From burning out to flourishing: unraveling the specific value of outdoor therapy for employee burnout in the Netherlands

Burnout is a wicked societal issue adversely affecting employees' health and performance, which over time results in high sick-leave and replacement costs for organisations. Traditional burnout rehabilitation programs show suboptimal effects on reducing burnout complaints and on stable return to work. Considering the health-promoting effects of nature, outdoor-based interventions for employee burnout and evidence on its effectiveness are emerging. However, theories explaining how the combination between general psychological support and outdoor-specific elements can trigger the rehabilitation process in an outdoor therapy are often lacking, impeding its systematic research.

This thesis aims explicitly to (1) assess the effectiveness, and factors influencing the effectiveness, of existing rehabilitation programmes; (2) understand how young employees develop burnout and rehabilitate throughout the lifecourse using their perspective; (3) examine how outdoor-based interventions are developed and the extent to which they capture mechanisms underlying rehabilitation as identified in the first two objectives; and (4) evaluate the effectiveness and the process of outdoor-based interventions on the rehabilitation of young employees. Adopting the salutogenic model of health, we build on the case of an outdoor intervention for rehabilitation after burnout among employees applied by outdoor clinical psychologists in the Netherlands. Finally, we apply both qualitative and quantitative methods (i.e., mixed methods).

Georg Bauer

Prof. dr. Georg Bauer
Public and Organizational Health, Center of Salutogenesis
University of Zurich, Switzerland


Dr. Esther J. Veen
Aeres University of Applied Sciences
Almere, The Netherlands