Nurtured in Nature: A Nature-Based Play Therapy Approach

Courtney Glickman, PhD

Program Goals:

There is an innate human desire to connect with nature, yet urbanization and technology often distance people from the natural world. Research is supporting the healing power of nature more all the time with the connection between the health of people and the health of the Earth as inseparable. Many therapists are looking to grow in confidence and competence in best practices and culturally sensitive approaches when integrating nature into their work. This workshop will equip therapists with the theoretical basis of nature-based play therapy as well as the significant research findings on this approach. Participants will have an opportunity to explore case studies illustrating how nature has been incorporated into the practice of play therapists and other clinicians. Ethical implications of nature-informed therapy will be discussed, along with how to navigate the unique challenges that may arise when doing play therapy with clients in natural settings. Additionally, participants will learn how nature-based play therapy activities can be adapted for group or family therapy settings. Through this experience participants will leave with a solid foundation on how to support their clients in developing a stronger sense of self, connection to their peers and community, and connection to nature.


  1. ​​List at least 3 theoretical bases for nature based play therapy.
  2. Describe at least 3 nature-informed therapeutic approaches and interventions applicable to work with clients in play therapy.
  3. List 3 or more ethical considerations specific to nature-informed work and the practice of nature-based play therapy.
  4. Describe at least 2 strategies from attachment theory & interpersonal neurobiology to calm the nervous system and encourage nature bonding.
  5. Name 2 or more ways to support transitioning clients to outdoors settings in play therapy.
  6. List at least 2 ways in which body-based therapy is related to nature-based therapy.

Program Schedule:

9:00- 10:30 AM      Presentation introduction, Agenda review, & discussion around what is nature-based play therapy and why we should integrate nature into our work.

10:30-10:45 AM      Break

10:45-11:45 AM       Scholarly underpinnings of Nature-based play therapy

11:45 -12:30 PM      Nature based expressive experiential activity

12:30 -1:00 PM       Lunch

1:00-2:00 PM         Scholarly underpinnings (continued), decolonizing nature based practices, ethical considerations, unique challenges in the non-traditional play therapy setting

2:15 -2:30 PM        Break

​​2:30-3:45 PM        Nature based expressive experiential activity

3:45-4:00 PM        Summary/closing exercise/questions & answers


Dodd, H. F., Nesbit, R. J., & FitzGibbon, L. (2023). Child’s play: examining the association between time spent playing and child mental health. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 54(6), 1678-1686.

Fisher, C. Y. (2019). Mindfulness & nature-based therapeutic techniques for children: Creative activities for emotion regulation, resilience and connectedness. PESI Publishing & Media.

Hanscom, A. J. (2016). Balanced and barefoot: How unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children. New Harbinger Publications.

Harper, N., Rose, K., & Segal, D. (2019). Nature-based therapy: A practitioner's guide to working outdoors with children, youth, and families. New Society Publishers.

Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin books.

Mygind, L., Kjeldsted, E., Hartmeyer, R., Mygind, E., Bølling, M., & Bentsen, P. (2019). Mental, physical and social health benefits of immersive nature-experience for children and adolescents: A systematic review and quality assessment of the evidence. Health & place, 58, 102136.

Peterson, D., & Boswell, J. N. (2015). Play therapy in a natural setting: A case example. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 10(1), 62-76.

Piccininni, C., Michaelson, V., Janssen, I., & Pickett, W. (2018). Outdoor play and nature connectedness as potential correlates of internalized mental health symptoms among Canadian adolescents. Preventive Medicine, 112, 168-175.

Swank, J. M., & Shin, S. M. (2015). Nature-based child-centered play therapy: An innovative counseling approach. International Journal of Play Therapy, 24(3), 151.

Tillmann, S., Tobin, D., Avison, W., & Gilliland, J. (2018). Mental health benefits of interactions with nature in children and teenagers: A systematic review. J Epidemiol Community Health.

Wohlleben, P. (2016). The hidden life of trees: What they feel, how they communicate—Discoveries from a secret world (Vol. 1). Greystone Books.