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Taking therapy outdoors guidance gets positive response

14 May 2021

BPS guidance on taking therapy outdoors in natural settings – the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week - has received a positive response.

The guidance arose from the need to continue working with clients, while still following lockdown restrictions during the pandemic and was published as part of the BPS Covid resources hub.

The authors say that feedback from both clients and psychologists has been really positive, with reports that the sense of escape from the daily routine means that those taking part can talk more freely in natural settings that increase their sense of wellbeing.

Scenarios covered in the guidance include the therapist and client sitting together in a park or walking on a footpath while talking, as well as more active sessions where someone has a positive existing relationship with outdoor pursuits.

It suggests that taking sessions outdoors can promote access for service users who find an indoor therapy environment uncomfortable, promote greater freedom for people to express themselves and provide benefits to physical, as well as psychological, health.

Dr Sam Cooley, one of the lead authors of the guidance, said:

“Physical distancing measures brought in to control the spread of Covid-19 led therapists to explore alternative ways of working with clients.

“This has often been using digital technology, but the guidance we published encouraged therapists to use the additional flexibility afforded to them by holding sessions outdoors and in natural environments where appropriate.

“The response to the BPS guidance document has been fantastic. We've had many people get in touch from various services to share positive experiences of outdoor practice." 

“This approach can offer many benefits to both therapist and service user, including an increased sense of belonging and wellbeing, a greater shared ownership of the therapy space and a better experience for clients who may find the conventional therapy space less comfortable.

“This year, Mental Health Awareness Week highlights the benefits of the natural environment and outdoor spaces, and I’m delighted that this choice of theme will give greater promotion to the benefits of the outdoors for everyone.

"My colleagues and I are continuing our research in this area, including looking into the implementation of alternative outdoor therapy environments within public health services.”

The guidance was written by Dr Sam Cooley and Professor Noelle Robertson from the University of Leicester, with contributions from a number of others. Access it on the BPS website.

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