Home Health Incorporating Nature Therapy in Adolescent Mental Health Programs

Incorporating Nature Therapy in Adolescent Mental Health Programs

by Louise W. Rice

Nature therapy is a key therapeutic element, an all-encompassing approach to mental wellness that uses components of the natural environment. Though it has been used for centuries in many civilizations, westerners are only now starting to recognize it. The therapy sessions could involve hiking, gardening, and spending time in the outdoors. It was developed based on the idea that people are inherently connected to nature and that spending time in it can lower stress and enhance both physical and mental health.

The idea of nature therapy is not new; it is believed to have its origins in the principles of evolutionary psychology. By rekindling biophilia—the inclination to engage intimately with care profoundly for the natural world—nature therapy seeks to reunite contemporary humans with their evolutionary past and address mental health issues associated with this break from the natural world. Research indicates that adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely to face mental health issues as a result of many circumstances, including school stress, family conflict, rejection, internal conflicts, exposure to diversity, psychological stress, high expectations, and peer conflict.

Familiarizing nature therapy to adolescent healthcare facilities

This outdoor behavioral healthcare is usually in isolated locations, as the backdrop for a rigorous therapeutic procedure run by trained professionals. The majority of these programs are residential, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to several months. They can also include shorter intensive periods, lasting three to ten days, that are integrated into outpatient mental health programs, inpatient hospitals, teen residential treatment, or specialized treatment programs. Some of the components include acquiring outdoor skills, long-distance trekking, overnight camping, traveling to isolated locations, and individual and group treatment sessions. There might also be a family component when parents take part in therapy either as a part of the nature therapy program or while their child is being cared for separately.

Adolescents who engage in this program are divided into small groups of six to eight peers. The program serves teenage patients with significant behavioral, mental health, and social problems—including substance addiction. With evidence of application focusing on a few areas of mental health problems, nature-based treatment is a relatively recent approach within the occupational therapy field.

Nature therapy and its concern with Adolescent mental health challenges

Nature has an inherent ability to facilitate healing connections between our bodies and thoughts through experiences like imagining, touching, tasting, hearing, experiencing, or simply being in its presence. Teenagers now use a variety of mental health services, such as intense outpatient programs, inpatient hospitals, partial hospitalization, outpatient therapy, counseling, and many more, like Key HealthCare Teen Center. Teenagers dealing with mental health issues are becoming more common despite the efforts of these practice areas.

According to estimations, one in seven teenagers worldwide suffer from mental health issues that are mainly undiagnosed and untreated (WHO, 2021). When mental health issues arise, parents and other authority figures are frequently the ones who are blamed for them or their needs. When one’s problems are perceived as something that has to be rectified or mended, this perspective creates a negative relationship with mental health. It increases the danger of isolating mental health needs.

Nature-based therapy as a solution to adolescent mental health condition

Numerous variables have been identified as contributing to the decline in teenage mental health in the United States, such as the rising use of social media, insufficient sleep, and weakened community ties. Reduced opportunities for outdoor play and unstructured playtime could also be factors. Today, adolescents spend less time outside than their parents did in general. Beyond the ease of access to electronic media, other factors contribute to these low rates of outdoor time: deteriorating family dynamics, overly commercialized play (i.e., pushing kids to buy new toys), a greater distance to accessible green spaces, a rise in parental anxiety about the outdoors, and a diminishing value placed on nature in both public and private education systems.

Research indicates that putting children back outside could help slightly reverse trends in teen’s mental health, as spending time in nature is associated with numerous advantages for both the body and the mind. As the benefits become more apparent, research shows that exposing kids to natural environments enhances their cognitive abilities, resilience to stress, ability to deal with negative emotions, imagination, and creativity and speeds up the development of their communicative and decision-making skills.

While supporting current goals of helping these teenagers regain sobriety and get past their mental health condition, mental health programs can engage with new, diverse populations of adolescents by using nature-related therapy and possibly forming partnerships with local health, civil society, and governmental agencies.

Diverse Methods Used in Nature Therapy

Adolescents who suffer from underlying mental health conditions have access to a wide range of nature-based therapeutic programs. There are easy ways, like planting flowers on your lawn, strolling through a flowerbed, or floating down a river in a tube.

The following are some of the recognized forms of nature therapy that can be incorporated into adolescent mental health programs:

  • Animal-assisted therapy, which could involve playing with or training horses or dogs;
  • Farming-related therapy involves working with crops frequently in a community
  • Wilderness therapy frequently assists groups of teenagers and young adults with behavioral challenges.
  • Adventure therapy, which may include rock climbing or white water rafting

Final Thoughts

Evidence suggests that children with underlying mental health issues or those who are at risk for future disorders can benefit from nature-based programs in managing their symptoms. A healthier, happier generation of American kids who are more engaged with nature could emerge from the expansion of nature-therapy programs for teens. Exposure to the outdoors has been linked to improved physical and mental health in children and adolescents, according to a growing body of research. Programs that give young people fresh outdoor experiences and prioritize the advantages for mental health may help kids as well as society as a whole.

Choose Key Healthcare if you are looking for where to send troubled youth having mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. They have professionals with expertise in mental health who can meet your child’s needs, including clinical psychologists, school counselors, or social workers.

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