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P-16 Out of the counselling room and into the forest. Group bereavement forest therapy
  1. Helen Wilkinson
  1. East Cheshire Hospice, Macclesfield, UK


Background Following COVID-19, there was no ‘rush’ as anticipated for indoor therapy groups. Face to face; one to one bereavement counselling was a preferred choice. The Bereavement Care Service Standards (Bereavement Services Association & Cruse Bereavement Care, 2014) highlight the importance of having plans in place to address clients’ bereavement needs appropriately. According to Cooley et al., mental health practitioners ‘have begun to harness nature’s restorative capacity by… taking talking therapies outdoors’ (Clin Psychol Rev. 2020; 77:101841). Research indicates the health benefits of forest therapy (Rajoo, Karam & Abdullah. Urban Forest & Urban Green. 2020; 54:126744). Spending time in nature can nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual existence (Conn. The Humanistic Psychologist. 1998; 26: 179–198).

Aims To pilot a small ‘walk and talk’ counselling therapy group (6–8 bereaved clients) in a local forest to establish if a therapeutic forest group is worth growing and developing.

Method Eight self-referred clients completed an initial consultation. Six were recruited. CORE-10 (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation) tool was used to assess clients’ general wellbeing pre and post intervention. Six clients attended the group; recently bereaved (3 months) to a longer time frame (3 years). All had close spousal or parental bereavements.

Six-weeks of group forest therapy. 1.5 hours duration, at the same time each week using a risk assessed route. Being within the forest plus contracted ‘conditions’ of therapy, held safe space, along with two experienced bereavement counsellors. Processing rich insights from mother nature’s metaphor aided and enabled clients’ unique understanding of grief. Immediately before and after the group activity took place, CORE-10 outcome measures were captured from clients. A feedback survey followed.

Results Six clients participated. Two completed the entire programme. Five attended most (five) sessions. Reduced CORE 10 scores demonstrated the group feeling an improvement by 36.8% compared with the outset. (Data gained from all but one client’s compatible scores). There were positive verbal ‘check outs’. Questionnaire analysis in progress.

Conclusion Positive feedback and early indications from the analysis suggest this pilot could be developed to benefit future counselling groups.

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