I offer outdoor counselling in natural spaces as well as in a purpose-built garden counselling room and online. Counselling that takes place in a room is widely understood and even portrayed in TV shows. Since the pandemic, many people are also aware counselling can take place online. However, there is less awareness that counselling can also take place outside. Therefore, in this blog I will explain what outdoor counselling is and why I choose to offer it.
What is outdoor counselling?
Outdoor counselling is exactly what the name suggests – counselling that takes place outdoors in natural spaces such as parks and woodlands. This may involve walking or sitting together for the whole session or a combination of the two. You do not need to be extremely physically fit to have counselling in this way. If walking, I will always go at your pace (if I can keep up!). What happens in a session may be the same as an indoor session, just in a different environment. There are also possibilities to bring nature more actively into the session, for example by using natural objects.
Reasons I offer outdoor counselling
1. Outdoor counselling can be less intimidating
Going to see a counsellor in an office can feel very intimidating. Working outside can remove some of the things which provoke anxiety. For example, walking or sitting side by side reduces the pressure to maintain eye contact. Silences can feel less awkward as there are always sounds around such as birdsong or leaves rustling in the wind. This doesn’t mean counselling should never take place in a room and this format absolutely works for some people. However, one of the reasons I offer outdoor counselling is to make counselling more accessible for those who may not feel able to attend counselling in a more traditional format.
2. Nature provides many metaphors
Metaphors are incredibly useful in counselling in helping to understand what is going on for someone else. It can be really difficult to put into words what we are experiencing or feeling, which is when a metaphor may help. Being outside and just looking around there are so many metaphors in nature that can help when we are struggling to find the words. As the seasons and weather change, this can also be useful in considering changes in our mood.
3. Movement can help us connect to our bodies
Many clients come to counselling because they are feeling stuck in some aspect of their life. By physically walking in a session, this can help to shift feelings of being stuck. Often we can also hold emotions in our bodies. Talking through things cognitively is not always enough to process those emotions. Being in movement in a session can help to be more connected to what is going on in your body.
4. Spending time in nature benefits mental and physical health
There have been many studies that show spending time in nature benefits both physical and mental health. Mind lists some of the benefits here. As a counsellor, I want to help people to understand themselves and improve their mental and physical health. Therefore, offering counselling in a natural environment can benefit my clients’ health just by being there. Self-care is also a really important aspect of my work as a counsellor. Working outside benefits my own physical and mental health, which helps me to give the most to all my clients.
5. Being side by side promotes equality
There can be a power imbalance in counselling sessions. Clients may see the counsellor as an expert who will tell them what to do. In reality, counsellors are human too and whilst we can offer different perspectives and suggestions, ultimately only you can decide what is best for you. Walking or sitting side by side can help reduce that power balance. You can see that your counsellor is human and may (literally) trip or get stuck in the mud along the way too.
Outdoor counselling can be less intimidating and allow us to draw on nature’s tools, benefitting our mental and physical health. You can read my frequently asked questions about outdoor counselling here. As well as outdoor counselling in natural spaces, I also offer in-person sessions at my nature-inspired counselling room; or online sessions which you can access from home. If you are interested in finding out more about how counselling can help you, in whatever format, please get in touch:
Photo by Louise Gungaram