Walk and Talk Therapy
Walk and talk therapy or walking therapy is becoming more popular. Not only do I have more clients requesting sessions but I also receive emails from other trained counsellors asking me questions about my Walk and Talk. I therefore thought it would be useful to write a second blog post for counsellors on how I incorporate walking therapy into my practice.
Do you need formal training to offer Walk And Talk?
I received no formal training in offering walk and talk therapy. Of course, I am a trained, Accredited BACP counsellor with over 13 years experience ! I have been providing walking therapy for over 4 years. I attended a one day Ecotherapy course in Derbyshire. This course was useful as gave me time to reflect about my counselling practice and how this could be conducted outdoors. Additionally, I belong to a small network of walk talk therapists. We regularly keep in touch and share our experiences and learning’s.
How did Walk Talk therapy come about?
I found always found walking beneficial. Since my teens, I have always been happier outdoors. When I was going through a difficult period in my early twenties, I walked my way through my difficulties. The fresh air gave me energy and I felt better. I felt connected with nature and the open space brought me happy thoughts. When I was at home, I easily became distracted or my thoughts would run away with me. When a friend of mine was grieving, I offered her to come with me every week. She soon found that being outside allowed her to talk to me freely and she also found herself connected to nature. Being a lover of Claire Baldings BBC Radio 4 Rambling series, I began to think I could do that with my clients. One day a client asked me to have a session outside. We did and it was a productive service. From that day walking therapy became part of my counselling repertoire.
Did you need to change your indemnity insurance?
I informed my counselling insurance company that I was providing counselling outdoors and they said I did not need to change anything (I also provide online counselling). However, in my contract with the client, I include a separate clause asking my client to confirm they are fit (well, there are a lot of hills in Sheffield!) and I ask clients to take responsibility for their own health. Interestingly, Stephen Tame (who trained with Nick Totton, a renowned ecotherapist) has made this comment regarding insurance ‘My personal approach to insurance with client and training work is that it can distract from a shared responsibility to take reasonable responsibility for our physical wellbeing, and can also engender an unconscious view of my clients as potential enemies who may attack me through complaint or legal action.’
Does your supervisor work differently when you discuss outdoor client sessions?
No! My supervisor has not worked outdoors. Luckily she is supportive out my walking therapy and helps me reflect on the process as part of my own development. I do not use my supervision any differently for clients who I work with face to face, online or outdoors. I may bring to my supervision the method of counselling I use but I generally talk about the counselling process, my own reflections and training needs. With all my clients I adhere to the BACP ethical framework and my supervisor also works with this ethical framework.
How do manage safety?
The clients first session is always at my Sheffield Practice in Netheredge. During this session, I will collect the client’s details and if we both feel we can work together, we will arrange our next session outdoors. Clients have to pay me before the session (either via paypal or bank transfer). Each walk I do with my client, I leave details with someone of where I am going and what time I will finish. I never walk in the dark with clients and all my sessions are carried out during the day.
Where do you go?
A lot depends on the client and where they request. We are blessed in Sheffield with plenty green space. With previous clients, I have walked through Whiteley Woods and Graves Park. These parks are limiting (not in space) as they are popular, especially with dog walkers. Lately, a lot of my walks have been from Totley (S17) walking out into the Moors. Here we are less likely to see dog walkers (which is beneficial if your clients are afraid of dogs!), plus it gives the client space to shout and scream. The view here is breath taking. I plan my routes beforehand. I usually give my clients 2 options. I offer them a short route (20- 30 minutes) which includes a chair so we can stop to sit if they choose. Alternatively, I choose a route that is longer and will take approximately 40 minutes to walk.
Are there any recommended books you recommend for walk and talk?
Other articles I have written on Walk Talk Therapy