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Portland Hiking Therapy

An Outdoor Approach to Mental Wellness

If you're looking for a different approach to therapy, you have found it. Hiking Therapy takes place outdoors on the trail and involves partnering with nature as an aid in developing mental wellness. Rather than meet at the office and sit, we meet at the trail where we walk and talk.

In a Hiking Therapy session we often focus on personal goals, similar to what we might do in the office or via telehealth, and we get the added benefits of physical activity and time in nature. Many individuals find that walking while talking makes the therapy process feel less formal and more approachable. Hiking Therapy is also offered in the group format. Check out the Hiking Therapy Group for Mental Wellness here. 

Nature-Based Stress Reduction

During a hiking session we may implement Nature-Based Stress Reduction techniques, a term coined by Dr. Thomas Doherty, which may include:

  • mindfulness

  • grounding skills

  • observing plants and animals

  • expressive exercises

Why Take a Session on the Trail?

Research shows that time in nature benefits our mental well-being by:

  • decreasing anxiety and stress

  • calming the nervous system

  • improving mood

  • increasing self esteem

  • improving a sense of connection to the natural world

Before We Go...

Are you excited about this format of therapy? Before we meet outdoors, we will complete a brief screening (completed within an intake or regular therapy session) to ensure that this format is a good match. In the screening we will go over your comfort level in the outdoors, and have a conversation about the pros and cons to this type of therapy so that you can choose to give informed consent after receiving all of the details. See more FAQ's below.

Research Opportunity

As of April, 2022, a partnership with Dr. Will Dobud, Phd, MSW, of Charles Sturt University (Australia), has allowed us to participate in a research study to monitor the effectiveness of adventure-based therapy- including our work together. If you choose to participate (anonymously), you will complete a brief survey following each session to give feedback to the effectiveness of our work together. This Adventure Therapy Outcome Monitoring (ATOM) research is being completed by adventure therapists around the world, and will be compiled to help further the advancement within the practice of adventure therapy. Participation is voluntary.

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  • What do I need to bring to Hiking Therapy sessions?
    Depending on the time of year, different items may be helpful. In general, it is helpful to have: shoes or boots that are comfortable to walk in, clothing that is appropriate for the weather, a water bottle, snacks, a small pack to carry group materials in (there may be handouts in session). During the warm months there may be mosquitoes present, so layers or using bug spray may be helpful.
  • How do we approach privacy and confidentiality?
    During the screening process we discuss privacy and confidentiality issues. Hiking routes and meeting locations are chosen with intention to avoid being overheard by others. Each individual is informed of the risks and benefits and consent to treatment taking place outdoors after receiving a full briefing and discussing questions or concerns.
  • What are the benefits and risks?
    The benefits of Hiking Therapy involve decreasing anxiety and stress and improving overall mental well-being. This type of therapy allows participants to deepen their connection to the natural world, practice mindfulness skills, gain perspective, connection, improve self-esteem, and engage the body in beneficial physical movement. The risks of this modality of therapy include, but are not limited to physical injury, exposure to natural elements, including weather, and being in a public space. Risk management is addressed within the screening process and each participant makes an informed decision regarding consent before joining the group.
  • What about bad weather?
    If there are hazardous conditions such as high wind, hazardous air quality, flooding, snow/ice, a session may change to telehealth format or be rescheduled. Participants will be notified or any changes.
  • How long has this group been around?
    Aimee began working as an Outdoor Adventure Guide in 2009, practicing experiential learning with teens in the great outdoors, guiding youth through whitewater rafting, on challenge course elements, and through rock climbing and rappelling. Aimee began the Hiking Therapy Group in 2021, and it has been running year round since then.
  • Did you invent Hiking Therapy?
    No! Hiking Therapy is a subset of both Ecotherapy and Adventure Therapy. Adventure therapy typically is considered an experiential type of therapy, meaning, we are physically experiencing activities that we then debrief and talk about how to apply to out lives. Most activities that we engage with allow us to work with others, reflect, and take away some type of insight or application. Ecotherapy is all about understanding the systems that we live within and how our connections to the natural world impact our mental well being.
  • Can I bring my dog?
    The group rules do not allow for dogs to attend the group, however, I would be happy to have your dog with us in an indiviual hiking session at the trail and/ or to meet your dog via a telehealth session.
  • Do I need to commit to attending every group session?
    Yes, this is ideal for the group to build trust and to have enough participants to run smoothly. You will be informed of the time commitment before you sign up.
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