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What is walk-and-talk therapy?
Pretty much what it sounds like! Counselling in East Lothian, near Edinburgh, while walking together outside. Normally we’ll be walking side by side, but we may use benches occasionally. We’ll be walking at a speed that suits you; as the client, you have the opportunity to set the pace you want.
Why bring counselling outdoors?
Being outside in nature can have a beneficial effect on your mental health as well as on your physical health, as a recent study found (you can read more about the research here. With walk-and-talk therapy we can harness this relaxing quality of nature, integrating it into the counselling process.
There is also some evidence that being in nature can stimulate healing and boost the immune system. While, strictly speaking, many of the green spaces that we will be walking in are not ‘wild’ as they have been planted by humans, being surrounded by the sights, sounds and spaces of the natural world can increase our ability to relax which can aid the counselling process.
In my therapeutic work I often focus on the inner child, the parts of you that may not often get the chance to be heard. Being outside and encountering nature has the potential to reach and soothe these vulnerable parts. My own experience is that deepening my connection with nature has a restorative effect, both physically and mentally, and I want to be able to offer this experience to you too through walking counselling.
Why walk and talk?
The act of walking – the gentle physical activity – can be useful to stimulate the brain to work in a slightly different way and can even encourage us not to think so hard, so that things may float to the surface that don’t get a chance otherwise.
Walk-and-talk therapy is exercise:
Physical activity has a beneficial effect on mental health, with studies showing that it can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, by boosting endorphins and allowing dissipation of stress hormones. While there’s lots of evidence to say that getting exercise can help with depression, when you are in that black hole it can be an achievement just getting out of bed, let alone going out for a run. Gentle therapeutic walking may be a helpful stepping stone for you.
Walk-and-talk therapy is ‘normal’:
Some people find the idea of talking while walking less daunting than sitting face to face in the more traditional therapy setting. After all, it can feel more a part of normal life. Have you noticed that sometimes difficult conversations are easier to start if you bring it up while you’re in a car with the other person? Sometimes being able to look ahead rather than be drawn into close eye contact can help people open up.
How do I know if walk-and-talk therapy is for me?
There’s only one way to find out…….give it a try!
We’ll walk at a pace that suits you and allows you space to talk and reflect, and we may use benches or street furniture to pause at or rest, if this seems helpful. You remain the focus of the session, as with counselling indoors in a room, or with online counselling, but, given that we aren’t isolated from our surroundings, the environment may subtly (and sometimes not so subtly!) influence our work together.
There is, of course, less opportunity to control the environment with therapy outdoors, as we don’t have the boundaries of four walls and may be interrupted by people, animals or events. This doesn’t mean that the therapeutic benefits of it are less, simply that it is a different experience. You may decide that you need the additional sense of containment of being in a room, or you may value a feeling of freedom in being outside.
Walking counselling could be a good option for you if you spend a lot of time indoors, or if your work requires you to sit down and not move very much, as it has the added benefit of getting you gently moving outside – particularly if you worry that you’re not getting enough exercise. Living in East Lothian and offering counselling in Edinburgh and East Lothian, I want to be able to use the countryside and green spaces of the city in my work. My aim is to make counselling as accessible and normal as possible, and I believe that this is one way to do it.
Am I fit enough for walking counselling?
As mentioned already, you can set the pace to one that is comfortable for you. If you don’t get much exercise day-to-day, walking for 50 minutes might sound like a lot. Could this be an opportunity to fit a little exercise into your life? I can tailor routes so that we can use benches or points of rest. Our agreement does require you to sign to say that you don’t have an existing health condition that could mean that walking counselling isn’t suitable, but otherwise you’ve nothing to lose by giving it a try!
I tailor routes to use good paths to suit your mobility needs, and they are accessible by public transport.
You will need to make sure that you are wearing sufficiently warm clothing and shoes that are suitable for walking. Some routes may be wet or muddy at certain times of year, but we can use alternative routes that are more urban or use hard paths if necessary. While I agree with the idea that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing’, I am of course flexible with regard to rearranging if the weather is terrible and I feel it would interfere with the therapeutic benefits.
You might like to read my blog about the benefits of walking for mental health here.