Suzanne L. Frost, Psy.D., is a 2019 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara

Brett Kia-Keating, Ed.D, Chairperson

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., Committee Member

Thomas Doherty, PsyD, Committee Member


low-income single mothers, ecotherapy, nature-based psychotherapy, nature self-care, United States, poverty, singlism, effects of nature on mental health, ecopsychology, food insufficiency, single mothers, nature

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This dissertation describes current research on the lived experience of low-income single mothers and explores the potential validity of utilizing exposure to natural settings as a psychotherapeutic intervention for this population. In 2014, 4,764,000 single mothers in the U.S. were living in poverty. A large percentage of this population suffers from poverty, hunger, social stigma, as well as mental illnesses associated with these conditions, such as anxiety, stress, and depression. A qualitative influential research study was performed that included interviews with eight low income White single mothers and one Biracial Turkish and Chaktau Native American low-income single mother in predominantly rural Arizona. In these interviews, participants were asked to describe both causes and mitigating factors in their lived experience of being low-income single mother including the effects of regularly experiencing nature. Results indicated predominant financial distress, physical and mental illnesses of mothers and children, and social stigma and discrimination, as well as other lived experiences. All participants currently or in the past had found developmental, physical, and mental benefits from nature contact. Various successful ecotherapy self-care interventions and types of nature experiences were reported by project participants and validated by ecotherapy research. A proposed model of ecotherapy for low-income single mothers was theorized. Based on the results of this project, recommendations for educational and policy change regarding this population and the promising and often conclusive research on the efficacy of ecotherapy are presented. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLink ETD Center,


ORCID: 0000-0001-5657-0617