Why Would Anyone Do Walk & Talk Therapy When You Can Just Sit On a Couch or Stare at a Screen?
The Therapeutic Workshop Loves Walk & Talk Therapy, Outdoor Therapy, Nature Therapy, Eco-Therapy and all that stuff. Sometimes it feels like it all gets lumped together and maybe that’s okay. We are going to kind of lump it all together here a little, but I think there are some distinguish factors that could be teased apart.
The Idea of walk & talk therapy is really just that. That the therapist and their client are going to take their session on the road. They aren’t going to sit across from each other in the office and stare at each other while they talk. They are going to get up and walk & talk while they do therapy. So why would anyone do such a thing? Therapy has always been done in private and behind closed doors on a comfortable couch!
Well there are actually a lot of reasons why walk & talk therapy could really just be a better fit for most therapy sessions.
You are not sitting across from another person staring at them either in person or on a screen. It can be super unsetting to be put in this position of just staring at another human being. As therapist we are trained to do this and we practice it all the time. But for most people it is hard and can be unsettling, add to that that typically we are also going to talking about difficult feelings and relationships and situations and it just compounds the challenges of being a client in therapy. What happens when a person is in this state is they are unable to concentrate, think clearly, focus, and remember they can even shut down or just, “go along with things” because they are so uncomfortable. We do everything to help clients like this, have a safe place and teach self-regulation and grounding skills.
When we do walk & talk therapy two things happen. Fist, we are talking in parallel. There is far less stress and discomfort in a position like this, it is less authoritative, we are next to each other in therapy. We are literally walking along side our client in therapy, which is the metaphor we always use. So, our clients are in a better place to do therapy right away. Second, there is less need for grounding and elf-regulation because walking IS grounding and self-regulating. Clients are able to talk about more things more comfortably and challenge themselves and their ideas because they are constantly self-regulating. Not to mention if things get too difficult your therapist is there to help you with those additional self-regulation and grounding tools that we would teach you anyway in our typical in office / screen sessions.
If that wasn’t enough there’s more! We know that exercise generates those good feeling hormones and walk & talk therapy uses that as well to help us do better more meaningful work with our clients. When people are emotionally regulated and feeling good, it is WAY easier to talk about the hard stuff AND we are WAY better at it. We become more flexible and creative in our thinking, we can see solutions that we might normally have not been able to have recognize and that goes for your therapist too! So not only are clients feeling more comfortable, creative, and flexible we are too so we can be better therapists walking along side our motivated and creative and clam client.
To me it is the way to do therapy that therapy should always have been done and honestly probably mental and emotional healer probably was done in our past. If we want to get rid of the shame and stigma around mental health and substance use we have to stop shoving it into hidden little rooms any way. You don’t see people sneaking off to the gym to get a secret work out or sneaking off to the doctor to get a physical. Mental Health is health, shameless plug / rant!
When we start adding nature and eco-therapy into our walking and outdoor therapy well then, we just add a whole different framework we can use for healing and growth that maybe I will expound upon at some point.
Drawbacks, yep there are some. We still have to be careful about privacy, we have to be careful about weather. We might have to do some planning for weather and we should do some talking about what to do if we run into someone we know. There are certainly some limitations around working with doing trauma resolution sessions. But maybe talking about some of our adverse experiences while walking is just the healing medicine we need. If anyone ever read Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy by Francine Shapiro, the creator of EMDR, as I recall, she talks about how she came up with the idea. She describes how she was WALKING along a wooded path and was thinking about an adverse experience over and over again, she explains that there was light breaking through the leaves of the trees that gave her this bi-lateral stimulation that helped her resolve this adverse experience. From these she went through all this effort to create this model of waving your hand back and forth to heal trauma and now we know it is really ANY bilateral stimulation that helps. Walking IS bilateral stimulation, it IS healing at its core. Anyway, that’s my first thoughts I wanted to share.
The Therapeutic Workshop is believes in the power of walk & talk therapy, nature therapy, and eco-therapy and love working with our client’s this way whether it’s walking in a park, a nature center, along the lake, or in the middle of downtown Milwaukee.