Nature-based OT

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Nature based occupational therapy with Laura Park Figueroa

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Many of us feel the benefits of spending time in nature. But, these outdoor experiences often seem pretty far removed from our traditional occupational therapy work. 

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard of nature-based occupational therapy, as it is a hot topic in the OT world. However, you might not be aware of the breadth of research available on this topic—and you might be pleasantly surprised by how well nature-based therapy aligns with your OT practice. 

In this episode, we’ll explore a paper looking at the effects of horticulture group therapy on adults with mental health diagnoses. We’ll use this research to springboard into a broader discussion on the types of nature-based therapy, the research supporting this type of therapy, and the potential impact it might have on your practice. 

To guide us through this topic, we’ll be joined by nature-based occupational therapist, Laura Park Figueroa, whose enthusiasm for the topic will certainly leave you eager to learn more!

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Primary Research Explored

Supplemental Materials

See the occupational therapy professionals who have selected “nature-based” as a focus area. (See the full OT directory here.)

Focus Areas

Theories discussed: 

Research discussed: 

Research that informed our conversation on the benefits of nature: 


  • Connectedness to Nature Index (CNI) – 8-12 years
  • Connectedness to Nature Index for Parents of Preschool Children (CNI-PPC) – preschoolers
  • Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS) – adults
  • Nature Connection Index (NCI) – 7 and up


Secondary Research 

Learning Objectives

  • You will be able to identify the types of nature-based therapy in which OTs can be involved.
  • You will be able to describe ways that nature-based therapy research could impact occupational therapy delivery in traditional settings.


Intro (5 minutes)

Breakdown and analysis of journal article (10 minutes)

  • What is nature-based therapy?
  • Why was this paper written?
  • What were the authors’ methods?
  • What were the results?
  • Authors’ conclusion and recommendations
  • Takeaways for OT practitioners

Discussion on practical implications for OTs (with guest Laura Park Figueroa) (45 minutes)

  • What were your initial impressions of the research?
  • I really wanted to know more about the overall research behind the benefits of nature-based therapy. Can you speak to that?
  • Is there one area of nature-based therapy that is trailblazing the way in research?
  • When it comes to nature-based therapy, which assessments are you most excited about?
  • Do you think OTs in traditional settings (outpatient or SNF) should be tweaking their practice, based on the research we are seeing on nature-based therapy?
  • If someone was interested in diving further into nature-based therapy, where would you direct them?
  • What can the general population (and OTs, for that matter) take away from nature-based therapy research?
This course on Nature-based OT is AOTA approved!

This course is an independent/self-study course delivered via podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play & more. Explore your listening options on the OT Potential Podcast page.

If you need accommodations to take this course, please contact us and we will address your needs on an individual basis.

If this course were to be canceled, please see our cancellation policy on our terms page.

In order to receive a certificate for this course, you must first listen to the podcast in its entirety. Then, you will need to take the test (found at the top of this page) and earn 75% or higher. If you pass, a certificate will be automatically generated and sent to your email.

Target Audience/Educational Level

Our target audience is occupational therapy practitioners who are looking to learn about nature-based occupational therapy. The educational level is introductory.

Financial and Non-financial Disclosures

It is the policy of OT Potential to disclose any financial and non-financial interest the provider or instructor may have in a product or service mentioned during an activity. This is to ensure that the audience is made aware of any bias of the speaker.

We here at OT Potential have no financial stake in this topic. Our guest, Laura Park Figueroa, has no financial interest in this topic to disclose.


Laura Park Figueroa, MS, OTR/L:

Laura Park Figueroa, our nature-based occupational therapy expert guest

Laura Park Figueroa, MS, OTR/L spent the first 15 years of her career as an occupational therapist in pediatric outpatient and school-based practice. In 2015, she started Outdoor Kids OT, a nature-based private practice specializing in outdoor therapy groups for children. She created the ConTiGO (Connection & Transformation in the Great Outdoors) Approach- an evidence-based therapy model to empower pediatric therapists of all disciplines to take their work with children outdoors into nature.

Laura is currently a PhD candidate at Texas Woman’s University, with a research specialization in nature-based pediatric occupational therapy. Her family recently moved from California to Madison, Wisconsin to be closer to family. They are happily settling into their simple mid-century home with a 124-acre wooded nature conservation park right at the end of their driveway. 🙂 Read full bio.

Sarah Lyon, OTR/L:

Podcast host Sarah Lyon, OTR/L

Sarah’s passion is helping fellow OT practitioners translate evidence into daily practice. Sarah earned her BA in religion from St. Olaf College, then earned her master’s degree in occupational therapy from New York University in 2011.

Since then, she’s worked in numerous facilities, including a critical access hospital, an acute trauma hospital, and a state inpatient psychiatric hospital. Sarah is the founder/owner of OT Potential. Read more about OT Potential here.

This course was designed to meet your continuing education requirements

We designed the courses in the Club to meet the requirements for “online” and “independent/self-study” courses. For more details read our blog post: Can I earn OT CEUS from a podcast? To verify the requirements from your specific state (within the US), check out our post, OT Continuing Education Explained. If you are outside of the United States and have questions, please contact us.

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