Have you heard about walk and talk therapy?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sophie Coutand-Marin, MBACP, ACTO
7th January, 20160 Comments
Walk and talk therapy is what it says on the tin. Instead of sitting in front of your counsellor in a traditional therapy room, the counselling session takes place outdoors walking side by side.
It is counselling in motion, and although it is not a fitness session, it is often more dynamic than a traditional indoor session. If you have felt stuck in therapy in the past, being physically active helps release some tensions and stimulates new thoughts and ideas. It is a metaphor for moving forward.
During a walk and talk therapy session, you lead the pace just like in a traditional counselling session. Yet the dynamic is fairly different. You and your counsellor are on the same footing, literally. Walking side by side can be much less intimidating and helps release inhibition. It can be taken as an introduction to counselling, followed up by a more formal type of therapy if you’re apprehensive about being alone in a room with a therapist looking directly at you.
Also, people sitting in an office all day and for whom the idea of sitting yet again for a counselling session can prevent from seeking counselling, walk and talk therapy might be an option they would like to consider.
Even if you’re confident talking face to face to a counsellor, you might become apprehensive when confronting particularly tricky issues for you. The combination of walking and fresh air allows for easier engagement and process, and you can feel more grounded as you’re moving forward while walking.
How about the weather?
Usually, the first session takes place at your counsellor’s practice where you agree on what you will do if the weather is bad. Most therapists practicing walk and talk therapy are not deterred by a few drops of rain, but it is the client’s call, and many therapists offer the possibility of either calling off a session due to bad weather or conducting the session indoors.
During your first session you also discuss issues of confidentiality and how you will negotiate encountering other people when out walking. Whether it’s in a park, by a beach or in town, seeing people walking and talking side by side is a very common sight. A client and therapist walking side by side don’t look any different.
For some people, walking outside might itself confront issues they would like to address such as a fear of open spaces or a fear of feeling judged for their appearance. Having a therapist on your side might ease a return to engaging in social situations. The focus of walk and talk therapy is not on how fast or far you can walk but on you, your process and what you are comfortable with.
Walk and talk therapy is also particularly helpful for people feeling they are trapped in a life or roles that don’t fit them anymore. Being outdoors and talking about their issues enhances the renewal of a sense of freedom. Walking helps increase the blood flow to the brain, and new ideas to tackle our issues are more likely to come up.
Why not give it a try?
About the author
Sophie Coutand-Marin is an integrative counsellor working in Brighton, and mindfulness is at the core of her practice. She offers face to face and telephone counselling as well as walk and talk therapy.
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