PEOPLE accessing therapies at Wigan and Leigh Hospice are being offered outdoor sessions for the first time.

Patients and people close to patients who have counselling, bereavement support and complementary therapy are all being offered sessions outdoors in the hospice gardens at Kildare Street in Hindley.

The hospice wellbeing teams are offering the sessions as a response to Covid-19 and the advice to meet outdoors wherever possible but also because of the unique benefits nature can offer in therapy.

Prior to the pandemic all sessions took place within the hospice building but since March 2020 have been over the telephone or by video call.


Calming and therapeutic

Hospice Counsellor Lindsey Caplan said: “Someone I know told me she had started doing therapy outdoors as research has proven that connecting to nature can be very calming and therapeutic. Over the past 18 months or so all sessions have been by telephone or video call and that will continue for now for the majority of clients. However, some clients said they would prefer to do face-to-face sessions, so when I heard about outdoor therapy I wanted to give it a try.”

Both of the hospice counsellors, four bereavement support volunteers and the hospice complementary therapist all had training in delivering therapy outdoors. The first clients began having outdoor sessions in the hospice’s grounds in October.

Lindsey said: “Complementary therapy can be either done outdoors – such as a shoulder or a hand massage – or in a complementary therapy room next to a window. Simply looking out of the window at nature can calm you. From one of our rooms you can see our pond, trees, reeds swaying gently in the breeze and it means your whole body just slows down.

“Counselling and bereavement sessions can take place in a quiet spot or simply strolling in the gardens. That connection to nature helps with mindfulness – which is to be fully aware of where we are and what we are doing. When we’re walking we can focus on what we can hear, smell, touch and this helps to ground us and to focus on ourselves. Life can be hectic – we can be dashing about from one place to another; getting in touch with nature when our minds are ‘all over the place’ can bring a sense of calm and peace.”

Additional opportunities for therapy

The wellbeing team have also found that being outdoors presents additional opportunities for therapy.

Lindsey said: “For some bereaved people the hospice gardens will be a place where they spent their last few days with someone they loved, so it can help them to come back and reconnect with that time. For those people who lose a partner and find their confidence in going outside has gone, these outdoor sessions can be helpful in building that confidence back up again.

“In the gardens there is also a path where there is a crossroads. Saying to someone that they can choose which path to take can be empowering.

“It is early days but we have all done a few sessions and the feedback, and the opportunities being outdoors have presented for therapy, have been very positive.”

A client’s response

Ann Darcy, a client of Lindsey’s who is taking outdoor therapy sessions, said: “My experience of outdoor therapy was literally a breath of fresh air; a chink of light after all these dark, lonely, isolated grief filled days. To connect with nature with a caring, listening ear was just wonderful and I’m so grateful and I’m grateful to have another session.”

Next year it is hoped to introduce group bereavement sessions in the gardens.