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“What I’ve noticed is that people extrapolate from very general research [findings] — such as walking as a form of physical exercise is associated with enhanced well-being,” he said. “That’s an idea that’s supported in the research literature. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into a counseling practice.”
As an avid hiker and trail runner, he said he appreciates the idea that there are mental benefits from being active, especially in the outdoors. “Movement and exercise and how that relates to health is an active area of study,” he said. “So it makes sense that people are starting to look at ideas about how to promote a mind-body connection in the context of psychotherapy.”
Still, he said, the walk-talk approach also calls into question the psychotherapy relationship. Therapists and clients aren’t friends, he explained.
“Professional boundaries are very important,” he said, “and there can be enhanced risks of blurred boundaries if one works with clients outside of the office environment.”
Walking therapists say they strive to maintain clear boundaries during their sessions. Rosenbloom said she would never walk to a coffee shop with a client for refreshments after the session. Cockrell is upfront about telling his clients that they are not hanging out — they are there to work.
That work goes on even after the walk is over, Rosenbloom said, but adding a walk to the traditional talk often leaves clients with a feeling of accomplishment.
“Even if they’re feeling stuck, they’ve done something about it,” she said. “They’ve gotten up and they’ve actually moved.”
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488