If you’ve ever been so mad you needed to take a walk… If you’ve ever gone outside to “clear my mind”… If you’ve ever laid outside and let the sun melt your stress away… Then you intuitively understand that movement and time in nature has a huge impact on our mental health.
Walk and Talk therapy, also known as hiking therapy, allows you to address your emotional and mental health outside the walls of our St. George UT therapy office. I think the team at Guided Wellness would agree that our office is pretty comfy! But the comfy couch and stocked minifridge we keep for you cannot compare to the healing powers of meeting with a therapist while you hike one of the many trails at Pioneer Park or gaze at the cactus blooms at Red Hills Desert Garden.
Are you curious about Walk and Talk therapy and if it could help you work through your depression or anxiety? Let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) we get about Walk and Talk therapy.
Q: What is Walk and Talk therapy?
A: Walk and Talk therapy, or hiking therapy, is becoming increasingly more common in the mental health realm. It’s an experience that combines traditional talk therapy with the healing power of physical movement and the outdoors by holding therapy sessions on local hiking or walking trails. The city of St. George, UT as well as Washington. UT and Ivins, UT offers a variety of accessible parks and trails where counseling sessions can take place.
Q: What are the benefits to Walk and Talk therapy?
A: There are many physical health benefits associated with physical movement and spending time outdoors. While we want to address your mental health, it’s important to note that certain mental health struggles, such as depression and anxiety, have physical symptoms that can be positively impacted by time outdoors and movement.
For example, depression can include experiences of decreased energy and interrupted sleep cycles; Walk and Talk therapy tends to increase energy and improve sleep. Let’s explore some other benefits:
- Lower levels of stress
- Increased levels of dopamine (the happiness hormone)
- Increased vitamin D which strengthens bones and regulates your immune system
- Increased energy
- Decrease blood pressure
- Reduce risk of heart disease and other health conditions
- Improved sleep
- Improved circulation
- Improved sexual health
- Increased strength and endurance
Along with the physical benefits of movement and spending time outdoors, there are numerous mental health benefits, too. And that’s what we really love. After all, this is about helping you heal from your depression, anxiety and PTSD. The mental health benefits of Walk and Talk / hiking therapy include:
- Better concentration
- More creativity
- Improved mental clarity
- Better mood
- Increased empathy and cooperation
- Improved memory
- Increased happiness
- Increased ability to experience positive emotions
- Improved sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Decreased mental distress
Q: Where do you do Walk and Talk therapy?
A: Walk and Talk therapy, or hiking therapy, can be done in any outdoor environment such as local parks, local hiking trails, or even urban street settings. In Southern Utah, there are many places for Walk and Talk therapy such as Pioneer Park, Red Hills Desert Garden, or Vernon Worthen Park. We change our location to provide a variety of levels of activity (from clients who want to hike on wild, uneven terrain to those who require a paved surface). We also take into account the season and temperature; the Chuckwalla trail head is lovely when the sun is low and cool while the shaded paths at Tonaquint Park are great year round.
Q: What do I need to bring to my Walk and Talk therapy session?
A: It’s a good idea to bring a water bottle with you to your Walk and Talk therapy session; we want to make sure you stay hydrated while walking and talking during your counseling session. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing that will keep you relaxed as you walk. Be sure to wear appropriate sun protection, too, such as a hat, sunscreen, or sun protective clothing.
Q: I don’t like to hike. Won’t I hate Walk and Talk therapy?
A: Not necessarily! We will meet at a location that works for you and your goals. While some individuals may prefer more urban green spaces like parks or dirt trails, Walk and Talk sessions around neighborhood sidewalks are just as effective. There are also locations that provide shaded benches. If we need to take a break from walking and sit for a while, we can continue talking and processing just the same as if we were in an office, but you still get the added benefits of being outdoors. Walk and Talk therapy does not need to be rigorous- it can be as leisurely of a walk as you’d like.
Q: How long is a Walk and Talk therapy session?
