An Exploration of the Risks and Benefits of Incorporating Physical Activity, Specifically Walk and Talk Therapy, into the Therapy Session

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Macdonald-Bélanger, Angela
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Accessing mental health support is not an easy feat for many people. From perceived stigmas, associated costs and lack of access, many barriers can impact the ability to attend psychotherapy. Research indicates many positive correlations between physical activity and positive mental health outcomes. Additionally, much research exists supporting the benefit that time spent in nature has on people experiencing isolation, stress, burnout, depression or other mental health disorders. Incorporating both physical activity and nature into therapy by performing walk and talk therapy has excellent potential to help many different presentations of mental illness, can help eliminate barriers and lead to better outcomes for many. This project reviewed studies on the potential risks and benefits of performing walk and talk therapy with diverse populations presenting with various symptoms of different mental health issues. Studies included both therapist and client perspectives and a variety of variables that come into play during walk and talk sessions. The research revealed that walk and talk therapy elicited many biological responses, including connections to the natural world and positive neurobiological changes. Psychological responses, including improved mood, focus and a lessening of symptoms for many mental disorders, were also reported. Finally, social responses, such as feelings of social connectedness and reduced stigma, were also associated with walk-and-talk therapy. It is recommended that psychologists wanting to incorporate walk and talk therapy into their practice consider possible risks and ensure all ethical guidelines are followed to hopefully reduce barriers and more positive overall outcomes for their clients.
walk and talk therapy , eco-therapy , nature-based therapy , alternative therapy , evidence-based therapy , physical activity , outdoor psychotherapy , mental illness , mechanisms of change , adults
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess