It’s been a minute since I’ve been the one who wrote the blog from start to finish. I’ve been so grateful to grow a team---of internal and external support---as the business has grown leaps and bounds over the last two years. That has certainly had to include the bulk of blog writing, as either creative capacity, time ability, or other resources have become limited, and even scarce!
However, there are definitely times I miss being the one to write the thoughts; wrangle the words; synthesize the messaging.
So, here I am, taking a quick minute to write this blog! The beauty and benefits of Park Therapy...from a therapist’s perspective.
Background of Park Therapy in St. Louis
I added Park Therapy, also called walk-and-talk therapy, to the offerings at Marble Wellness in either late May or June 2020. I can paint it altruistically all I want, but to be completely honest with you, it really came from a place of my own need: I had to get out from behind the computer screen.
Readers, it was J-U-N-E 2020. This was the HEIGHT of everything online. I was losing my mind (faking it to the outside, and lying to myself though I was) and had to figure out a way to get out amongst people more often than not.
So, therapy outside it was!
At that time, I chose the beautiful Forest Park as the backdrop for my sessions. It was close to where I lived at the time, allowed me to get to session right after a virtual session, and I knew the park well enough that I could fully pay attention to the client while still guiding us through the perfectly curated 50 minute path (I even knew how to cut the path short and still end up back at our cars if someone was a more leisure walker, or had to take a break on a bench during the session).
It was really interesting to watch the results of therapy through this offering. What I noticed was incredibly cool.
Benefits of Park Therapy
There were some clients I had already been working with who took me up on the offer. Some of these people ended up going deeper into trauma, self-revelation, or places of vulnerability than we ever had before. Which isn’t to say they hadn’t been doing “good therapy” prior to this. But it is definitely to say that Park Therapy helped them break through a ceiling or maybe even a barrier.
That barrier, for many, is "across-from" conversation. This can be tough, especially in times of deep trauma work, heightened vulnerability, and the like. Side-by-side conversation, however, as walking therapy is, allows the client to feel the support of the therapist, without having to “face off” from them. Even without intending to “go there”, many clients found safety in this adjustment to our bodies.
In other instances, park/walking therapy allowed me to demonstrate what I preach routinely: fresh air and walking won’t cure anything, but it is almost a 100% reliable tool for:
decreased anxiety and depression
Which can, in turn, “cure” a lot. It’s easy for people to sit in a room during a therapy session and hear me provide psychoeducation on the benefit of walking, but it is a completely different instance for a client to show up overwhelmed, hurried and harried, and a little cranky to a session and then to have a very pointed debrief at the end of session about their experience of fresh air and some very light to moderate physical movement.
I was also amazed at how quickly some new clients got into the meat of their therapy work when they started with Park Therapy. Now, part of this was definitely pandemic-related. People were so overdue for an outlet, and for people-ing, and for feeling better that they were quite motivated. But I also think there is something to starting with the movement and the walking of Park Therapy.
There’s also research that shows that people end up physiologically in sync when they do a moving activity together like walking, which promotes a heightened sense of safety, trust, and willingness to engage. Hence, the “let’s get into this” approach of some of those new clients.
Park Therapy for Moms
One of my other favorite parts of Park Therapy is how moms can utilize it. I met with so many moms who were SO grateful to:
kill two birds with one 50-minute time period (therapy AND exercise?! What busy mom can’t use that?!)
not have to get a sitter to be able to do in-person therapy
get to use naptime AND in-person therapy (some moms love virtual, but some moms want in-person interaction, but don’t want to get the babysitter, but their baby is too busy for an office visit or their child is a toddler who would need more of mom’s attention than what she should have to give in her therapy appointment). Or even if not naptime, her child was content enough in the stroller that she could do a session while baby/toddler was snacking and observing the world around them.
Park Therapy Can Be Beneficial For So Many Clients
There’s also a lot of benefit to being in nature. We all know that. But to actually get to be talking about hard stuff while you are in a beautiful environment actually allows a greater sense of safety, willingness, etc to get to the hard stuff.
There are times I really miss the days of all of those park sessions. There are also times I don’t, because I kid you not: there were SEVERAL….and I mean SEVERAL days, that I actually walked 12 miles doing back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back walking sessions. I’m laughing now thinking about how tired I was at the end of those days and how my body had to adjust in those first two weeks of walking.
Thinking about it, actually, my brain and listening had to adjust as well. Being a therapist facilitating those sessions was an adjustment for me, also. But it was incredible. I am so glad I added that service for our clients, and I am so glad it is something our whole team still offers.
Please feel free to take us up on it! We’d love to walk…and talk!...with you!
(And please know: you don’t have to sign up for ALL sessions to be walking sessions. You can just use it as an opportunity when it works for you that week!)
So, there you have it, a therapist’s perspective on Park Therapy. It’s an amazing thing, readers. Give it a try. You’ll probably surprise yourself.
If you are ready to try Park Therapy, reach out to us at Marble Wellness. Our team is ready to help you start counseling to live a calmer, happier, and more fulfilled life.
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