Research Article

Forest therapy as a trauma-informed approach to disaster recovery: Insights from a wildfire-affected community

Publication Date:

Authors: Cat Hartwell, Juliette M. Randazza, Gregory N. Bratman, David P. Eisenman, Blake Ellis, Eli Goodsell, Nicole A. Errett and Chaja Levy


A trauma-informed approach to disaster recovery recognizes the potential impacts of trauma, promotes resilience to protect against retraumatization, and can support catering the needs of disaster survivors in affected communities. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that interaction with nature is associated with a number of physical and mental health benefits, though literature surrounding nature-based therapy and disaster survivors is limited. Through key informant interviews with forest therapy guides from a program in wildfire affected Butte County, CA, this exploratory study investigates if and how “Forest Therapy ’’ can serve as a trauma-informed approach to promote wellbeing in the face of climate change and associated disasters. We find that community-based forest therapy programs offer a promising, flexible approach to community-based trauma-informed mental health servicest in disaster-affected communities. Findings also identify opportunities to tailor implementation of future programs to better reach populations most impacted by disasters, including through targeted outreach and diverse guide recruitment. Future research should investigate the impacts of forest therapy on the mental health and wellbeing of participants, as well as the scalability of forest therapy programs in disaster-affected communities.