Walk and Talk Therapy
Whenever I give a talk about the benefits of Walk and Talk Therapy, I always talk about how it is not rocket science. The simple combination of walking outdoors while exploring important aspects of our lives intuitively just makes sense. When I conducted my research and wrote a dissertation, I constantly had to defend my inquiry into taking therapy outside of the safety of four walls and a couch and into the great outdoors. People would ask about confidentiality, the logistics, or simply state, “that is not how therapy is done.” I wanted to support innovation in this profession in a way that benefits individuals on a few levels all at once.
When BC allowed therapists to resume in person therapy in June 2020 one of the WorkSafeBC recommendations was to meet people outside when possible. I rejoiced. I felt vindicated for what I knew to be true. When we walk, while talking in nature we increase the likelihood of improving our overall well- being. We know that walking is good for us. Like, really good for us, as is talking. So why not do therapy outside, too?
Outdoor spaces are mutually owned. Each item I place in my office belongs to me and is a representation of how I view the therapeutic process. Sharing a mutually owned space may decrease the power differential and help to build safety in relationships. The idea that a person could revisit the spaces they engaged in therapy on their own time to continue the personal work really resonated with me. We store our memories through our senses. The ability to return to a spot along the river or on a trail with the familiar sights and sounds can be a helpful trigger to recall important aspects of therapeutic conversations. It can also be a good reminder of grounding tools on difficult days without needing to make another appointment.
Moving forward with your body means you may also be moving forward with your life. When exploring problems there is something about already being in motion that can help kickstart the problem solving or goal setting work outside of therapy sessions. Additionally, when we walk, we naturally release anxiety and find calm via relaxing our muscles and allowing the blood to pump through our veins in an invigorating way. Walking also releases endorphins in our bodies that can help with depression and pain reduction.
It is important to note that questions about confidentiality have merit. An office space with a closed door ensures that no one will see you or overhear your concerns. This is an important aspect of therapy and there are times when this is more appropriate that walking. However, think about what you share with your friends when you walk. Often these conversations are incredibly deep, and we usually do not notice who is around us or we change the conversation or become silent in the presence of others. Walk and talk therapy requires informed consent and a conversation with your therapist about the risks and benefits. For best practice the option of a private office or video call should also always be available to you as an option.
We know the benefits of being in nature and taking in that breath of fresh air. When contemplating your mental health needs consider the power of taking a walk outside by yourself, with a therapist, or with friends.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.