My journey into becoming a psychotherapist involved, like many of us, a crisis. My recovery included entering into personal therapy and taking up running. I did both reluctantly but also with a confidence that if I could persevere, I would be rewarded. Small steps…
What took me by surprise was the way in which I found myself working through what was coming up in therapy while running. It seemed to make sharing easier, I felt like my thoughts and feelings flowed more naturally than when sitting with my therapist. So inspired was I that today I am a running psychotherapist with my own approach I call dynamic running therapy.
I’m often asked what dynamic running therapy is – how does it work, what is suitable for? Fundamentally it’s a fusion of person-centered therapy, movement and nature. I believe it provides many advantages over regular therapy but also recognise that it is not for everyone.
It’s possible to mitigate some of the fears people may have around privacy – we keep on back paths in the park, don’t talk when passing others and prepare a plan should we bump into an acquaintance. For many in full blown crisis the thought of becoming emotionally distraught in public is overwhelming and while there are quiet places in the park and trees to seek comfort under, the safely of a therapist’s consulting room is most likely the more suitable location. All of this I discuss before the first session and offer the choice of inside or outside. Once a decision is made, we stick to that “path”.
For traditionalists the thought of an ever-changing frame (nature x people x route) is challenging. I’ve come to see that nature is the frame and one we can rely on. As I said above, it’s not for everyone – a certain amount of fitness is needed as well. Crucial to dynamic running therapy is that every session is entirely client led – they decide when to sit, walk and run. I follow their lead, sharing their journey. Every step they take I take too. Side by side the therapeutic alliance is often fast and strong. We are not “facing off” – instead we rely on ancient DNA that makes the space naturally and comfortingly confessional. Narratives flow, silences pass easily and the client enjoys the confidence of an active intervention into what may have felt disabling.
Does running make a difference over walking therapy? Maybe for some. My experience is that the choice is all important, those that want to run want to run. I will say this – the more effort you put into therapy the more you get out and I have found this to be true in dynamic running therapy. Pushing the body pushes up the feelings. Anger rises, tears flow, and then we stop.
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.