What is Walk & Talk Therapy?
Walk and talk therapy takes your therapy session outside. You meet your therapist at a local park or walking path. At that point you've already gone over consent and safety concerns with your therapist. Your therapist has likely picked a location with less traffic and has a plan to keep your session as private as possible. Your physical fitness is not a barrier. You and your therapist will go at whatever pace is right for you. And there's flexibility with sitting, walking, talking breaks, or continuous movement.
Here's what your outdoor session may look like. Meet your therapist at your designated location and go over a brief review of your privacy and safety plan. Start walking... and start talking. While on the path, your therapist will likely draw from the environment around you. Being outside offers many opportunities to use images, metaphors, stories, and mindfulness practice. The pace can change faster or slower along the walk, you can take breaks to sit, watch the river flow, listen to the wind blow, or notice your own feelings.
Walk and talk therapy is different from traditional therapy where you are sitting in an office or watching a screen. It allows you to soak in the benefits of nature, move your body, and maybe get a little creative.
Why is it Helpful?
There are two main factors that make walk and talk therapy so beneficial: being in nature and moving your body. Being in nature is said to be healing. Everyone has different experiences with nature and different likes and dislikes, however I think there's something to this. Being surrounded by something so much bigger than yourself, seeing the beauty and awe, experiencing the never-ending changes, and breathing in the fresh air seems to bring a sense of peace and connectedness.
You've heard of the many benefits of moving your body, but why is that helpful in therapy? I have many clients who say, "I'm so much more open when I'm walking, it's a lot easier to talk." Moving our bodies loosens it up physically and emotionally. It helps to get us out of our heads and the cycle of overthinking and into our bodies, a place of feeling and being. Walking and other types of movement also give us the experience of something called "bilateral stimulation." This is the back and forth movement from one side of the body to the other. It's a technique used in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and has been found to help with reprocessing memories and feelings, getting them "unstuck."
Is it Right for you?
This is a question you'll need to ask yourself. Here are some things to consider:
Changing weather conditions.
Comfort with being in nature.
Risks associated with outdoor activity and willingness to assume these risks, knowing that your therapist likely will not be liable.
Health problems or conditions that could limit your ability to safely participate.
Privacy factors with being outdoors, in public places.
Your therapist will be a therapist, not a fitness trainer or nature guide or anything other than a mental health therapist.
I have found walk and talk therapy to be particularly helpful and enjoyed by people with anxiety, trauma histories, highly sensitive people, first time therapy clients, creative people, and those who like being outside. This is not an exclusive list and you do not need any of those characteristics to benefit from or enjoy the process of walk and talk therapy.