Archive of ‘Ecotherapy’ category

Walk and Talk Therapy: Is it Right for Me?

Walk and Talk Therapy is an approach to traditional talk therapy where the therapist and client take their session outdoors and walk together while discussing the client’s issues. This type of therapy is becoming increasingly popular and provides similar benefits to those found in mindfulness, physical activity, ecotherapy, and more traditional psychotherapy.  

Benefits of Walk and Talk Therapy:

Some of the benefits include:

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety: Walking is a proven stress reliever and can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters that help to alleviate stress and anxiety. When you combine walking with talking about your feelings, you get a powerful combination that can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
  • Moving Forward: Taking a walk with your therapist can help shift the focus towards moving forward; this added movement and momentum can help in getting unstuck. Walking can also provide a natural rhythm to the conversation, making it easier to stay on topic and keep the conversation flowing.
  • Bilateral Stimulation: Bilateral stimulation is any method of stimulating the body and brain in a rhythmic right-left pattern. It is often used in therapeutic settings (such as in EMDR therapy) to help reduce the symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Bilateral stimulation can help regulate the brain’s response to stress and trauma, promote a sense of relaxation and well-being, and allow for the processing of emotions and memories previously stuck in the nervous system. Walking is a simple form of bilateral stimulation, stimulating and balancing the right and left brain. (EMDR founder Francine Shapiro was taking a walk in the park when she first realized the potential benefits bilateral stimulation could have on the nervous system.)
  • Supplemental Health Benefits: Walking is a low-impact exercise that is beneficial for both physical and mental health. When you participate in Walk and Talk Therapy, you get the added benefit of exercising while working on your mental health.
  • Healing through Nature: Spending time in nature is linked with many physical and mental health benefits, including decreased depression, decreased stress and anxiety, improved ADHD symptoms, increased focus, improved sleep, and improved overall well-being. (For more research, see’s Benefits of Nature page.)

Risks of Walk and Talk Therapy

Like any form of therapy, Walk and Talk Therapy carries some risks. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Safety Concerns: Being outdoors has inherent safety risks, such as from a sunburn, bug bites, or other injury. If you’re walking in a park or other public space, be aware of potential hazards such as uneven terrain, traffic, or other people.
  • Weather Conditions: Walk and Talk Therapy sessions are subject to the weather. If it is too hot, too cold, or too wet, it may be uncomfortable or even unsafe to continue the session. Consider having a backup plan (such as telehealth) and be ready to communicate with your therapist concerning any last minute changes.
  • Distractions: Walking in a public space can be distracting, with other people, animals, or vehicles around. These distractions can make it difficult to focus on the therapy session and may reduce its effectiveness.
  • Confidentiality Concerns: Walking in a public space may make it more difficult to maintain confidentiality. While therapists will continue to take measures to protect their clients’ privacy, it’s important to be aware that you might encounter someone you know on the trail, or a stranger could overhear part of your conversation.

Is Walk and Talk Therapy the right form of therapy for me?

Here are some reasons why Walk and Talk Therapy might be right for you:

  • You enjoy being outdoors and find it safe, calming, and relaxing.
  • You’re tired of traditional talk therapy sessions that take place in an office or clinic, and want to try something different.
  • You’re feeling stuck and are curious to try a more active and dynamic approach, as compared to more traditional talk therapy sessions.
  • You need a change in routine. You’re hoping to get in more steps, spend more time in nature, and reap the benefits of regular exercise and time spent outdoors.

As with any form of therapy, Walk and Talk Therapy has its own unique risks and benefits. With proper planning and precautions, many of these risks can be minimized. If you’re curious to learn more, talk to a licensed therapist or counselor to discuss whether Walk and Talk Therapy is a good fit for your specific needs and circumstances, and to address any concerns you may have.

Written By: Jim Rowell, LCSW
Currently offering Walk and Talk Therapy in Northwest Hills, Westlake, and East Austin.

Coping with a Changing Climate

Managing Eco Anxiety, Climate Grief, and Climate-Related PTSD

Author’s Note: When I first wrote this blog post, I did not realize just how much the start of this month would feel like a reminder of February two years ago. Experiencing new extreme weather events, or simply experiencing reminders of past events, can precipitate an increase in symptoms. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help as needed in the days and weeks ahead.

This February marks the two year anniversary of Winter Storm Uri, in which millions of Texans experienced a threat to meeting their basic needs for safety and survival, and hundreds of families experienced losing a loved one. Many Texans may find they continue to experience symptoms of grief, anxiety, or PTSD following these events. For me, I grieve when I pass by the now-dead grapefruit tree that once provided fresh fruit for me and my neighbors this time of year, a reminder also of the many lives lost, and I feel anxious whenever I receive another text from ERCOT requesting that we conserve energy, hear a weather report calling for an extreme cold snap, or encounter a news story about another climate disaster.

