Outdoor therapy: Maverick or mainstream? A survey of clinical psychologists

Here is my presentation from the 2022 annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP). This presentation was given as part of a symposium by the DCP Faculty of Holistic Psychology.

See below for the full powerpoint slideshow.

Conference abstract:

Objective: Existing evidence suggests talking therapy can be highly effective when located outdoors. However, much of the previous research is centred around counselling and psychotherapy professions. The aim of the present study was to explore the attitudes and experiences of clinical psychologists.

Design: A cross-sectional survey was used to gain a broad perspective within the profession.

Method: A total of 215 participants completed the survey between August and October 2021. Efforts were made to ensure a broad and representative sample located across the UK and comprising mixed interests and experiences. The survey contained detailed demographic questions and previously developed scales to measure nature connection, experiences and attitudes towards outdoor practice, as well as variables underpinning the theory of planned behaviour. Analysis included descriptive, correlational and regression analysis. 

Results: The findings outlined a marked increase in outdoor practice since before the Covid-19 pandemic, with 32% of participants reporting either occasionally or regularly offering therapy outdoors (“never” = 36%; “rarely” = 32%). The majority held outdoor appointments in public parks (64%) and engaged in sitting (81%) or light walking (86.1%). Findings identified common reasons for offering therapy outdoors and barriers to this way of working. Significant, positive predictors of outdoor practice included years qualified, instrumental attitudes, injunctive norms and self-efficacy. 

Conclusions: The findings reveal favourable attitudes and a growing community of clinical psychologists who practice outdoors. The presentation also highlights approaches needed to further address barriers still faced by many practitioners, to support safe and effective outdoor practice.

When referencing this presentation, please use the following citation:

Cooley, S.J., Taylor, E.M., Ceslikauskaite, K., & Robertson, N. (2022, Oct). Outdoor therapy: Maverick or mainstream? A survey of clinical psychologists. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society, Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) Annual Conference 2022 (online conference).

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