Walking silently on a trail
Throwing snowballs at trees
Making art in nature
Greeting strangers in the park
Holding a frog
Making snow angels
Noticing the sound of the rain
Sipping hot cocoa together
Noticing the changes in the sky
Breathing in fresh air
These are some of the experiences I’ve had with clients over the past few years – made possible by the fact that our weekly therapy session is outside. When I first started offering therapy outside it was out of necessity during the pandemic. It was wonderful to reconnect with clients in person after months of virtual sessions. But meeting outdoors felt very different…the vast openness around us instead of the office walls, no therapy “supplies” on hand, and lots of unpredictability in the therapy hour between the elements, bugs and various happenings in a public park. It felt very odd at first…and then it felt very comfortable…and that’s why I’ve never left.
I’ve had a love of the outdoors since I can remember. Some of my greatest childhood memories are playing in the sandbox, exploring backyard “woods” with friends, riding bikes and swimming. I went to a wilderness summer camp for four years as a teen and spent 45 days on a sailboat in college. I’ve hiked, camped and explored new places with my husband. As a parent, the solution to any big feeling (mine or my children’s) has always been to “get outside.” I swim, kayak, bike, run and love to swing in a hammock. Outdoors, particularly by any type of water, is my happy place.
I love how being outdoors makes me feel – present, relaxed, energetic, mindful, playful.
I love dressing for the outdoors – comfortable, practical, relaxed, informal.
I love the simplicity of being outdoors – bring only what you need and can carry, leave no trace.
I love feeling connected to the earth and getting my hands dirty
I feel so much more comfortable being a therapist outside than I did in an office setting. So much that even when everyone started moving back indoors, I stayed. I decided the outdoors would be my new office. I found a great park close to my house and presented my new plan to my clients. Weekly therapy outside….rain or shine….hot or cold….year round. I was surprised how many clients were on board.
Offering therapy in the outdoors has allowed me to experience things in the moment together with clients, to bring a sense of realness & simplicity to my work and to witness client’s fears and worries first hand in ways I never could inside – and it’s shown me that rocks and sticks can be great therapy tools.
Of course it’s not all sunny days. We’ve been caught in the rain. We’ve been freezing. We’ve been dripping with sweat. We’ve had wet and cold feet. We’ve had the wind sweep away artwork, playing cards or papers. We’ve sat on the grass or in the dirt when the park is crowded. We’ve been interrupted by strangers. We’ve been stung by bees, sunburned and bitten by mosquitos. We’ve been wanting to be inside. But we stayed. And we grew more resilient in the process. The fact that my clients keep coming back shows me I’m not alone in this love – and need – for the outdoors.