Other counsellors often ask about the walk talk therapy (counselling outdoors) that I offer here in Sheffield. They are intrigued to how it works and to why I came to be offering counselling outdoors as part of my business.
Walking my way through stress
I first found the benefit of walking and reflection for myself over 15 years ago. I was having a stressful time in my life and felt lonely. I walked my way through it. I found that when I walked it I was able to reflect and I found an inner peace. I also found another benefit was that being out in the open cleared my head as well as giving me time to exercise. I recognised that if I had not walked every day through this period in my life, I would have stayed indoors and not had the energy of motivation to help myself. To this day, I continue this practice. I ensure that I walk at least once a week (either on my own or in company) and whenever, I feel stressed, upset or emotional, I will either go out for a walk or hop onto my bike.
Walking and Talking through bereavement
A few years ago a friend was bereaved. I offered her to come out with me for my weekly walk. She took me up on the offer and found this time valuable in exploring her grief. As she was walking beside me it allowed her to express her feelings. Often we just walked in silence. This talking and silence time allowed her to acknowledge her grief and reflect on her actions. She also found that the exercise and being surrounded by nature made her feel better inside and helped her move forward. My friend often said to me that she found the walking and talking helped her and I began to think whether I could offer counselling outdoors.
The growth of Counselling outdoors / Walk Talk Therapy
With both of these experiences behind me a couple of years ago, when one of my clients found it difficult to communicate in the counselling room, I offered her to go for a walk. We did. It drastically changed our sessions. As she was not looking at me directly, it allowed her to talk without feeling intimidated. She also found that being physically active helped release the tension she felt in the room. Walking alongside me allowed her to engage with the counselling process, which was not happening in the room. She also found that the physical activity not only gave her chance to exercise but it also allowed for more creative and deeper thinking. The remaining of our sessions was outside and walk talk therapy was established as my counselling practice.
Where does it take place?
Luckily in Sheffield not only are we blessed with lots of green spaces but we are next door to the Peak District. Both places offer ideal locations for walk talk therapy. Most of my clients prefer to stay local so we walk through Endcliffe Park or Graves Park. A couple of clients have chosen to go further afield and we’ve walked through Longshaw Estate in the Peak District.
What about confidentiality?
We walk through quiet areas of the park. No client yet has seen anyone they know but if they would they would just think you were out for a walk. We do not stop to talk to anyone.
How long are the sessions?
The sessions are for one hour. We initially have an introduction/assessment session at my counselling practice in Sheffield or we meet via Skype. This allows me to carry out an assessment as well as explain the counselling process, the way I work and establish the boundaries within our counselling relationship. If you decide additional sessions would be benefit to you, then we will arrange a location and time to meet. Most walk talk sessions are held weekly.
And what about the weather?
Overall the majority of my outdoor counselling sessions have been in dry weather. However, a few have been in the rain and snow! I will walk with you whatever the weather but if you prefer you cancel with less than 48 hours notice, you may be charged for the session.
Walk Talk therapy is suitable for a range of issues. The most common ones I deal with are bereavement, work stress, post-natal depression, divorce or separation and anxiety. The only way you will know if counselling outdoors work for you is to give it a try. Would it work for you?