TAKE IT OUTSIDE...
WHY THERAPY IS LEAVING THE COUCH BEHIND
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“Clinic settings can be quite confronting, particularly for those who are very withdrawn or find expressing themselves difficult,” psychologist Dr Samantha Clarke, of wellbeing business Mind Body Resilience, says.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.