Nature and Animal Assisted Therapies

"For thousands of years, humans have coexisted with nature and animals on this earth. We have an inherent deep need to have this connection, to be in the presence of nature and animals. This promotes optimal physical and mental health. Without this contact, we can become diminished."

Linda Nebbe, Nature As a Guide: Using Nature in Counseling, Therapy, and Education

Nature Assisted Therapy image

At Hope Tree, we use holistic therapies which include animals and nature to assist in the healing process. These therapies include Nature Assisted Therapy (NAT), Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), and specifically at our Hastings location, Equine Assisted Mental Health (EAMH).

Nature Assisted Therapy (NAT) is the use of plants, natural materials, and the outdoor environment to improve mental and/or physical health. NAT covers a variety of activities. These include therapeutic horticulture such as gardening, forest bathing, and plant-related activities to improve wellbeing and wilderness or outdoor adventure excursions.

Both of our locations have serene and comforting outdoor spaces for NAT. In Waterloo, IA, you may choose to have a session outdoors on our 10-acre farm. Areas for sessions include a large pasture area, our organic garden, or our shaded, tree-filled front yard. At our Hastings location, outdoor session space is available for NAT and/or AAT at our partner location Innisfree Farm.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) includes animals as modalities in therapeutic treatment, both as goal-directed interventions as well as natural processes. The presence of a therapy animal in counseling can lead to improved social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. With the inclusion of animals, a natural experience is created for the client, which can increase relaxation and healing. Research has shown that by connecting with the animal, through petting, talking, and interacting with it, a client can experience improved mental health. Wilson (1994) suggested that seeing animals in a calm peaceful or natural state can signal feelings of safety and security which in turn may trigger a state where healing and personal change are possible.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Equine Assisted Mental Health or Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is the combined use of horses, a licensed therapist, and a horse specialist working with clients to address various individual psychotherapy treatment goals. EAMH is a form of AAT. Through the inclusion of the horse the client can achieve greater self-awareness, confidence, and insight about their own lives and issues in the therapy process.  EAMH is for children and adults. EAMH is currently available at our Hastings, MN location only.

Founder Sarah Kiani says, “Interacting with horses in therapy allows deep growth to occur by increasing self-awareness while building confidence due to the highly sensitive and intuitive nature of horses.”

To see what other traditional and foundational therapies we offer, please read more here.

Why do we need nature?

"To explore and affiliate with life is a deep and complicated process in mental development. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity; our spirit is woven from it; hope rises on its currents...

The degradation of this human dependence on nature brings the increased likelihood of a deprived and diminished existence; not just materially, but also in a wide variety of affective, cognitive, and evaluative respects."

E.O. Wilson, S. R. Kellert