Work is a walk in the park for Clay Cockrell. Instead of seeing patients in
a traditional office setting, the Manhattan-based licensed clinical social
worker practices therapy that combines exercise with psychotherapy --
mostly in Central Park and Battery Park.
"It's very similar to traditional psychotherapy," he tells WebMD,
"except you are walking while you are talking about issues. I have
found that bringing a little bit of movement enriches the counseling session.
My clients are intrigued by the idea and are naturally drawn to being
When heart specialist John M. Kennedy, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, stands at the scrub sink before an operation, he breathes deeply with seven-count exhales, visualizing how he wants the procedure to go. "Athletes use these techniques to perform under pressure, but we can all call on them in our regular lives," Dr. Kennedy says. It starts with knowing what kind of breathing works best for the challenge you're facing. Here's what the latest research shows.
Kate Hays, PhD, is the author of Working It Out: Using Exercise in
Psychotherapy and has incorporated sports psychology into her clinical
practice for more than two decades. Now located in Toronto, Hays continues to
explore the mind-body connection in her consulting practice, The Performing
Edge, and is past president of the American Psychological Association's
division of exercise and sport psychology.
Hays says she first encountered the concept of movement and therapy in the
early 1980s -- reading such books as Thaddeus Kostrubala's The Joy of
Running. The hypothesis is that rhythmic exercise, such as walking, can be
conducive to the process of self-discovery.
Hays cites three key reasons for combining exercise and therapy:
It encourages a patient to be more physically active for mental and
It helps a patient get "unstuck" when confronting difficult
It spurs creative, deeper ways of thinking often released by mood-improving
"Some patients may become anxious when confronting something difficult
in a traditional seated, face-to-face interaction," she says. "Walking
in parallel with visual distractions may allow for easier engagement."
Walk and Talk Therapy: Tapping Into Nature's Healing Power
Cathy Brooks-Fincher, aBrentwood, Tenn.-based
licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of experience, has also found
this to be true. An avid runner and athlete, she has observed that
patients at all levels of fitness can benefit from fresh air and exercise
when it comes to processing their feelings. She initially began using walk
and talk therapy with teenagers who were having a hard time opening
"When I took them into an adjacent park, I found that patients were much
more relaxed and the sessions were much more productive," she tells WebMD.
"Patients have verified that looking forward rather than directly at a
therapist can help them open up."
Brooks-Fincher also praises the "healing power of nature." She says
many patients consider the association of being outdoors with recreation and
vacation, two very positive things that most people want to experience more.
"We have a beautiful setting in which to do this, a public park with a
paved path that runs along a small river," she says. "There are
turtles, deer, birds, and a horse farm; restrooms and water fountains are nice
assets. Clients who try walk-and-talk often have very dramatic shifts in their
thinking about relationships in their
Licensed clinical social worker Carlton Kendrick, EdM, who is based in
Cambridge, Mass., agrees. He got his start using exercise and therapy when
working with institutionalized and incarcerated patients in the early
"When I got people walking on the grounds, listening to cows mooing and
birds singing, having to avoid a rock in the road, engaged in a multi-sensory
experience, the result was the patients were much more talkative and