Eugenia South, MD, MSHP: What Is Nature Counseling?


An expert discusses nature counseling, how to prescribe it, and who might benefit from it.

Eugenia South, MD, MSHP

Eugenia South, MD, MSHP

There is a growing reality that nature is beneficial for all aspects of a patient’s life. Similar to how physicians would prescribe medicine, increasingly they are leaning on nature.

It is currently fairly standard for physicians and other healthcare providers to talk about the importance of exercise, which is deemed a positive behavior with a lot of evidence backing how good it is for health. Typically, providers will mention the importance of exercise during a well visit.

Eugenia South, MD, MSHP, and a team of investigators want to see nature as part of the conversation that providers have with their patients.

In a recent interview with HCPLive®, South, an emergency medicine physician, said nature counseling can be done to assess how much time patients are spending outside currently and barriers and facilitators to going outside. For example, someone might not feel safe going outside in their neighborhood or they may not like bugs.

Another aspect of nature counseling is reinforcing that it is not about physical activity, it is simply about going outside and sitting on a bench.

There are online resources that physician offices can use and connect patients with so they know where they can go nearby their homes and other places a little further away.

“This is not a one-size fits all approach,” South said.

Some patient populations might not benefit from being outside, such as those with upper respiratory illnesses. Having such patients go out, especially on high pollen count days, could hurt them.

South provides more detail about the practicality of nature counseling and who might benefit in the video clip below.

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