A: Walk and Talk therapy sessions are the same duration as your regular office session would be, typically 50-90 minutes. You can walk or hike for the entire time or take as much time as you like resting. Remember, this is not about physical exertion or getting a workout. Most Walk and Talk therapy locations in Southern Utah also have benches and parts of the session can be done while sitting, too, if walking for the full session seems daunting. We love the bench swings along the Red Hills Desert Garden path and the pagodas at Vernon Worthen Park in downtown St. George.
Q: Can I bring my dog with me to our Walk and Talk session?
A: In most cases, yes, your dog is welcome to come. Where we meet, the length of our session, and your dog’s personality will all be considered in determining if it’s appropriate for your dog to join. We expect you to keep your dog leashed as local laws expect. As much as we love furry friends, it is an interruption in the flow of the session to call for your dog and wonder where they’ve gone. If having your dog with us in the session will be too much of a distraction to the process of psychotherapy, they may need to wait at home for you.
Q: What will my Walk and Talk therapy session look like?
A: After our initial intake session at the Guided Wellness Counseling therapy office, we can start our first Walk and Talk session. We will meet at a predetermined location in Southern Utah, such as Pioneer Park, Red Hills Desert Garden or Snow Canyon at our appointed therapy time. We will start walking around the park side by side.
As we walk, we’ll discuss thoughts that come to your mind in the context of your overall goals, just like we would if we were sitting in an office. We might practice a mindfulness activity together during the session or perhaps sit in silent reflection for a moment on a bench. Perhaps, if it feels right to you, we may do some light stretching to start or end our session with, using the intentional movement of our body to calm our nervous system and reduce anxiety.
Q: What if I see someone I know?
A: This is a possibility as Walk and Talk therapy is not private like an inside office allows. Before we begin our Walk and Talk therapy sessions, we will set boundaries for what to do if you see someone you know. I will never introduce myself as a therapist or counselor to anyone we encounter. If you would like to say hello to someone you know, you can. If you’d prefer not to, then that is ok too. If you’d like to share who I am, then you can. If you aren’t comfortable with that, then I can merely be an acquaintance of yours out on a walk. How we handle this situation is determined by your comfort level.
Q: What if I need to use the bathroom during our Walk and Talk therapy session?
A: In most cases, we will try to do Walk and Talk, or hiking, sessions, in locations that have accessible restrooms. If the location for that day’s session does not have a restroom, this will be communicated to you beforehand.
Q: Will we always meet at the same location?
A: No. While there can be many benefits for revisiting the same place every session, there are also benefits for changing the scenery every now and then. We will likely change session locations every 4 weeks. The location will always meet your needs for accessibility, such as if you require a paved path to walk or move safely.
Q: What time of day are Walk and Talk sessions?
A: As we live in Southern Utah, we want to start our Walk and Talk sessions in the morning to avoid higher temperatures and direct sun during the summer months. Later evening sessions may also be appropriate in some cases. Many people report improved mood throughout the day when they integrate time outdoors and/or movement during the morning hours.
Q: What happens if there is bad weather?
A: In the event of inclement weather such as rain, we will hold our session indoors at the Guided Wellness Counseling office. However, there may be days where rain is unexpected, and we choose to start our session outdoors. Walking in light rain with a rain jacket can be very cathartic for some individuals and could create a unique healing opportunity to release narratives or thoughts that no longer serve you and figuratively and literally wash them away.
Q: How do I get started with Walk and Talk therapy?
The first step is to call for your free 15-minute phone consultation. During this call we’ll simply explore your reason for wanting therapy (e.g. stress reduction, healing depression, reducing anxiety and panic attacks, etc.) and your goals. Then we’ll match you with just the right therapist and give you information about their schedule and rates. You will have all the information you need to make a decision about your care. Then you’ll attend your first intake appointment and decide if your future sessions will include Walk and Talk therapy! We can hardly wait to take these healing steps with you, literally side-by-side.