Walk and talk therapy differs from regular therapy sessions in that clients interact with the therapist while walking, usually outside. This alternative approach can be very beneficial, especially for those who don’t feel all that comfortable with more traditional office-based methods.
Research demonstrates that while eye contact can indicate interest and that channels for communication are open, many people actually find it a little discomforting. Some even experience anxiety when they are the focus of someone’s attention in this way, as they would be during face-to-face therapy.
Walking while talking changes the overall dynamic between client and therapist. Facing forward rather than maintaining eye contact can make the situation feel less intense. This more casual approach often empowers people to talk more freely and easily – especially when discussing difficult or sensitive issues.
This has indeed been found to be the case with many teenagers and young people. According to outdoor and mindful movement therapist Amanda Stemen, “Teenagers seem to have an easier time opening up in a more organic way being outdoors and moving as well.”
Additionally, alongside therapy itself, both exercise and spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, have long been linked through a multitude of studies with both a reduction in symptoms associated with depression, stress, and anxiety and an improved overall mood.
Possibly a contributing factor to this is that outdoor spaces are usually associated with positive and enjoyable situations such as leisure time and vacations. On the other hand, an office naturally brings to mind work, which could well be linked with feelings of stress and discomfort for some individuals.
Generally speaking, being outside can inspire relaxation, and when people loosen up in this way, it becomes easier for them to talk. Issues can be explored more thoroughly. So pairing exercise and being outdoors with therapy actually works as a natural extension of the treatment, potentially increasing its effectiveness.
Research also indicates that exercise promotes creativity. This is likely due to the physical impact of the action itself. Among other things, it increases circulation, boosting blood flow to the brain, and enhancing cognitive performance. This can all support the process of confronting and overcoming difficult issues.
These sessions could even help those looking to make significant lifestyle changes. The simple act of walking may prompt them to incorporate more healthy habits into their day-to-day living. The physical benefits of regular exercise are well documented – it is particularly linked with cardiovascular health.
In addition, as even a ten-minute walk can dramatically improve a person’s energy levels, it is more likely that they will repeat the behavior and less likely that they will turn to coffee or sugary substances for the same effect. So there is a positive impact on both the body and on the mind.
In terms of spending time around nature, people frequently report that just a little taste of the outdoors leaves them feeling more awake and alive than they otherwise do. This rejuvenating effect goes well beyond that of simple physical activity.
In fact, it could even be linked with greater exposure to natural light. This tends to instantly elevate people’s moods as well as their energy levels. Studies show that as little as five minutes of so-called ‘green exercise’ can result in improved mood and also in higher self-esteem.
Overall, walk and talk therapy offers an interesting alternative to more traditional face-to-face therapy methods. It has a number of advantages, including putting people at ease so they feel more comfortable talking, providing a healthy dose of exercise, and allowing people to spend more time outdoors. These can all serve to step up the benefits of a regular therapy session.