- Outdoor psychotherapy and counselling sessions on the beautiful ancient Hampstead Heath, London – unique eco-therapeutic approach in London
Walk & Talk is just what it says, instead of working online or sitting in an office we talk AND we walk. It combines professional psychotherapeutic support with moving the body in nature. Amongst the ancient trees this can be deeply calming and provide food for spirit and soul. It can feel often more relaxing and meditative. It encourages healthy activity for adolescents and adults, and it gets people ‘moving’ – both metaphorically and literally.
You will set the pace of the session. If you prefer to have a relaxing meditative stroll or prefer a more active, faster paced session – walk & talk sessions will match your pace.
There are some good reasons why incorporating walking and the outdoors into your psychotherapy programme:
- Walking and therapeutic support in the outdoors in nature can be meditative and more grounding.
- It is a good choice for people going through a crisis or life transition, have anxiety, are dealing with trauma or are experiencing some kind of loss or grief, as well as other challenges.
- Research shows that physical activity can enhance both mental and physical health, and can reduce levels of depression and anxiety.
- Walking encourages circulation and activates both parts of our brain synchronising both right and left hemispheres involved in logical rational thinking as well as the feelings and creative side.
- Movement symbolically and literally is in itself a pro-active and more constructive way of dealing with issues and concerns that show us ways to overcome them.
- Nature around provides us not only with beautiful calming views, but also brings up metaphors allowing to work with symbolism to find solutions and new perspectives.
Also have a look at our sister website: www.thewalkingtherapist.co.uk
Hampstead Heath (locally known simply as the Heath) is a large, ancient London park, covering 320 hectares (790 acres). This beautiful vast green and wooded space allows many opportunities to walk and take a variety of routes. This could be just a shorter lunch time walk to clear your head, or have a longer conversation for a longer session.
It was first mentioned in history books as “Hemstede” in the 986. This grassy and woody public space is set on one of the highest points in London, running from Hampstead to Highgate. It is an island of beautiful countryside and its magic lies not only in its rich wildlife and extensive recreational opportunities, but also in its proximity to the people of London. It is easily accessible and only sic kilometres from the city centre of London.
The green spaces of the heath is a major attraction for Londoners, but relatively few visitors know much about this wonderful remnant of countryside in the centre of London. Hampstead is a district of great literary, artistic and thespian traditions, and former residents include Kingsley Amis, William Blake, John Constable, Ian Fleming, William Hogarth, John Keats, Anna Pavlova and Alfred Tennyson. Those traditions continue today, and Hampstead is the home of choice for many actors, musicians, writers and media personalities.
What you need in preparation
Just bring good shoes and clothes matching the weather, e.g. a rain jacket, boots for muddy patches. Make sure you are warm enough, but it depends on you. If your body warms up quickly with movement you may like to wear some layers to be able to adjust this. Umbrellas will be provided. Should the weather be too unforgiving on the day, the session can be re-arranged for an online session that day or week instead.
London Tube and Rail Map
Plan your journey
Research and Articles
I have published a very short introductory article in the summer edition of 2018 in the International Therapist Magazine last month, mainly geared for complementary medicine therapists, which you can read here: “Walking the Talk”.
Since there have been so much more development in the field which I am currently researching and preparing for a peer reviewed journal article. Please stay tuned also for an updated reading list that I will share here soon.
For some meditative exercises and more information see also our sister website: TheWalkingTherapist.
What Other Therapists Have Found
Clay Cockrell, LCSW who is based in New York City is the found of the online counselling directory and conducts walk & talk therapy in New York’s Central Park. He has over twenty years experience as a practicing therapist. Conducting sessions outdoors while walking he found that “somehow the simple act of walking while talking out life’s issues creates an environment of possibility and change. I’ve seen this process work amazing results with my clients.”
In her book “Working It Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy”, Kate Hayes PhD cites three major reasons for combing exercise in therapy:
- It encourages you to be more physically active for mental and physical reasons.
- It helps you get “unstuck” when confronting difficult issues.
- It improves mood overall and enable creative, deeper ways of thinking
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.”
Cathy Brooks-Fincher, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based licensed clinical social worker with 20 years of experience 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 up.“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.
Research from Doucette (2004) also showed that walk and talk therapy with adolescents encouraged them to make improved pro-social choices in behaviour and allowed them to experience increased feelings of self-efficacy and well-being.
Evidence shows that exercise in nature leads to positive short and long-term physical and mental health outcome. In their multi-study analysis Pretty and Barton (2010) found that the green environment improved both self-esteem and mood with the presence of water generating even greater effects.
Doucette, P. A. (2004). Walk and talk: An intervention for behaviorally challenged youths. Adolescence. Vol 39 pp. 373-388.
Hays, Kate (1999). Working it Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy. American Psychological Association.
Johansson, M., Hartig, T., Staats, H. (2011). Psychological Benefits of Walking: Moderation by Company and Outdoor Environment. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Vol 3 (3) pp. 261–280.
McLeod, F. (2007) Walk and Talk Counseling. Trafford Publishing.
Pretty, J and Barton, J. (2010). What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis. Environ. Sci. Technol. Vol 44 (10), pp. 3947–3955.
Rethorst, C.D., Wipfli, B.M., Landers, D.M. (2009). The Antidepressive Effects of Exercise: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Sports Medicine. Vol 39 (6) pp. 491-511.
Tkachuk, G. A, & Martin, G. L. (1999). Exercise therapy for patients with psychiatric disorders: Research and clinical implications. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Vol 30 pp. 275-282.
Brazier, C. (2011). Acorns Among the Grasses – Adventures in Eco-Therapy. Alresford: O-Books.
Brazier, C. (2018). Ecotherapy in Practice – A Buddhist Model. Abingdon: Routledge.
Buzzell, L. and Chalquist, C. (2010). Ecotherapy – Healing with nature in mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
Hall, C. (2015). Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook – A 12 session program for reconnecting with nature. Kindle Edition.
Jordon, M. and Hinds, J. (Ed.) (2016). Ecotherapy – Theory, Research and Practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
Jordon, M. (2015). Nature and Therapy – Understanding counselling and psychotherapy in outdoor spaces. London: Routledge.
Kahn, P. & Hasbach, P. (Eds.) (2012) Ecopschology: Science, totems and the technological species. London: MIT Press.
Macy, J. and Johnstone, C. (2012) Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. New World Library.
Macy, J. (2007). World as lover: World as self. London: Parallax Press.
McGeeney, A. (2016). With Nature in Mind – The Ecotherapy manual for health professionals. Philadelphia, USA: Kingsley Publishers.
Plotkin, B. (2008) Nature and the Human Soul – Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World. USA: New World Library.
Rust, MJ. and Totton, N. (2012) Vital Signs – Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis. London: Routledge.
Totton, N. (2011). Wild Therapy – undomesticating inner and outer worlds. Monmouth: PCCS Books