Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Bradley Olson

Second Advisor

Dr. Bethany Cook

Third Advisor

Dr. Derrick Sebree


This phenomenological study involved assessing the experiences of Black therapists who engaged Black clients in outdoor therapeutic contexts. The study was founded on the existing literature that shows the quality of the therapeutic relationship is pivotal for client retention and the Western standards that have historically favored treatment within indoor environments. To contextualize this research, a comprehensive literature review was commenced, covering topics such as the decolonization of therapy, the historical and present-day relationship between Blacks and the outdoors in the United States, sedentary lifestyles, the psychological benefits of time spent in nature, various types of outdoor therapy, and the ethical considerations relevant to outdoor therapy. The literature review also addressed the therapeutic relationship between Black therapists and clients. The participants were 10 Black therapists who had conducted outdoor therapy sessions with Black clients. The participants answered a series of open-ended questions regarding their experiences in nature-based therapeutic environments. Furthermore, they conducted a thorough review of various dimensions of their experiences, focusing on environmental justice, decolonization, strategies for moving forward, the application of outdoor therapy and its influence on the retention of clients, guidelines, best practices for outdoor therapy, and the effects of increased exposure to nature on their personal and professional lives. Data collection was facilitated through semi-structured interviews ranging from 30 minutes to slightly more than an hour. The data were coded to clarify observed patterns and prevalent themes across the varied participant experiences. The findings highlighted seven themes: biophilia, positive outcomes, embodied cognition, supportive environments, therapeutic trust, client-centered, and inclusivity. These themes support the notion that outdoor therapeutic environments and methods are nurturing, inclusive, and centered around the client experience and are actively redefining traditional mental health practices.

Keywords: psychology, nature therapy, outdoor therapy, decolonization, therapeutic relationship, Black, clinician, treatment settings