We’re starting to see more psychologists and therapists taking their sessions outside. Taking a stroll in the park with their clients is a growing trend in mental health. Experts now call it “walk and talk therapy.” But what’s the reason why this development is gaining popularity? Let’s take a look.
It Helps Them Open Up
If you’ve ever been inside a clinic, you’ll know how confining it can be at times. As warm and friendly as your psychologist may be, the space you’re in can be quite intimidating. Such an environment can make you clam up or closed off. And of course, that’s a big issue when it comes to trying to resolve your problems.
As a growing number of therapy types and practitioners begin to incorporate physical activity into their sessions, therapy meetings of the future may include practice in walking along a straight line, encouraging the body and the mind alike to learn to navigate. — John Smith Ph.D.
Taking their clients out for a walk seems to be an effective way of getting them to be more relaxed. The mere act of being outdoors can mitigate feelings of awkwardness. Most people find it easier to open up when they’re not directly looking at someone. Eye contact can be uncomfortable for a lot of us. Engaging with the environment allows you to let your guard down and talk to your psychologist.
Additionally, the natural environment can help ease your anxiety. The warmth of the sun, the cool breeze, and the soothing bird songs can calm you. All these things combined will make you more likely to be comfortable with discussing what would have been heavy topics.
It Adds In Physical Activity
Not only does walk and talk therapy help you open up, but it also makes for some exercise. And we’ve all heard how positive physical activity can be for one’s overall health. It has a lot of positive effects on your body, as well as your mind.
Even a short walking session with your psychologist lets you enjoy the benefits of being active. Exercise helps lift your mood, thanks to the endorphins your brain releases while you’re on the go. Even if this is the only time you get to be on your feet, it’s better than being completely sedentary. Participating in this form of therapy can lead you to chose to take more walks of your own.
It’s A Metaphor
After a session inside a psychologist’s office, it can be easy to associate the place with your problems. Since it seems to be all you talk about in there, why wouldn’t you? But when you take things outside, it can create a metaphorical distance between you and your issues. While you’re still supposed to work on them during your stroll, it doesn’t feel as confining as it used to.
Therapy is not recyclable or repeatable. It needs to spring out of spontaneity. I believe in letting the patient lead, going where the patient goes. — Andrea Rosenhaft LCSW-R
Likewise, the physical act of going forward can be symbolic of moving on. It helps you ease that feeling of being “stuck.” Having your psychologist can make you feel like there’s always someone there as you continue on your journey. Walking then becomes a physical and emotional experience.
It Serves As An Alternative
Not all clients who see a psychologist will respond the same way to a form of therapy or treatment. Different approaches can yield varying results. Some prefer to dive head-on into their problems with talk therapy. Others are uncomfortable with talking and would instead write things down. And there are still those who aren’t quite sure what works for them.
“Walk and talk” gives psychologists another method of understanding their patient. Although still a form of talk therapy, it can make this approach work better. It can encourage the client to participate more and make the session more productive.
It Improves Mindfulness
Sometimes, we walk away from the couch, thinking that we’ve learned a lot from the session. However, after we’ve gone home, do we apply these learnings and become more aware of ourselves? How mindful have we become from our visit to our doctor?
From what these experts say, a trip outside of the office can help improve their clients’ mindfulness. As you engage all senses during a walk, you become more aware of and live in the present. This experience allows you to better think about what your psychologist is telling you and how you can improve yourself.
Our psychological wellness, or more to the point its opposite, is hardly something that has to be left to chance, to the luck of the draw. — Darcy Lockman Ph.D.
It may sound unconventional, but there appear to be advantages to taking a walk with your psychologist.
For one, it makes it easier for you to open up and discuss difficult issues in life. It makes things feel less formal, and the environment can put you at ease. Also, physical activity releases mood-enhancing hormones. Next, stepping out can serve as a symbol of moving on or even just temporarily leaving your problems behind. Additionally, it gives your psychologist another alternative approach to help you with your struggles. And lastly, it improves mindfulness.
For all these reasons, professionals are considering putting their walking shoes for the benefit of mental wellness.