Walk and Talk Therapy

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Work is a walk in the park for Clay Cockrell. Instead of seeing patients in a traditional office setting, the Manhattan-based licensed eye contact in the office, chair to chair, knee to knee, revealing very private and possibly painful things,” he tells WebMD. “Walking side-by-side can help a man become vulnerable.”

In addition, he says substance abusers can benefit from walk and talk movement.

Walk and Talk Therapy: Confidentiality Concerns

What happens if a client, wrestling with an explosive or emotional issue encounters someone they know — perhaps a neighbor or work colleague — during a walking psychotherapy session. Would confidentiality be compromised? How would that situation be handled to minimize embarrassment? What are the boundaries?

“Those are exactly the kinds of situations that are a therapist’s responsibility to raise with the client,” says Hays. “If one of us sees somebody we know, we just casually say ‘hello’ and keep on going. It’s not explicit what’s going on. In my experience it’s been fine, not the slightest bit problematic.”

Although it was of initial concern to Cockrell, he says, “It’s just two people walking and talking; there is nothing to say this is a therapy session. If I see a group of people I recognize I can steer us in another direction. I’ve not had a client say it’s uncomfortable.”

Brooks-Fincher says occasionally she or her clients will be greeted by someone they know when in a public area. “It is something I discuss up front. It has been an interruption but not an impediment. We don’t slow down and people realize we are in intense conversation.”

Likewise, weather doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to dedicated walk and talk patients and therapists.

“I walk with my patients 12 months a year,” Cockrell says. “Once my clients have experienced walk and talk they don’t want to go to the office. New Yorkers spend so much time indoors — at home, in the office, in the subway — it’s a nice break. It’s rarely so bad they can’t put on an extra coat and gloves or carry an umbrella.”

Finding a Therapist Who Offers Walk and Talk Therapy

Although not new, a limited number of therapists offer walk and talk therapy. If yours doesn’t, feel free to request it, say experts. None of the therapists WebMD spoke with charge a premium for a walk and talk therapy session over a traditional office session. Hays stresses that therapists don’t need any special training to conduct walk and talk therapy, so if it appeals to you, bring up the possibility.

“I’m getting emails from across the country and across the world,” says Cockrell of interest in the walk and talk movement. “It’s highly appropriate for patients to take control of treatment and ask [a therapist] to think about adding this to his practice.”

The therapists themselves also reap benefits from the practice of walk and talk therapy, which, in turn, benefits the client.

“This has been a very positive thing for me,” says Cockrell. “I find it invigorating. The result is that I’m on my game and my patients feed off my energy. I’m very and focused, very goal-oriented, which is beneficial for them.”

Adds Brooks-Fincher, “I think it keeps me fresh as a therapist to be doing something a little bit different.”

“Sitting is passive, it’s a deflated posture,” says Cockrell. “Walking is literally moving ahead. People feel like they are moving forward in their issues. They can tackle things better and faster.”

Patient Debbie agrees. “I have definitely seen a lot of change and growth in myself all for the positive. I also look forward to seeing [Cockrell]; the sessions are unconventional and there’s a sense of embarrassment that I just don’t feel now. I would definitely recommend it to others.”