Free Therapy in Nature

Health cost is an unavoidable topic for the future of the Health Care industry. Mental health care, especially, is often neglected because of the perceived cost of treatment. 47% of individuals with untreated mental illnesses cited cost as a barrier to obtaining treatment, according to a 2007 research study published in the academic journal Psychiatric Services. Many people try to calm themselves by listening to a bird-song album or setting up a desk fountain to imitate the sounds of a running brook. Individuals in our fast-paced society are searching for solace and an escape from their stresses. I am convinced that individuals can find this solace in nature. A simple walk outside in the woods allows meditation. I frequent college woods and the many places of natural solitude on and around campus. My top three favorites include:

  • The trails of West Foss farm, off of Mill Road. Last summer I was stretching in a meadow area here and spotted a gorgeous Blue Heron take off from the grass and soar through the sky above me.
  • The field by the UNH Observatory, overlooking a small pond (on the way to Woodman farm).
  • Less-frequented trails in College Woods, where I once locked eyes with an owl.

These experiences allow you to connect with yourself and with nature, and free your mind of worries. Clinical mental health care is very important and necessary for many individuals with mental illness, but let us always remember that free care is available with simple deep breathing and basking in the glory of the world around you.

It turns out that health professionals recognize the value of nature and incorporate such experiences in wilderness therapy programs. Wilderness therapy uses wilderness experiences for the purpose of therapeutic intervention. UNH is lucky to have prominent researcher, Michael Gass, on campus as a Professor and the Coordinator of the Outdoor Education program in the College of Health and Human Services. He is also the current Director of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs and the Director of UNH’s Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Research Cooperative (OBHRC). OBHRC’s research on wilderness therapy programs are distinguished knowledge used throughout the county and the world. Wilderness therapy offers individuals a holistic intervention and centers around building self-reliance and self-respect. Through experiences with nature, individuals are able to reconnect to themselves and their environment in a way which clinical settings never could.