WALK and TALK THERAPY (WATT)
with Lisa Wessan MSW, LICSW
The view from our bench...
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ~ John Muir
Henry David Thoreau struggled with melancholia, what we would call depression and anxiety today. Being in nature helped him to heal and recover from his malaise. According to Thoreau researcher Richard Higgins, "Trees were his allies in his battle with melancholia."1
There is growing evidence that exercise interventions are associated with significant benefits for patients who struggle with depression, mood disorders, anxiety, addictions and obsessions. These findings have led to more evidence that exercise may serve as an alternative or a supplement to traditional forms of therapy2.
Both personally and professionally I have also come to believe that walking in nature has powerful and restorative healing effects, and for those who are able to participate there are excellent benefits:
Mental health benefits3:
3) A heightened sense of presence.
4) Decreased states of aggression.
5) Reduced anxiety and depression.
"When I walk in the woods, my mind becomes unclutched..."
...says one of my friends when we go hiking. Being in nature and allowing your mind to relax helps to create a positive environment to safely defrost difficult thoughts and feelings.5
"Forest Bathing" is a well known Japanese practice for managing stress and connecting with Nature.
Walk and Talk Therapy is not new...thought leaders such as psychiatrists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud often took their patients out for long walks as part of "the cure." For today, we keep our walks within the therapy hour.
More recently, Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc. was known to insist on conducting his one on one meetings on walks. He always preferred walking to get the ideas going. Jobs knew that our brains work at a much higher capacity and provide peak performance when we walk and talk.
Our WATT consists of approximately 35-40 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace, followed by 10-15 minutes reserved at the end for sitting on a lovely bench overlooking a beautiful lake. If you want to walk less or more, that's up to you.
During this time we review and summarize what you were sharing on the walk, and then contemplate your solution-focused next steps while we gaze out at the lake and allow ourselves to be filled with nature's healing energy.
WATT is not for everyone...clearly if you hate to walk, or loathe being outdoors, or live too far away from this walk, WATT is not for you (unless you want to practice your DBT Skill of Opposite Action!)
In addition, the comforts of my office in Westford, MA, remain available at any time should you change your mind.
If you are a current client and would like to experiment and try a WATT session, just let me know.
If you are new, we will have our first two initial consultations in my office. After that, we can start your WATT program. Click HERE to request a free introductory phone call and explore the possibility.
FAQs for WATT
Q: Why are the first two WATT sessions held in
Q. What hours are available for WATT?
Q: Where is this walk held?
Q: Approximately how far do we walk?
Q: Is this a hilly walk, or flat?
Q: What happens if it rains?
A: We meet in my office.
Q: How do I get started?
2.. If new to my practice, complete the therapy registration forms and the WATT Waiver that I will send you after we have spoken. Then we can schedule your initial consultation.
1. Higgins, R. (2017). Thoreau and the Language of Trees. University of California: Oakland.
2. E.W. (2008). Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. Vol. 62; 25-29.
3. Hays, K.F. (1999). Working It Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy. American Psychological Association: Washington, DC.
4. Macpherson, H. et al (2017). A life-long approach to physical activity for brain health. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. May 23;9:147.
5. The Week (July 17, 2015). Nature's Cure for Anxiety.
Being in nature deepens my connection to all life...and feeling part of the Oneness.
"One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."
~ William Shakespeare
Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2017.
Seen at the Salmon Hatchery in Sitka, Alaska (September
On display at the Visitor's Center at the Mendenhall Glacier
(Juneau, Alaska, September 2017).