Forest Therapy (also known as Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku) was developed in Japan in the 1980’s. The practice has since spread worldwide. Forest Therapy is a mindful, multisensorial, nature immersive practice. As this is an emerging area, little is known in relation to its clinical applications in the mental health field.

In this talk, I will give an overview of the definitions and development of Forest Therapy Internationally. I will discuss the different components of Forest Therapy including key aspects of the forest environment, nature connection pathways, circle work, mindfulness, the use of expressive arts and sensory immersion. The talk will also focus on the practical applications of Forest Therapy in relation to the mental health field. The issues of personality, culture, level of nature connectedness, trauma history and risk management will be reviewed. Finally we will look at the challenges of working outdoors and suitable site selection criteria.

Shirley Gleeson - The Weekend University

Shirley is a Nature and Wellbeing Consultant and Director of both Ecowellness Consulting and the Forest Therapy Institute. She holds Masters Degrees in Health Promotion and Social Work and has over twenty years experience working in the areas of mental health and social care in Ireland.

She designs nature based interventions to improve people’s health and wellbeing and facilitates nature-based training for mental health professionals. She has extensive postgraduate training in expressive arts therapy, ecotherapy, counselling, therapeutic play, dialectical behavioural therapy skills, behavioural family therapy and therapeutic use of mindfulness.

Shirley is an international expert on Forest Therapy and has presented her Forest Therapy research and practice at conferences in Ireland, the UK, Austria, Switzerland and Greece and has addressed the United Nations on the topic of human health and forests. She has trained Forest Therapy Practitioners from over 15 countries. Learn more about Shirley’s work at: