Taking Therapy Outdoors – a client’s perspective

Has the new lockdown made you worry about accessing counselling? Telephone counselling might not appeal to you and you’re finding that online contact is making you weary. Or perhaps your current home situation is not the right space for you to do online appointments comfortably. All this might be putting you off getting help and support.  Have you thought of having a counselling session outdoors?

Going outdoors for a ‘walk and talk’ style appointment, with safe distancing measures in place, does not affect the quality of the conversation and it might be a way that you can get support sooner

We know that being outdoors in nature, throughout the seasons, can help with conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as help people cope with feelings of sadness or loss.

We also know that being outdoors has huge benefits to our health and well-being, where there is space to think, to feel, to be. Apart from the obvious physical benefits such as the natural endorphins that come from being active and outdoors there are other benefits too.

Here are some of the questions people often ask about walk and talk counselling.

What kind of therapy is it? 

Outdoor therapy generally means you walk side by side in a natural environment and some people find this less intense than being in a more formal setting and allows them to say what they need to say.

Walking and talking can reduce the anxiety that can sometimes come with initial meetings and can help you feel more at ease and make it easier for you to say what’s on your mind. It’s a more relaxed way of working and because of this some people find that they can begin to deal with their difficulties more quickly.

Using the landscape can help you locate your internal, sometimes hidden feelings. Being outdoors can help create clarity around a situation, help you understand things better and help you find inner resources to deal with what is troubling you. If we pause, reflect and connect with nature we find a different kind of energy to deal with the stuff that’s going on for us.

Does every counsellor offer outdoor sessions?

Every counsellor has had training in a certain way of working – you might read things like ‘person-centred, CBT or solution focused’ on a counsellor’s profile or website. If you are unsure you can ask or email. Outdoor counsellors will be trained in outdoor working involving risk assessment, health and safety and have insurance that covers working outdoors. Again, you should be able to find this out on profiles or websites

How does it work going outside, is it the same as an indoor session?

The session usually lasts for one hour, though sometimes counsellors will offer longer sessions. You and your counsellor will usually chat through what you want to focus on within the session and then you will simply walk and talk. There might be opportunities to do more focused work which means you may stay in one spot for a while to chat through the things that are troubling you.

Do I have to be fit? 

You do not need to be ‘super fit’, used to walking or even used to being outdoors – most counsellors have a range of routes they use and will go at your pace.

What happens when the weather is bad? 

Waterproofs, walking boots or wellies help on the rainy days, but most counsellors have alternative options available if it is too wet or windy to be outdoors.

Is it private and what happens if we meet others on the walk? 

It is very important that you feel safe and that your session is confidential. Counsellors will normally make agreements with you concerning confidentiality and this is no exception if you are outside. If you happen to meet someone – familiar or unfamiliar – your counsellor will probably have discussed this in the first session and agreed with you what you will do if this happens so that you feel safe.

Can I bring my dog?

Dogs, although lovely to be around, can take up the time you need for yourself so, unless your dog is a registered support dog, counsellors generally don’t allow dogs in the sessions.

These are uncertain times for us all – we don’t really know when things will get better – and in the meantime you may be putting things on hold. Going outside with a counsellor might be just the thing to help you get on the path to feeling better. Why not give it a try.