Walk and Talk Therapy
Exercise is good for the body and the mind. It may improve psychotherapy sessions, too.
Walk and Talk Therapy: Is It Right for You?
Numerous scientific studies have shown the positive effects of exercise on
the brain, especially for people with depression.
Brooks-Fincher says that depressed patients often "turn a corner"
when using this practice.
Additionally, anxious or grief-stricken patients are also well served by walk
and talk psychotherapy. "Because grief can be so totally consuming and feel
so heavy, having the counterpoint of being outdoors and accomplishing something
positive for one's health can provide a sense of aliveness."
She also says that relationship conflicts are where "light bulbs really
go on in terms of having a different perspective. In an outdoor setting,
[patients] are more receptive to feedback from the therapist."
Kendrick agrees. "Clients who are feeling trapped in a relationship or a
job, or who are pretending to be somebody they are not will feel a sense of
freedom" with walk and talk therapy." Hays adds that domestic abuse
patients may also benefit by "being able to frame things more
Cockrell has also found walk and talk to be especially good for his male
"I have a theory that men have difficulty with eye contact in the
office, chair to chair, knee to knee, revealing very private and possibly
painful things," he tells WebMD. "Walking side-by-side can help a man
In addition, he says substance abusers can benefit from walk and talk
Walk and Talk Therapy: Confidentiality Concerns
What happens if a client, wrestling with an explosive or emotional issue
encounters someone they know -- perhaps a neighbor or work colleague -- during
a walking psychotherapy session. Would confidentiality be compromised? How
would that situation be handled to minimize embarrassment? What are the
"Those are exactly the kinds of situations that are a therapist's
responsibility to raise with the client," says Hays. "If one of us sees
somebody we know, we just casually say 'hello' and keep on going. It's not
explicit what's going on. In my experience it's been fine, not the slightest
Although it was of initial concern to Cockrell, he says, "It's just two
people walking and talking; there is nothing to say this is a therapy session.
If I see a group of people I recognize I can steer us in another direction.
I've not had a client say it's uncomfortable."
Brooks-Fincher says occasionally she or her clients will be greeted by
someone they know when in a public area. "It is something I discuss up
front. It has been an interruption but not an impediment. We don't slow down
and people realize we are in intense conversation."
Likewise, weather doesn't seem to be a deterrent to dedicated walk and talk
patients and therapists.
"I walk with my patients 12 months a year," Cockrell says. "Once
my clients have experienced walk and talk they don't want to go to the office.
New Yorkers spend so much time indoors -- at home, in the office, in the subway
-- it's a nice break. It's rarely so bad they can't put on an extra coat and
gloves or carry an umbrella."