Outdoor coaching: The role of Attention Restoration Theory as a framework for explaining the experience and benefit of eco-psychology coaching

Jonathan Passmore
Alexandra Sarah


There is little empirical research into the benefits and experiences of coaching specifically in the outdoors. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) identifies four facets that explain why nature enables the brain to restore directed attention, improve cognitive capabilities and relieve stress. It is proposed that ART is relevant to understanding the benefits of outdoor coaching because, according to ART, natural environments can help the brain to focus more efficiently, make decisions, think creatively and process information effectively by restoring directed attention and cognitive capacity - all of which are aspects of high-quality coaching conversations. The aim of the research is to identify the benefits of outdoor coaching experienced by the participants and analyse them using Attention Restoration Theory as a framework to explain these benefits. Data regarding the felt experiences of nine participants who are currently having, or recently had, outdoor coaching is analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and discussed. The key findings show six identified key themes linking the participants’ felt experiences with the four facets of ART: Being side-by-side; movement and pace; the perceived benefits of outdoors vs indoors; thinking differently; openness and expanse; senses, emotions and feelings. We conclude that there are benefits to taking coaching conversations outside and that ART is a framework that can explain these benefits.

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