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Walk and Talk Therapy


Have you ever considered walk and talk therapy? I have had great success with bringing some of my clients out of the therapy room for walk and talk sessions. These walk and talk sessions would typically have different formats in terms of time, place and content. Therapy skills will be implemented into the conversation to the same standards as in the therapy room, while nature provides a more informal setting, and opens up for use of different uses of metaphors and therapeutic exercises.


Why choose walk and talk therapy?

Walk and talk therapy, sometimes called nature-therapy, can be a useful alternative to traditional in-room and online therapy, and is preferred by some clients. There can be several reasons for this preference. For some people it can feel easier and more comfortable to walk side by side when sharing their inner struggles and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. In some studies therapists have reported that their clients opened up more in walk and talk sessions compared to being in-clinic, and some clients shared that they preferred therapy outside compared to inside in a more traditional setting.


It has been well established that exercise has a positive impact on mental and physical health, and that exercise can relieve anxiety and depressive symptoms. Exercise is frequently prescribed by doctors to help treat both mental and physical health symptoms. In addition, studies have shown that brief physical activity of low-intensity, including walking, improves mood and wellbeing.


There seems to be an agreement about a need for more research on the effectiveness of walk and talk therapy, but current findings supports that walk and talk therapy has been found to have a positive effect on:

  • anxiety and mood disorders

  • burnout

  • physical release of distress

  • problem-solving skills

  • self-efficacy

  • stress symptoms

  • wellbeing

​Fun fact: Sigmund Freud conducted some of his psychoanalysis during walk and talk sessions

What to consider before engaging in walk and talk therapy

Even though an overwhelming amount of positive feedback has been reported, walk and talk therapy is not for everyone, and the decision to engage in walk and talk therapy should be taken together with your therapist. Walk and talk therapy could for example be used as an occasional addition to in-clinic therapy. When walking in a public space, consideration has to be taken regarding confidentiality issues so the client can feel safe during the session. Conversations about confidentiality and agreements about how to deal with sensitive situations should be made before the start of the session.

While the setup of the sessions can vary depending on the clients' needs and the therapists' style elements of therapeutic and restorative elements would usually be implemented. The modalities used can be the same as in a clinical setting, e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy, narrative therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. The practical exercises will be adjusted to the environment as some of the more traditional in-clinic tools such as whiteboards will not be available in an outdoor setting.

Feel free to contact Bjørg for more information about walk and talk therapy or to book a session at contact@bjorgplougmand.com

© 2023 Bjørg Plougmand. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bjørg Plougmand (Biork) is a Psychotherapist, originally from Denmark and currently residing in Singapore. Bjørg is passionate about resilience and assisting clients in overcoming hardships in their lives while considering their unique story, perspective, values, beliefs and strengths.

 

Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H. & Hovland,A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 202, 67-86.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063.

Newman, E. & Gabriel, L. (2022). Investigating clients’ experience of walk and talk counselling. Counselling & Psychotherapy Research, 23(1), 125-133. https://doi.org/10.1002/capr.12567

Revell, S., Duncan, E. & Cooper, M. (2014). Helpful aspects of outdoor therapy experiences: An online preliminary investigation. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 14(4), 281-287. DOI: 10.1080/14733145.2013.818159

Schuch F. B., Vancampfort D, Richards J, Rosenbaum S, Ward, P.B. & Stubbs, B. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research, Jun(77), 42-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.02.023.

van den Berg, A. E. & Beute, F. (2021). Walk it off! The effectiveness of walk and talk coaching in nature for individuals with burnout- and stress-related complaints. Journal of Environmental Psychology, Aug(76). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2021.101641.

Young, K.C., Machell, K.A., Kashdan, T.B., & Westwater, M. L. (2018). The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events? Personality and Individual Differences, (120), 299-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.03.032.


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