Nature Therapy, is it Real? Does Nature Therapy work? How can you use this valuable therapy tool as a mental health professional?

Welcome to my newest addition of Creative Counseling This year I want to focus on the benefits of Nature Therapy. I would like to take it one step further by calling my type of Nature Therapy something unique: Flower Impact Therapy. 

Unknowingly, I began to utilize "nature therapy" as a brand new counselor in private practice. Next to my office building there was a beautiful church with a rose garden. The priests would allow me to take clients out to the rose garden on nice days and conduct my sessions. I would also take clients to the garden if the session seemed to be going nowhere and we were "stuck".

At this time I was also working in a mental institution called The Ridgeview Institute as a counselor in the adult addiction / psych unit. I noticed that the patients almost always had a noticeable disconnection with any type of nature in their lives. Of course, we could never go outside of the mental institution for counseling sessions at Ridgeview. The only outside time they had was a courtyard where the patients used to go and smoke. 

In 2013 I was working as a school counselor where I still reside today. The school where I worked was almost 100 years old and had an old neglected garden in the back of it that had lost all of its glory. For three years I would occasionally walk in the garden and dream of creating a place for children and staff to destress and enjoy nature. Finally, in 2015 we got a new principal who gave me carte blanche to fix up the garden. 

I began by taking my counseling groups out in the garden in good weather for some "Nature Therapy". I watched how the children reacted to the garden. My students with severe behavior problems were the hardest workers in the garden. They seemed to be transformed under a magical spell when they came out to the garden.

Students with high anxiety and depression seemed to relax and show signs of happiness as they did gardening chores in the Nature Therapy Garden. The chores consisted of weeding, mulching, digging, planting, and pruning plants. Students who did very little work in the classroom were keen to work hard in the garden.

We started with very few plants. I began by dividing up some large hosta plants, black eyed susans, and daylilies. Year after year the garden grew more and more beautiful as we added donated trees, bushes, daisies, roses, lavender, wildflowers, and many more plants from seeds.

Last year I worked with our art teacher and the students created a Nature Therapy "Rock River of Kindness" in which every child in the school painted a rock and added it to the river. We held a ceremony and invited everyone to come to the river cutting ceremony. 

This year we added a "Rose Garden" for our wonderful principal and a "Rock Garden" for our assistant principal who is our "rock". Currently, we are in the process of adding a Nature Therapy fruit tree orchard for the cafeteria to use in the student's lunches.

Getting back to the point about Nature Therapy the question is asked, "Does this "Nature Therapy" really work? Is Nature Therapy a real form of therapy? Well, I can site countless articles on Nature Therapy, but I'd rather tell you my observances and how this powerful therapy changed the lives of the students and the staff at my school. It also changed my own life in a way that was significant. 


Disclaimer: This website and its content is intended for trained licensed mental health professionals and school certified mental health professionals to use for their clients / students at their own discretion.

*If you ignore the disclaimer above are using these techniques on yourself and you feel any discomfort or upset it is highly suggested that you seek out a licensed  mental health professional immediately.

"Beyond Art Therapy" is the concept from Dr. Stangline that combines all creative fields in therapy. It is not the traditional "art therapy" but goes beyond to include sand tray therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, meditation, color therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a vast majority of other therapies.

For any other type of mental health emergency call your local 911 / Police Number immediately.

Dr. Stangline does not offer advice / suggestions to anyone who is not a professional mental health provider, or a student who is studying this field and has questions about mental health programs of study.

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