Several studies have confirmed that the natural environment has psychophysiological healing effects. However, few studies have investigated the healing process involved in the effect of the natural environment. To date, no theoretical model on the nature-based therapy process has been clearly established. Thus, the aim of this study was to develop a theoretical model of the nature-based therapy process by analyzing individual empirical data. Research materials were 180 self-reported essays on “Forest Therapy Experiences” submitted to the Korea Forest Service. This study was conducted based on grounded theory. Data were analyzed through open coding. A total of 82 concepts, 21 subcategories, and six categories were derived. Results revealed that the nature-based therapy process contained six categories: Stimulation, acceptance, purification, insight, recharging, and change. When in the natural environment, participants first experienced positive emotional change, followed by cognitive and behavioral changes. Based on these results, a nature-based therapy process model was derived. This study revealed that the nature-based therapy process did not consist of just a single element or step, but involved an integrated way of healing with emotional and cognitive changes. This study is significant in that it derives a theoretical model of the nature-based therapy process with comprehensive mechanisms. Further research is needed to establish more systematic theoretical model.
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