What is Outdoor Therapy?
Outdoor Therapy (also known as ‘Walk and Talk’) is becoming a well-established and accepted way of having counselling.
Particularly with the impact of Covid-19 in our lives, it has become in some cases, the only safe way in which you can see your therapist in person.
It does what it says on the tin; it involves walking and being outside, whilst having your therapy session.
What is the Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Counselling?
Evidence suggests there are real benefits to be gained by being able to combine all the positive aspects of being outside, with the benefits of talking therapy. We already know that being outside can improve mood, help us sleep better and decrease stress and anxiety for example. It can be both soothing and exhilarating depending on the weather and/or the environment. It provides the opportunity to increase exposure to natural light and fresh air that our bodies and brains instinctively respond to.
Other potential advantages include:
- Making therapy more accessible for those who are uncomfortable or resistant to the therapy room for any number of reasons (e.g. too formal, fears of enclosed spaces etc)
- Moving around outside, can be particularly helpful if you are feeling ‘stuck’.
- Evidence suggests that connections with the natural world can benefit the nervous system e.g. decreases blood pressure, reduces stress, increases levels of the ‘happy’ hormones etc.
- If you have social anxiety it can help you get used to being around people and encourage simple, safe interaction with others (e.g. a simple ‘good morning’ greeting)
Overall, being outdoors can relieve physical tension and help you talk more easily. If you are feeling vulnerable or contemplating particularly difficult issues, talking in an open environment can feel less intimidating and overwhelming. It’s important to note that conducting therapy sessions outside doesn’t mean there has to be walking involved. For a more passive interaction with the natural environment, sessions can take place sat in a park or other communal space for example.
It is important to recognise however, that being outside is not suitable for everyone. If you have had negative experiences or traumatic events that have taken place outdoors, or if being in an open space makes you feel exposed or unsafe, then it may be more advantageous to have your counselling in a traditional indoor environment.
It’s also important to consider your physical health, wellbeing and resilience. Underlying health conditions or poor levels of fitness may mean meeting outdoors or incorporating physical activity into the therapeutic process, is not for you.
Advantages to being indoors are:
- While being inside can feel restrictive for some, it can feel safer for others. It is consistent, reliable, a relatively static and unchanging environment.
- The routine of arriving and being welcomed in to a private and safe place, contained within 4 walls could feel much more comfortable for you.
- Indoor work could be better suited during a specific part of the therapeutic process.
- Confidentiality is guaranteed and the setting can feel intimate and personal if you are someone who would benefit from a meaningful relationship with your therapist.
- A more formal, professional environment could help you feel more reassured and confident. Being outdoors and going for a walk could feel too casual and personal.
Perhaps the most significant difference between having your counselling inside or outside, is the issue of confidentiality. This is one of the most important aspects of any successful therapeutic relationship and naturally one that is open to change if you are talking to your therapist in a public space. Rest assured this is something that we will discuss in detail before embarking on any outdoor work. If you are unsure and uncomfortable with the idea that you could be heard, then you should probably opt to have your sessions in my office*, or remotely, instead.
*Face to face sessions in the office are currently unavailable due to Covid-19*
Which Is Best for You?
Therapy will be equally effective whether taking place inside or outside. However, the concept of outdoor therapy is based on the understanding that the environment you are in has an impact on how comfortable you feel; historically therapy has always taken place indoors and this may not always be best for everyone. The more at ease you are, the more able to engage with the therapeutic process you will be and so it is worth considering if being outside could be more suitable for you.
If outdoor therapy sessions interest you, then do get in touch and we can discuss your specific needs. Due to time constraints, please be aware all walks will take place in and around Wells itself. In most cases (often due to the English weather!) there will be a blend of inside and outside work. I am happy to be flexible and adapt accordingly on a session by session basis. It could be that you choose mostly to work outside, but in extreme weather we move indoors. Alternatively, if you usually have your session inside, then on a particularly hot day, you may want us to go outdoors. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.