Walk and Talk Therapy: Tapping Into Nature's Healing Power
My office is located in an ideal setting for conducting therapy while walking with my clients. A block off of the Lake Washington shore in Kirkland, it is a short walk to either Juanita Beach Park, or Juanita Bay Park, providing readily-accessible paths, nature, and beauty to enhance our time together and enrich your therapy experience. Walking provides benefits to the body and mind during therapy that can bolster both self-esteem and motivation to change.
There are four key reasons for combining exercise and therapy:
- It encourages you to be more physically active for mental and physical reasons.
- It helps you get "unstuck" when confronting difficult issues; physical motion forward correlates with your thoughts and life moving forward.
- It spurs creative, deeper ways of thinking often released by mood-improving physical activity.
- It ensures movement in your otherwise too busy day, with the added bonus of increasing energy, and boosting metabolism.
If you are interested in walking with me for therapy, please let me know at least a day in advance. Dress accordingly and bring a rain-resistant jacket in case of light sprinkles. And, of course, I will accommodate your pace, so we can stroll or speed-walk. The experience is up to you. The effects of movement with your therapy may surprise you!
More about the experience:
In a WebMD article about walk and talk therapy, Clay Cockrell. a Manhattan-based licensed clinical social worker, says "It's very similar to traditional psychotherapy, except you are walking while you are talking about issues. I have found that bringing a little bit of movement enriches the counseling session. My clients are intrigued by the idea and are naturally drawn to being outside."
Kate Hays, PhD, is the author of Working It Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy and has incorporated sports psychology into her clinical practice for more than two decades. Now located in Toronto, Hays continues to explore the mind-body connection in her consulting practice, The Performing Edge, and is past president of the American Psychological Association's division of exercise and sport psychology. Hays says she first encountered the concept of movement and therapy in the early 1980s -- reading such books as Thaddeus Kostrubala'sThe Joy of Running. The hypothesis is that rhythmic exercise, such as walking, can be conducive to the process of self-discovery. "Some patients may become anxious when confronting something difficult in a traditional seated, face-to-face interaction," she says. "Walking in parallel with visual distractions may allow for easier engagement."
Cathy Brooks-Fincher, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of experience, has also found this to be true. An avid runner and athlete, she has observed that patients at all levels of fitness can benefit from fresh air and exercise when it comes to processing their feelings. She initially began using walk and talk therapy with teenagers who were having a hard time opening up. "When I took them into an adjacent park, I found that patients were much more relaxed and the sessions were much more productive." Patients have verified that looking forward rather than directly at a therapist can help them open up. Brooks-Fincher also praises the "healing power of nature." She says many patients consider the association of being outdoors with recreation and vacation, two very positive things that most people want to experience more. "We have a beautiful setting in which to do this, a public park with a paved path that runs along a small river," she says. "There are turtles, deer, birds, and a horse farm; restrooms and water fountains are nice assets. Clients who try walk-and-talk often have very dramatic shifts in their thinking about relationships in their lives."