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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 positively." 

Cockrell has also found walk and talk to be especially good for his male patients. 

"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 become vulnerable."

In addition, he says substance abusers can benefit from walk and talk movement.

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 boundaries?

"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 bit problematic."

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." 

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