how the pandemic made outdoor therapy mainstream

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Before COVID-19, in-person therapy sessions were the norm. But afterward, the risk of infection became too high in a confined space, so many providers turned to teletherapy instead to treat certain conditions. Although this approach works and is vitally needed to bridge the gap in mental health care, like all things, it isn’t necessarily right for everyone.

As a result, more therapists began to embrace outdoor therapy, which provided a convenient way to see patients face-to-face while maintaining social distance. Although outdoor therapy was already a common treatment modality, it has skyrocketed in popularity as more people realized the positive effect it had on their mental and emotional wellness.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of outdoor therapy and how it has become an increasingly popular form of mental health treatment since the outbreak of COVID-19.

a growing trend

Some outdoor therapy sessions look like what you might expect: the same as what happens inside, but outside — maybe in a park, on an office patio or even in the therapist’s own backyard. Other than the setting, the experience feels typical, with people sharing their thoughts, answering questions and doing some self-reflecting in the open air.

During the pandemic, many therapists turned to this kind of outdoor therapy because it allowed them to meet with patients in-person with less risk of spreading the coronavirus. But it also had other benefits, too. Seated outside, it allowed for the removal of masks so therapists could observe facial expressions, an important tool for determining how a patient is feeling.

However, there are also some drawbacks to this approach.

One concern is privacy. With therapy sessions conducted outdoors, there’s always a possibility that passersby might overhear what’s being said. For some people, this could make them reluctant to open up if they’re worried that others might be eavesdropping.

There are also more unpredictable variables involved. Construction noise, animals and other interruptions can disturb the flow. Another issue is inclement weather, which can make it hard to provide a controlled environment and might force some therapists to reschedule. After all, no one wants to sit outside in the rain, snow or excessive heat to talk about their feelings.

Still, despite these potential pitfalls, this approach to outdoor therapy has become more common as people look for ways to connect face-to-face. It’s become an easy, convenient solution for patients who dislike the impersonality of teletherapy and virtual meetings.

taking outdoor therapy to the next level

Other types of outdoor therapy take a more nature-based approach to healing. Sometimes called green or eco-therapy, this practice doesn’t just unfold outside — it actually uses nature as a tool to boost growth and improve mental wellness. It typically involves a green environment, the freedom to explore, and individual or group activities.

Even before the pandemic, this technique is nothing new in psychotherapy circles. In fact, it’s a natural extension of the ongoing research and consensus among experts that being outdoors is good for the mind and body. It can help reduce stress, alleviate anxiety and encourage a deeper level of insight or self-reflection, which is perfect for those recovering from mental, emotional or behavioral health concerns.

Some therapists have built their entire practices around holding sessions outdoors, helping patients get out of their comfort zone by meeting at trailheads, hiking in the woods or finding a scenic overlook to sit and talk. For many people, just being outside and moving the body lessens the emotional intensity of therapy to encourage a more open and honest discussion, while the feeling of fresh air and sunlight on the skin can influence a positive mindset.

However, eco-therapies are more formal than just being outside — they’re still structured and utilize targeted interventions to achieve a specific goal. This might include cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapies, group activities, trauma work, mindfulness exercises and more. Throughout it all, the sights and sounds of nature are incorporated into treatment to provide a powerful and healing experience for the right person.

In Colorado, Choice House has become a premier provider of outdoor and adventure therapies for men with substance abuse disorders looking for connection, hope and healing in the Rocky Mountains. We believe the great outdoors is beneficial for those in recovery from addiction, so we combine proven modalities with the restorative power of nature.

connecting with nature at choice house

At Choice House, we have a deep understanding of the therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature. Throughout the years, we’ve seen some stunning transformations in men overcoming substance abuse sparked by the perks of fresh air, outdoor recreation and being part of a supportive group of peers. That’s because by getting outside, they’re better able to reconnect with themselves and explore the possibilities of a new life in recovery.

Outdoor therapy is a crucial part of what we do. Our treatment program incorporates a variety of adventure, wilderness and nature-based activities from start to finish, with plenty of opportunities to foster the mind-body connection and rebuild a sense of confidence. No matter what time of the year it is, you can find us outside:

  • Hiking through the woods or mountains
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Downhill skiing or snowboarding
  • Rocking climbing
  • Fly fishing in a nearby river
  • Playing kickball
  • Relaxing with a leisurely game of cornhole
  • Visiting animal sanctuaries, like Song of the Wolf

These activities are also good for helping individuals connect with others in the program to build up a strong support system for when it’s needed most. They can also provide a new, healthy outlet for stress, anger and other difficult emotions that come up during the recovery process. Many people struggle to find new interests or hobbies after getting sober, but outdoor recreation can fill that gap and improve mental health at the same time.

Outdoor therapy is a powerful treatment modality that has become more mainstream in recent years. It provides numerous benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving mood and overall well-being. At Choice House, we’re here to help individuals build on those benefits by incorporating outdoor, adventure and wilderness therapies into our treatment programming. With the Rocky Mountains right in our backyard, we take advantage of everything the area has to offer to help men build a healthier, sober lifestyle. To learn more or speak to our admissions team, contact or call us today at 303-578-4975. You can also email us at hello@choicehouse.com.

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