Maple Grove is home to many walking paths, and therapist Jenny Reimann has decided to take advantage of that amenity.
“I have been always interested in fitness and its impact on mental health. After finding much research supporting the positive impact that exercise has on mental health and researching other clinicians that have added this to their practices nationwide, I decided it was time to integrate it into my practice,” she says.
Reimann’s research unearthed three important facts: Exercise has positive impacts on mental health as noticed in an increase in endorphins, more time spent outdoors allows for increased exposure to vitamin D, which affects mood and talking through issues while exercising has been found to have a positive impact on some patient’s ability to process difficult emotions.
She researched the idea for more than a year, but had a sense that what was generally called Walk and Talk Therapy was a good bet. Since May, she’s made a practice of taking a walk with clients. “It is amazing how comfortable patients are with this technique,” she says. “It really comes naturally.”
It’s challenging to confront difficult feelings and doing it in a face-to-face interaction sometimes proves intense. Walking beside someone outdoors may allow for easier engagement, with visual distractions and the calming effects of nature. The multi-sensory experience alone may prove enough to encourage willingness to discover words for feelings often bottled inside.
Among her patients, Reimann has seen specific benefits including an increase in self-awareness, relaxation and an increased ability to combat depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. She engages adults in this therapy option, with consent. Because individuals, couples and families see her to address these very concerns, the ambulatory option turns out to be a good fit.
Reimann chooses to walk in Elm Creek Regional Park, where long paved and unpaved trails wind through nearly 5,000 acres of park land. The walls of the “office” are expanded into an outside atmosphere, but the boundaries of conventional therapy remain.
Before the therapy begins, clients sign a waiver to confirm complete understanding of the physical activity involved. As far as confidentiality is concerned, counselors keep an eye on those in the park and sometimes stop to let others pass, so as not to have sensitive exchanges overheard. However, patients recognize that complete confidentiality cannot be insured and accept that other people may hear parts of their conversations. Early discussion covers how patients would like to respond should they run into someone they know.
Most clients embrace the opportunity to experience the great outdoors and feel better physically and emotionally because of the setting. The difficult work of counseling sessions may seem more pleasant while people move forward physically, in the same way that they want to move forward psychologically.
“Using both physical and mental energy to facilitate changes is an active approach to change,” Reimann says.
For patients, it’s a breath of fresh air. For Jenny Reimann, it seems work is a walk in the park.
The Outdoor Office
Though not covered by insurance, therapist Jenny Reimann encourages participants to use an HSA card to cover their Walk and Talk therapy. Sessions at Reimann Counseling Clinic run the typical allotted time and guidelines are established prior to the sessions that address confidentiality, pace, inclement weather, etc.