Author: Lindsay Huettman
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tend to your mental health and receive the extra benefits of being outside and exercise?
Many people who would like the support of a therapist, must sit inside an office all day for work. It can sometimes feel daunting or even unhealthy to go to yet another office to sit even longer for a counseling session. If you would like to receive mental health counseling and be outside getting a little exercise, walk and talk therapy might be for you.
Some of benefits:
- Exposure to sunlight, fresh air and natural spaces increases vitality
- Exercise is important for mental health
- Walking while talking can relax you and increase effectiveness of some therapeutic interventions
- The natural environment can act as an ally and teacher during the therapeutic process
Why Walk and Talk?
Current scientific research and ancient wisdom world wide both show that our bodies and minds are deeply connected. There are new studies on how important mind-body relationship is for treating anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and so much more (Van der Kolk, Levine, Ogden, Siegal, etc) . It can be easier for some of us to connect with our emotional states, challenges and triumphs while we are physically active and outside. In my experience, walk and talk therapy in a beautiful park or trail can deeply relax people because the setting is less formal. It also allows us to be able to connect with the metaphors, symbols and sensations provide by nature. Some of these external factors can be used in the therapeutic process. From being a wilderness guide for the last 20 years, some of the deepest and even life changing conversations I have had have been on the trail. I am also a Wilderness First Responder with a lot of experience so I am able to provide safety in wild areas and city parks, as well as any basic medical support in emergencies. This makes the outdoor experiences very safe, nourishing and creative for my clients.
What about confidentiality?
When you ‘sign up’ for any type of therapy, you should have a through conversation with your therapist about confidentiality. The therapist will go over client rights and release of information, etc., within the first session. During this conversation, I go over some of the issues of confidentiality with folks when we are outside. I discuss potential issues with clients based on location and will even role play if needed what we would do if we see someone on the trail. Usually, we pause the conversation until we are in our ‘private traveling bubble again. With that said, it’s always good to be aware that the forest and trails don’t have walls and we cannot absolutely confirm confidentiality. Most of my clients understand this (informed consent) and are not greatly bothered by this issue. The benefit of being outside and the depth of our conversations are worth it. In my experience, the issue of confidentiality for walk and talk or nature connection therapy has not been an ‘issue’ at all…it’s usually the weather!
What if I don’t feel physically fit?
This is not a race, competition or even a ‘hike’ –it’s called walk and talk for a reason. As a therapist, I consider the physical abilities my clients, our therapeutic goals and walk accordingly. Although regular walking can benefit your health, this is not the only focus. At anytime, if it feels that moving is not needed or helpful, I ask my clients to slow down or even go sit on a bench or under a tree to address what is present. The outside environment is there to support the process, not make it harder.
Can we still be in an office if we do walk and talk therapy?
There are times when it does not make sense for us to do walk and talk therapy. Most of my clients and I meet at parks or trails nearby my offices so if we ever need that space, it’s ours. I also sometimes will advise clients that a particular session requires the office environment as container for a particular therapeutic task. This can be true for some of the deep body-centered work that requires a quiet, absolutely uninterruptible space. Each person’s therapeutic needs are different; I tailor each treatment plan for individual needs.
If walk and talk therapy appeals to you, please reach out today to schedule a 30 minute complimentary consultation with Lindsay.
Lindsay Huettman, MA LMHCA joined Eastside Family Counseling in the Spring of 2017. She brings a unique and valuable skill-set to our program. Lindsay’s specialties are grief/loss, trauma/traumatic loss, anxiety and panic disorders, PTSD, adult survivors of child abuse, relationship issues, anticipatory grief and death process. She has been a youth, teen and adult mentor, public school teacher, wilderness guide for over 15 years. This experience has given her the gift of working long-term with teens and adults in outdoor settings.