Understanding and restoring the self in nature for well-being: A phenomenological analysis of walking coaching experiences

Antonia Ivaldi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The benefits of nature for social, cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being have been well documented in counseling and well-being research, highlighting its capacity for building restoration and resilience. Less research has adopted a more focused exploration of the role of nature for the understanding of self for enhancing well-being. Using a phenomenological approach, the aim was to explore how nature assists the understanding and experience of self as a resource for well-being, within the emerging field of walking coaching. Five semistructured interviews were conducted with walking coaching clients and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Three superordinate themes were developed: creating fluidity and clarity in thought, nature's wisdom: learning and knowing through being, and acceptance and restoration of self. The participants’ subjective experiences illustrate how nature enabled a process of discovery that started with seeking clarity and led to a position of self-acceptance. Such a discovery was prompted by cues and immersion in the natural environment that participants believed could not be experienced indoors. The study not only highlights the importance and appropriateness of IPA as a qualitative methodology for understanding coaching experiences, but also encourages coaches and clients to consider the insightful and restorative benefits of taking their coaching outdoors.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalThe Humanistic Psychologist
Early online date16 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2023


  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • nature
  • sense of self
  • walking coaching
  • well-being


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