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Nature-based therapy as a treatment for veterans with PTSD: what do we know?

Dorthe Varning Poulsen (Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 20 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive argument for nature-based therapy (NBT) for veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome. It is the aim to generate an overview of the evidence for NBT to the target group. A review of available scientific literature within the field, has been comprehensively conducted. This work is the foundation for the recommendations to decision makers and politicians.


This paper provides a conceptual analyses and a general review of the literature. Following steps have been conducted. Based on the research question, relevant work (scientific papers) have been identified using search terms in English within the three areas the target group (veterans), the diagnosis (post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD) and treatment (NBT). Study-quality and evidence level have been assessed and discussed.


The findings show a wide variation according to the interventions the nature setting, the length and frequency of the NBT session as well as the health outcome measures. The studies demonstrated a positive impact on the PTSD symptoms, quality of life and hope. None of the studies found negative impact of the interventions. Being in a group of other veterans facing the same problems was highlighted as well. Some studies measured the ability to return to workforce for the veterans and found NBT beneficial in that process.

Research limitations/implications

The limitation of the research due to the methods of identifying studies. The purpose of this was to give an overview of existing literature, and there can be studies, that are not found in this process. Including qualitative and quantitative methods are useful in a process of understanding the impact of NBT for veterans with PTSD. The quantitative studies, which unfortunately are few, can give information of the extent to which the treatment affects the symptoms of PTSD. Seen in the perspective of the burden for the veterans suffering from PTSD and the economic burden for society, the process of synthesizing the research in the field in order to generate a fundament seems necessary.

Practical implications

This policy papers are useful in order to make recommendations for politicians and decision makers as well as practitioners.

Social implications

The burden of suffering from PTSD is heavy for the veterans and their family. The society must drive forward the development of new and better evidence-based treatment programs for veterans with PTSD. NBT might be a step in the right direction of this.


It is well-known that there are an increase in the number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Generally the drop-out rate of the veterans is high in conventional treatment and it is found that veterans experience some side effects from medical treatment. NBT is, in existing research, found to have a positive impact on the veterans, and therefore, it should be part of future treatment programs for veterans with PTSD.



Varning Poulsen, D. (2017), "Nature-based therapy as a treatment for veterans with PTSD: what do we know?", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 15-20.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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