In the Beginning

After working as a counselor for a large public school district back when cuts were being made, the thought of losing my job made me realize that I may need to reinvent myself as a mental health practitioner. I wanted to do something DIFFERENT than other therapists were doing.  I started being creative and thinking outside of the box regarding my education, talent and experience! I have always enjoyed exercise, be it dance, yoga, hiking or walking.  For my own self-care, I loved walking and talking with girlfriends, and always felt so much better afterwards, both physically and emotionally.  In my past experience of working teenage foster youth at a local group home, I always found it easier to get them talking by getting out and taking a walk with them.  Even the most closed up client would have an easier time expressing themselves.  I then asked myself, “How can I combine what people love with the help that I can provide?”, and I came up with Walk and Talk Therapy.  At first I thought I had “made it up”, but after googling the term, I learned of Clay Cockrell, a man who was doing sessions around Central Park in New York. I thought, if this can work on the East Coast with their crazy weather, there is no reason why I can’t do the same in sunny Los Angeles! And thus, I was the first Walk and Talk therapist (that I know of) on the West Coast of the United States.

The Power of Walk and Talk Therapy

“The mind reflects the body reflects the mind.”

Carl Jung

Have you ever taken a walk along the beach to clear your mind? Perhaps you’ve experienced the mental clarity that comes with a brisk hike along a nature trail or the serenity of a stroll around a garden path. You’ve experienced the power of what walking outside can do for your mental health. But, have you thought of what it could do for your clients?

Walk and Talk Therapy allows a therapist to utilize the power of walking outside combined with the benefits of therapy to help his or her clients progress faster than with traditional psychotherapy alone. Walk and Talk Therapy is just like it sounds—the client and the therapist conduct therapy while they are outside walking instead of in an office setting. The client and therapist meet at a local park, track, or other outside setting and for an hour or so, the client and therapist walk and discuss the issues at hand.

There are several reasons why Walk and Talk Therapy is a great addition to a therapy practice. First, Walk and Talk Therapy gets clients moving—both literally and figuratively. They are exercising and also metaphorically “moving forward” in life. Also, research shows that people who exercise are better able to cope with stress than those who don’t. Since Walk and Talk Therapy is usually conducted out of doors, it’s a good way for the client and therapist to connect with nature—and with each other. And, some clients find it less intimidating to talk to a therapist when you’re both doing something else too. Of course exercise helps clients reduce stress, sleep better, and improves the “mind/body connection.” What’s great is that this form of therapy is good for the therapist too! How many of us are challenged to find time to exercise in addition to our busy practice?

Walk and Talk Therapy is an excellent modality for clients with several different kinds of issues. Clients who are going through a life transition, have signs of clinical depression, are experiencing some kind of loss or grief, as well as other challenges tend to do very well with Walk and Talk Therapy.

The client sets the pace of the session. Whether the client prefers a meditative, relaxing session of walking or a more active, fast-paced session,  the therapist will match the pace of the client. This is important from a literal perspective and a metaphoric perspective. The client and the therapist are working and walking together.

Of course, Walk and Talk Therapy does come with some cautions and concerns. In her book Working Out The Issues: Integrating Walk and Talk Therapy Into Your Professional Practice, therapist Megan Brown shares some of the challenges she’s encountered in her 5 years using Walk and Talk Therapy.  Issues such as privacy, maintaining the client/therapist professional roles, and practical concerns have to be addressed. But, most therapists (and their clients) feel that the benefits of being outside outweigh any concerns like these.

In all, Walk and Talk Therapy allows both the client and the therapist to slow down, be mindful, be in the moment, and breathe. It’s about not rushing through life but experiencing it. Walk and Talk Therapy allows clients to stay present and active in the process of change and healing.

For more information on Walk and Talk Therapy or to purchase Working Out The Issues: Integrating Walk and Talk Therapy Into Your Professional Practice, visit Megan Brown’s website at walkandtalktherapist.com.