Nature-based interventions for vulnerable youth: a scoping review

Int J Environ Health Res. 2023 Jan;33(1):15-53. doi: 10.1080/09603123.2021.1998390. Epub 2021 Nov 11.


Nature-based interventions hold promise for vulnerable youth experiencing mental, emotional, developmental, behavioral, or social difficulties. This scoping review examined wilderness therapy, animal assisted therapy, care farming, and gardening and horticultural therapy programs to raise awareness and guide future development of research and treatment options. Studies included in this review were identified through a systematic search of the literature informed by a scoping review framework. Studies were examined by design, sample, intervention, and key findings. The majority of studies were quantitative using repeated measures designs and were conducted primarily in the United States. Sample sizes were generally small. Interventions were residential and community based with varying degrees of duration. Outcomes were largely positive across a wide range of psychosocial and behavioral measures and often maintained post-treatment. We emphasize the importance of robust empirical designs, comprehensive description of the interventions and surrounding therapies, and identification of target groups.

Keywords: Nature-based interventions; at-risk youth; green care; nature therapy; scoping review; vulnerable youth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Assisted Therapy*
  • Farms
  • Humans