spending time in nature is proven to be beneficial for mental and physical health, it appears that it is difficult to encourage people of all ages to spend more time outside. Technology, time and fear are the greatest factors affecting the lack of nature time. Additionally, people often disregard the profound health benefits that nature can provide. This being said, a large part of our research involves understanding what initiatives would best encourage ecotherapy practices. Certain populations (i.e. college students, or the elderly) will best respond to certain practices and encouragement more than others.

Through this research, we intend to find better ways of incorporating nature practices into various settings. University life, the health care field, and adults who need healing from cognitive stress will all benefit from nature. One of our main objectives is to improve and update the ParkRx program, which Dr. Dorothy Ibes, a professor at William & Mary, currently directs. ParkRx is a resource for local healthcare providers who want to prescribe an ecotherapy intervention to their patients.  We hope to improve existing programs with our research this summer. Additionally, we hope to find strategies to better encourage time spent healing in nature.


Additional Information:

The ParkRx Website

Children & Nature