The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

Psy­chol­o­gist Maz Miller used to pre­scribe fresh air and ex­er­cise to her pa­tients all the time, un­til one day she got tired of talk­ing about it. Frus­trated with the lim­i­ta­tions of her of­fice, she got up mid-ses­sion and took her client out for a walk. “I could tell there was some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says. “The client seemed to open up a lot more; the whole ses­sion was flow­ing.”

The re­sults were so good, Miller de­cided to ditch her clinic and work out­doors in­stead. She now of­fers walk and talk ther­apy, and is one of a grow­ing num­ber of ther­a­pists tak­ing a fresh ap­proach to men­tal health treat­ment.

“Peo­ple are look­ing for a more nat­u­ral set­ting than the tra­di­tional of­fice-based treat­ment,” she says.

Given that one in five Aussies ex­pe­ri­ence men­tal ill­ness each year, and 54 per cent of those don’t ac­cess treat­ment for their con­di­tion, Miller has a point.

“Clinic set­tings can be quite con­fronting, par­tic­u­larly for those who are very with­drawn or find ex­press­ing them­selves dif­fi­cult,” psy­chol­o­gist Dr Sa­man­tha Clarke, of well­be­ing busi­ness Mind Body Re­silience, says. “Of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent types of ther­apy can mean more peo­ple are able to ac­cess as­sis­tance.”

A unique ther­apy en­vi­ron­ment can help break down bar­ri­ers and ad­dress emo­tional is­sues, but still make you feel safe, she adds.

Here are some of the wild ther­a­pies on of­fer in Aus­tralia.

The con­cept is as sim­ple as it sounds: In­stead of see­ing your psy­chol­o­gist or coun­sel­lor in a clinic, you go for a walk with them. The pace is set to suit the client and the route sticks to quiet, open spa­ces to en­sure pri­vacy. “It just looks like two friends go­ing for a walk,” Miller says.

Mul­ti­ple stud­ies have linked ex­er­cise to men­tal health gains, so fus­ing walk­ing with tra­di­tional ther­apy has plenty of pos­i­tives.

“It re­duces anx­i­ety and im­proves de­pres­sion, boosts en­ergy and it’s good for sleep,” Miller says, adding that move­ment also seems to in­spire another, un­ex­pected ef­fect: It helps peo­ple open up and get ‘un­stuck’.

Miller says the ca­sual walk and talk ap­proach is par­tic­u­larly good for those suf­fer­ing anx­i­ety or pho­bias, since they’re not con­fined to a room.

“Over­all, we’ve no­ticed that peo­ple get bet­ter quicker,” she adds. “We’ve also no­ticed that our can­cel­la­tions are a lot lower. Peo­ple are more mo­ti­vated to do this style of ther­apy.”

How much: About $140 for an hour-long ses­sion, and Medi­care re­bates may be avail­able.

Try it: Miller’s prac­tice, Walk Dif­fer­ent (walkd­if­fer­ent.com.au), op­er­ates in south­ern Syd­ney and the Illawarra. If you’re al­ready work­ing with a ther­a­pist, ask if they’d try a walk­ing ses­sion, or search for walk and talk ther­apy in your area.

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