One to one walk and talk adventure therapy in the outdoors. Observations from five years of practice.
(presented to the 8th International Adventure Therapy Conference, Sydney, 2018)
I am trained in somatic psychotherapy with Bob Palfreyman’s Wholistc Therapy Centre in Hobart.
And bush adventure therapy with Project Hahn Inc. in Tasmania.
I have a post grad certificate in counselling from the School of Psychology, University of Tasmania.
I am a clinical member of the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).
And a member of the Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy Inc (AABAT).
I have over twenty years experience working therapeutically with people in the outdoors.
I am based in Hobart, Tasmania at Geilston Bay and the East Risdon Nature Reserve.
I work in client specific, and activity specific, natural settings around Hobart.
My office is my boat, Water Is Life. It is moored in the bay, and travels to the Hobart CBD for onboard sessions and meetings.
The Landscape We Walk In:
The East Risdon Nature Reserve is a dry open bushland that contains rare plant species, wild native animals, and possibly 60000 years of aboriginal history, layered with just over 200 years of recent history.
A walking track runs through this country, south to north. The reserve’s open country is easy to explore.
It has a western boundary on the Derwent River. This river’s water is significantly impacted by recent industry and population pressure. The Derwent is known by our first nation people as Big River. It flows from the central highlands, and meets the Southern Ocean at Hobart.
This reserve is 10 minutes car travel from Hobart’s city centre.
Modalities and Strategies:
The one to one modalities I work in:
Person centred therapy.
Mindful nature immersion.
Lifelong learning and maturational stage awareness.
Little adventures, and big adventures.
This model from my group work training and experience informs my individual work:
We walk where things intersect:
Mindfulness and immersion.
City and the bush.
The land and the river.
The client and the counsellor.
Right action and wisdom as mediated by the outdoors.
The two paths, along the river, or through the bushland. A choice before each home base session.
The history of therapy and the spontaneity of the natural world.
Little adventures and big adventures.
I work from home base, to other places.
From my sessions:
Ease of talking side by side.
Ease of focusing on the immediate environment, regardless of what is being emoted and/or talked about.
Value adds of exercise, being outdoors, and specific activities.
A sense of safety held by the level of comfort in outdoor environments of the practitioner.
The unplanned use of therapeutic strategies that appear to be triggered by immediate natural events.
The shared sense of doing something different, of being on an adventure.
Participation is not age or gender specific. To some degree it is access specific.
A qualitatively and quantitatively different space. Recognised as quality time, more space, a gentle and safe space.
In note form from session and milestone observations:
Learnt to relax/feel safe/trust
Closer interactions, increased interest in physical activity outdoors. Increases in relaxed affect and patience.
Prepared to trust.
Talking less about computer games, more about what’s happening now. Responding to different male role-modelling, increased self-reflection, engaging in new activities.
Decrease in paranoia, increase in motivation. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Recovered from grief, strengthened sense of self, returned motivation, career choices made, commitment to partnership strengthened.
Specific mental health insights established, specific workplace and relationship issues clarified, increase in self worth and trust in the therapist.
Increased tolerance to stillness and mindfulness, strengthened understanding of family of origin dynamics, and cessation of sessions without explanation.
Valuing of honest male to male sharing of intimate partner relationship landscape and dynamics.
Strong valuing of being outdoors and walking and talking.
High functioning conversations, valuing of walking/talking and nature interactions, and strong rapport built rapidly. (Asperger’s Syndrome)
Well adjusted, discovered issues were principally school based, referred to teaching staff.
Activity based sessions, increase in valuing unique family situation, increased capacity to relate to male father role, and improved self regulation.
Expanded and grounded understandings of self worth and relationship with his mother.
Conclusions From My Practice:
Walk and talk, and activity based individual adventure therapy sessions can be effective across a range of needs. There is evidence to suggest the following:
The outdoor setting is a low pressure social environment that suits many clients as a space in which to participate in therapy.
This modality gives access to clients who do not wish to, or would not, avail themselves to counselling/psychotherapy that takes place indoors, particularly in a small room.
It is suited to clients who enjoy the value adds to the process such as walking, being outdoors, nature contact, adventure activities.
Working therapeutically outdoors in an expansive, low pressure and safe place where nature phenomena dominate over man made structures is well suited to healing childhood trauma, and post traumatic stress.
Working outdoors is effective across a broad range of issues that present in the counselling/psychotherapy environment including workplace issues, relationship couple counselling, maturational support, trauma recovery, ASD socialisation coaching, self acceptance, and intrinsic self worth.
Nick Hall, 2018