A number of conversations about walk and talk therapy have happened recently that have inspired thought about working in nature. An under grad student wrote a compelling review of eco psychology citing the work of Kamitsis and Simmonds 2017. Stating that working in nature can be either a passive or active form of therapy. I enjoyed reading their work as it gave me insight to what I had unconsciously started to experience as a #WalknTalk enthusiast over 5 years ago.
In 2014 I met with the originator of Nature Based Therapy and started to recognise that a community of therapists and practitioners were moving their practice from the confines of a room to outside environs. Speaking with Duncan E. Stafford last year was another great conversation as he began venturing into nature using walk and talk as a method of engaging clients. A recent conversation with a therapist interested in using either a garden or a local park Marie-Line Charler brought out what I have begun to recognise as a strength of using Eco psychology/eco therapy as a means to support others the work and the environment – working outdoors is like being close to the thin places
My last conversation with Lynn Findlay further propelled the conversation about therapy in nature. Lynn is a runner and posed a question about pace on twitter that had me intrigued.
@FosterCareLynn My literature research shows plenty [of] studies/research & many #therapists who offer #walkandtalk therapy but little on running. When theory/ethics/contracting are factored isn’t the variable just movement [and] speed? Curious? @hazehill @therapyspaceuk @walktalkinderby @TherapyForfieh
I was taken by the idea of speed and the added health benefits of running and accessing therapy that Lynn posed. I know of one other therapist that runs and engages with therapy @pullentherapy. Speaking with Lynn was enlivening because of the number of ideas that were brought to light. Such as conducting a research project on the benefits of using running as part of a therapeutic process, whether changing speeds during the exchange would deepen the therapeutic work, and what walk and talk therapy is like for me and my clients.
The student mentioned earlier, made reference to Davis and Atkins 2004 writing, providing insight to the work being about rekindling a connection between a person and nature in a goal-less manner accessing spirituality with the desired outcome of improving mental health. A few weeks ago I had an experience with a walk and talk client that fell into a goal less oriented therapeutic experience. I have been supporting B with walk and talk therapy for a few years, the work has steadily progressed to work using associations.
I checked in with B at a point 10 minutes in to the walk and brought to mind the ending of our previous meeting. With this client in particular, synergy has appeared in our work, either with random encounters with other park users or seeing children’s chalk drawings that frame what we have just been speaking about as we approach. Recently whilst walking across a field B was discussing abandonment and a sole black shoe was discovered.
On the week in question 3 dogs had been engaged in a game of chase that my client had been bemused by. On nearing the end of the walk a Graffiti Dub had been signed off with Chasing Dogs as the artist. I mentioned this and we both shook our heads and marveled at yet another co-incidence that had happened during our walk. I hold an internal reverent smile with B – last year (2017) a woman had approached and asked ‘Are You God?’ When occurrences like a dog chase and then this being mentioned in an errant piece of graffiti… I am left wondering…
In the past 5 years I have walked and talked with groups and individuals and invited a group of MSc students to spend 20 minutes walking and talking at the end of term. The students had asked for a walk and talk experience. The first year students shared that they were surprised about how quickly the 20 mins had passed, some noticed more about the environment, others focused more on what was being shared. The two groups of men, shared that the experience felt natural and offered solutions that they did not know were there.
Using a non-directive way of accessing therapy can help the person using it to employ creativity which supports identification of a way forward. There may be something in walking forward that helps the conversation and mind to bring about different ideas that seem accessible that before walking and talking may have remained hidden.
I said at the end of term to students that walking was our only way of transportation for thousands of years. This could be a good reason why so many find walking and talking a simple and natural way of engaging with therapy.
New Associations – Serendipity
The enjoyment of walk and talk therapy are the moments of serendipity that happen when we are open to exploring in an honest unplanned way. Amazing things occur when the work opens up to creativity and play. With B, 3 paths lead on to 3 benches. Along each one of these paths a different associative idea existed for B. With each of the benches we found more associations that could be positioned .
The first bench represented a collection of recent experiences that were to be removed and forgotten.
The second bench appeared to be a newer experience that was to remain and be nurtured over time.
The third bench became a future representation of ideas for B that showed potential.
Throughout all of the conversations with both therapists and with B, there was a sense of excitement. The unknown can either scare us or excite us. My counselling supervisor has shared that fear and excitement are 2 sides of the same coin. Working outdoors whether we run, climb, walk, play basketball, canoe or paddle board being near thin spaces brings the idea of change to the foreground with immediacy. Walk and talk therapy has been like a living canvas for me.
Every walk differs, every talk new. The enjoyment is within the act of co-creation…