Three Benches

Late Autumn

A November morn: Three Benches

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.

Thin places

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

A sunrise framed by trees

Perfect Balance of Light, Trees and Grass. Three Benches

Running Therapy

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.

Goal Less

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.

Dog Chase

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…

Associations of a wet bench

Bench near hill: a feature of association.

Group Walk

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.

In Hiding

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.

2nd Bench

A surprise encounter finding a new area in a park

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.

Walk and Talk therapy within an enclosed gardern

A fitting end to an insightful walk and talk.

Same Coin

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…

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Patterns – A Beautiful Way of Thinking

Fractal ImageFractals

For as long as I can remember patterns have fascinated me. From simple designs like parquet flooring and tessellation to radial patterns of nature’s fractals, all offer a representation of our world and known universe that support understanding and for me a degree of comfort.

Splicing Media

Whilst listening to Invisibilia, The Science of Success, Two Guys On Your Head podcasts and watching The Alienist Netflix show, links below, a thought struck about the need for pattern recognition. The interest for me seems to span from an aesthetic (how things look) to the psychological (how our minds interpret information). Questions arise about our need to rapidly recognise patterns and what use we then make of the recognition. The Two Guys episode does well to explain and expand on the idea.

The Invisibilia episode reviews a woman’s attempt to change her life pattern and asks if we too are able to stop and make different choices that support growth and positive outcomes for our lives.

The Science of success episode shares insights on nonverbal communication, micro expressions, and how as humans we can be better at detecting lies with columnist Vanessa Van Edwards.

The Two Guys on Your Head podcast, the doctors of psychology discuss the problems that can arise from seeing things in our minds and not just with our eyes. In essence they reference pattern matching in an artful way.

Art Meets Science

The Alienist has fascinated me too, I started watching the show in late April. I find myself keenly interested primarily as the protagonists are using patterns to solve crime. The show demonstrates how forensic science and forensic psychology may have come into effect. Albeit in a fictionalised 19th Century New York. Here too a pattern seems to emerge as a team search for clues and hidden meaning of their own behaviours and of that of the person responsible for the young men’s deaths. The aim of casting the search net so wide is to understand and stop the person responsible with all accessible means at the investigators’ disposal. What also interests me is that this depiction of late 19th century New York which appears to be a close representation of our modern 21st century lives.

Patterned Living

The realisation that we are living amongst a number of forming and reforming of continual patterns such as algorithms has had me in a state of wonder ever since I read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer in 2008. Themes appear in all four of the media samples mentioned above which include: attraction, guilt, authority, liberty, sexism, addiction, class and passion. History has a habit of repeating itself as Eric Hoffer has suggested.

We tend to use patterns to help us recognise things as diverse as migration, seasons, crop cycles, stock and share prices, rhythm and bpm, music, clothes, travel, festivals, meals, traffic, weather, sleep and waking cycles and psychological patterns marking the stages of life we all pass through. There are a possibly a million more patterns of life that I will have missed.

Counselling Patterns

As a counsellor the pattern of therapy I find, is similar to that of a story, there usually is a beginning, a middle and an end. At times the beginning and ending can happen in a single appointment. Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series I am intrigued to start reading, as it has inspired the Alienist TV series. Usually the book is read first then I watch the adaptation later. Here I am able to witness a break in my own pattern of behaviour.

Pattern Matching

On a common level we interpret a number of cues to inform ourselves about our lives that include; faces, sounds, smells, tastes, all call upon our ability to make use of a range of stimuli. A face that smiles we could view as friendly, a loud screech of tyres helps us recognise that something on wheels either was braking or accelerating, pleasant aromas of food or scents could alert us to a range of pleasing experiences. We recognise these as a result of experiencing them before and unconsciously process and store them. Once recalled, through action or thought we pattern match and behave almost automatically, almost without thought.

Pattern recognition is a way of interpreting information to support our understanding of what is likely to occur. My fascination with simply being aware of patterns enables me to make more informed choices. To make use of the patterns mentioned what would it be like to become a detective/scientist/artist for a while, curious enough to find out the patterns that involve your life and make sense and meaning from them.Triangle Pattern

In essence I am enjoying the psychological battle unfolding in the Alienist (episode 5 at the time of writing) as the characters recognise their strengths as a team and some of their weaknesses. The attempt to solve the mystery of the serial killer is a case of playing field chess in fog. It is a game, it is baffling and unseen players could move pieces that inspire the win and also the loss. As in life, the aim is to live well amongst a seemingly ever unfolding pattern.

The List

The Pattern Problem by Invisibilia. https://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/597779069/the-pattern-problem

Lies and Body Language http://podcast.scienceofsuccess.co/e/the-secret-science-of-lies-body-language-with-vanessa-van-edwards/

Seeing and Perception with Two Guys on Your Head http://kutpodcasts.org/two-guys-on-your-head/seeing-and-perception

The Alienist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9867sT-Y1M&feature=youtu.be

A pattern that has us at once, confused and often bemused, with a sense of knowing of the way we are still to travel.

And be hopelessly, laughingly and completely lost.