top of page
  • Writer's pictureThomas Miller

The Benefits of Walk and Talk Outdoor Therapy

Walk and Talk Outdoor Therapy in East Vancouver

Introduction to Walk and Talk Outdoor Therapy


We know it’s important to stay active, but between everything going on in our lives, exercise often falls off. No matter how much we recommit to going to the gym or getting outside for a run, or riding a bike to work, sometimes something gets in the way. What if I told you there was a way to get exercise while also working through your stress or anxiety with a counsellor? 


Walk and Talk outdoor therapy is exactly that. Two birds - one stone. Didn’t have time to get a walk in today? Meet your therapist at a local park and while you’re processing your emotions, your therapist is walking alongside you, both experiencing the physical benefits of exercise and connecting with nature. 


TLDR 


  • Benefits: There are physical, psychological and social benefits to Walk and Talk outdoor therapy, which is counselling but outdoors at a local park or somewhere you can connect with nature. 

  • Who is a good fit: In particular, those experiencing burnout, stress, ADHD, anxiety and grief can expect symptom relief from Walk and Talk outdoor therapy.

  • Challenges: There are some challenges such as the weather, physical limitations and decreased confidentiality that you and your counsellor should discuss before deciding to start Walk and Talk outdoor therapy. 

  • How to start: Contact a mental health professional and book a free initial consultation to see if it’s for you. 


Overview


If you’ve been in counselling before, you know what to expect from a typical counselling session. Walk and Talk simply changes the environment and lets you process your emotions while in motion. You’ll be nourishing your mind, body and soul at the same time. 


Walk and Talk outdoor therapy brings the healing elements of nature into counselling. For some, the movement is distracting, and that’s helpful for them to engage with counselling, which can be intimidating for those who haven’t tried it before. For others, the movement is calming and regulating while processing some difficult emotions. 


Benefits


There are physical, psychological and social benefits to Walk and Talk outdoor therapy, among others. 


First, the physical benefits, which are clear - just spending 20 minutes a day walking outdoors is enough to have a positive impact on your physical and mental well-being. If you’re able to do more, then you may see increased benefits, such as improvements in your overall mobility, decreasing the risk of chronic diseases and an overall healthier lifestyle. 


In terms of psychological benefits, exercise can improve overall cognitive functioning, provide increased energy levels and enhance your memory. 


From a social standpoint, there is an epidemic of loneliness in our society, and while counselling in general can assist with the emotions of loneliness and depression, Walk and Talk outdoor therapy is also effective in reducing stress associated with loneliness and improving overall well-being and mood. Counselling allows you to develop a relationship with your therapist, but in Walk and Talk, you’re also engaging with the environment - animals, other people passing us by, even just elements of the natural environment like plants or trees can make us feel less alone in the world, especially as we’re engaged in conversation with your counsellor. 


What is Walk and Talk effective for?


If you’re dealing with burnout, excessive stress, overwhelming anxiety or are grieving a loss, Walk and Talk outdoor therapy can help. Being outdoors can lower your stress hormones and feel more connected to the world. Exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 


In addition, clients with ADHD find Walk and Talk effective for their concentration, as it gives their body something to do while they are processing their emotions in counselling. Many people with ADHD find that they are more able to focus when their body is in motion. 


You may not be a good fit for Walk and Talk if you are dealing with significant trauma and your body is still in fight or flight. You know your body best - check in with yourself and ask your counsellor if they think you would benefit from it. But in those cases, ensuring that you feel safe is the most important aspect to consider. For some people, the outdoor environment might be too distracting or overwhelming to navigate in order to also hold space for your emotions. Your body might not be ready for Walk and Talk, and that’s ok. 


Challenges


Before starting Walk and Talk outdoor therapy, you should be aware of the ethical challenges this type of work presents. When we hold counselling in our offices or online using a secure video conferencing system, your counselling session is completely confidential. That is not necessarily the case in Walk and Talk outdoor therapy. For example, you may run into someone you know during the course of your session. You and your counsellor should make a plan for what you can say if that were to happen. For example: “Hey great to see you. Unfortunately I’m just meeting Thomas here for business, could you message me later and we can chat?” You don’t have to use that, but come up with something that suits your life and you feel comfortable saying. 


Furthermore, inclement weather may occur. In Vancouver, where I live, it rains pretty frequently and you can’t always tell if it’s going to rain on a given day or not. Regardless, you might need to bring an umbrella, and you should definitely dress appropriately for the weather with some comfortable shoes for walking. Lastly, any kind of exercise brings with it the risk of injury. Although walking is quite low risk where that’s concerned, there is still the possibility that you might trip or slip and fall. Being aware of your own physical limitations is important before starting Walk and Talk outdoor therapy because you are participating in the exercise portion at your own risk. Make sure you review the waiver form before signing it. 


Recap


Walk and Talk outdoor counselling helps you better connect with nature while increasing your level of physical activity, reducing stress and tension, and reducing anxiety and depression symptoms. If you think this type of counselling is a good fit for you, click here to book a free initial consultation. 


About the author 


Thomas Miller is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. He works in East Vancouver and sees clients of all backgrounds and identities. If you would like to learn more about Thomas, click here. To book a session with Thomas, click here


30 views

Comments


bottom of page