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BPS provides guidance on outdoor talking therapies

22 July 2020

During the Coronavirus pandemic psychologists have been quick to adapt their practices in order to still deliver their services, and one way of doing this has been providing talking therapies outdoors.

To support this move, The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published guidance to promote safety and effectiveness in outdoor sessions.

Dr Sam Cooley, committee member of the BPS Faculty of Holistic Psychology, who developed the guidance, said:

“The benefits of nature on wellbeing are well known, and meeting with clients in open, outdoor spaces can mean face-to-face contact is maintained while keeping to Government guidelines on physical distancing.

What is important is that practitioners work with their client to ensure that therapy outdoors is suitable and prepared for, so that the therapeutic relationship and goals remain in focus despite the change in context.” 

Some of the key considerations practitioners should bear in mind include:

  • Suitability
    Outdoor therapy should be suitable for the client and practitioner. The client and psychologist must feel comfortable enough in the chosen space so that it assists the session.

  • Intensity
    The outdoor session can vary from low to high intensity in terms of duration, physical activity and interaction with nature. Plan the session appropriately for the client.

  • Risks
    Practitioners should assess the risks of outdoor therapy, e.g., terrain, weather and any potential triggers to distress.

  • Therapy goals
    Consider whether outdoor therapy is purely a practical choice given current restrictions or whether the outdoor environment can further aid the client’s session.

  • Predictability
    When needed, predictability can be established through using the same location, agenda and time frames. The practitioner might want to familiarise themselves with the location beforehand.

  • Local guidance
    Ensure all local guidance is followed, for example insurance and first aid.

  • Resources
    Consider what resources might be required during the session and ensure that data protection regulations and GDPR are followed.



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