Taking Therapy Outside: an alternative way to meet during Covid?
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Many therapists are keen to continue supporting their clients during the pandemic, so when meeting online is not an option, taking therapy outside is becoming a popular alternative.
But what might we need to consider when working in this way? Are we practicing, or attempting to practice, ecotherapy?
Last year I attended Hayley Marshall's 4 day 'Taking Therapy Outdoors' course. It was a rich learning experience and I am still consolidating much of what I learnt. But what I discovered, perhaps rather naively, is that there is much more to taking therapy outside than just 'walking and talking'.
What might we need to consider if we are taking clients from the therapy room, into the great and vast outdoors?
Firstly, you need to get in contact with your insurance company to check you are insured to work outside with clients.
Consider how being outside shifts the therapeutic frame, and some questions to ask yourself might be; how does the contract need to be different to accommodate being outside? How will you manage confidentiality when in a public space and coming into contact with others (animal and human) whilst being outside? Where will you meet, and how accessible is this to the client, and to you (especially if you are seeing more than one client that day)?
How will you manage risk and assess this alongside the client? Are you prepared for the client to see you in all your (perhaps out-of-breath, slipping in mud) humaness?!
There is something very equalising about being outside, you are shoulder to shoulder walking the client's (inner and outer) landscape alongside them, and being able to notice how you experience this is all part of the richness that can come out of working in nature.
If you already use metaphor in your work, then being outside and using nature as the guide to the 'more than human' and 'other than human' entering the therapeutic space, is gives ample opportunity to allow nature to provide something that wouldn't be available in the therapy room.
There is so much to benefit from working in nature, for both client and therapist. But there are also a few things to consider before working in this way.
Here is Hayley Marshall talking about her experiences with Martin Jordan who she has co-written, and co-facilitated trainings with. I'd highly recommend both as resources to get you thinking about how you want to practice working outside, and what nature might bring to your therapeutic relationships.