Ecoanxiety and Climate Grief

Over the last decade, mental health experts have developed new terminology to help us understand the impacts of our changing climate on our mental health. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines ecoanxiety as a chronic fear of environmental doom–watching the effects of climate change and worrying about the future for oneself, one’s children, or future generations.[1] Climate grief, also called ecological grief or eco-grief, is the emotional response to losses or anticipated losses due to environmental change (including, but not limited to, loss of species, loss of ecosystems, and loss of meaningful landscapes). [2] Younger people, including children, adolescents, and young adults, are more at risk of experiencing ecoanxiey and climate grief. Teachers, parents, individuals who work closely with the natural world, and members of Indigenous communities are also uniquely affected.

Climate-Related PTSD

Research indicates that extreme weather events, such as Winter Storm Uri, are followed by increased rates of mental illness.[3] By some estimates, 30% – 40% of disaster survivors develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Following Hurricane Harvey, one study found that 46% of Houston-area residents developed PTSD symptoms and more than half of the study’s participants had increased symptoms of anxiety. Individuals who have survived multiple extreme weather events are more likely to develop such symptoms.

How to Cope with a Changing Climate

Whether you’re experiencing ecoanxiety, climate grief, or climate-related PTSD, there are many steps you can take to help yourself cope:

  • Control what you can: work with family and community members to develop an emergency plan and take simple steps to improve your disaster preparedness.
  • Develop and maintain social connections: invest in your personal support network and develop community resilience by getting together with neighbors and other like-minded people.
  • Talking about it helps: find a place to discuss feelings and allow yourself to grieve.
  • Spend time in nature: allow yourself to experience the positive mental health benefits of time spent outdoors.
  • Take action to address climate change: becoming more informed about climate change, and finding ways to take action in your community can help mitigate the negative mental health effects.
  • Take care of your mental health (before and after disaster strikes): attend to your mental health needs by reaching out to a mental health care professional when you’re in need of support. SAMHSA runs a free and confidential 24-hour Disaster Distress Hotline; you can call or text 800-985-5990.[4]

Talking to Kids about Ecoanxiety and Climate Grief

Kids pick up on what’s happening in the world around them, and young people are disproportionately affected by ecoanxiety and climate grief. If you believe your child is experiencing ecoanxiety, climate grief, or climate-related PTSD, you can help support them in the following ways:[5]

  • Pay attention when your kids are worried.
  • Listen. Ask questions about what they already know. Try to understand what their worries are.
  • Don’t dismiss their feelings or worries with phrases like “everything’s fine.”
  • Do reassure them that you will do everything you can to keep them safe and make the world a better place.
  • Follow-up: take action towards disaster preparedness and to prevent climate change in your community and find developmentally appropriate ways for your child to become engaged as well.
  • Reach out for extra mental health support as needed.

References and Additional Resources


[2] Is climate grief something new? by Summer Allen ( Feb 19, 2020.

[3] “It’s destroying me”: Storm after storm, climate change increases strain on Texans’ mental health by Erin Douglas (Texas Tribune) Sept 8, 2022.

[4] How to care for your mental health in the age of climate change and worsening natural disasters by María Méndez (Texas Tribune) Sept 8, 2022.

[5] How To Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change Anxiety by Dr Robin Cooper (APA) Apr 22, 2022.

Mindfulness for Kids: Embracing the Power of Nature

Ahhh it’s FINALLY that time of year when it finally doesn’t feel like a million degrees outside or that you’re swimming in the humidity every time you walk out the door. This year especially, going outside feels particularly powerful and therapeutic (for most – I recognize that this might not be everyone’s experience of nature!).  As Hippocrates once said “Nature itself is the best physician.”  But how exactly does going outdoors help us?  Getting outside activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us and our bodies to feel calm.  It also provides a great landscape to practice mindfulness (paying attention to the present moment on purpose) by providing a fun, ever changing sensory experience (i.e. bird song, leaves rustling, changing colors with the seasons).  It can help children develop and enhance focus/attentional skills and promote feelings of calmness and relaxation. 

Mindfulness Activities

With that, here are some suggested activities to do outdoors with kiddos. (Note: all activities were found and inspired by the book Mindfulness and Nature-Based Therapeutic Techniques for Children by Cheryl Fisher, PhD., NCC, LCPC, ACS)

Color Walk

Purpose: Helps children to focus attention and be present in the moment as they look and match color cards to natural items! 

Supplies: Squares of color (paint samples or you can create your own!)

  1. Choose a color from your deck of color “cards” and hold onto it as you walk.
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes.  As you begin to walk, look all around and notice all the things that are similar in color to your card.
  3. As you notice something, share it out loud or quietly say it to yourself.
  4. When the timer is done, stop and select another color from the deck and repeat the steps! 
  5. You can follow up with your child at the end of the walk with questions such as: 
    1. “How was it to focus on your card?”
    2. “What surprised you about this?”
    3. “What did you notice?” 

You can adapt this activity to fit the needs of your child.  For example, ten minutes may seem challenging (which is understandable)! Start with setting the timer at 3-5 minutes and work on increasing the time.  It doesn’t matter how many cards you are able to complete-the goals is to develop attentional skills at a safe pace 🙂 

Tabletop Sand Garden

Purpose: To calm and focus the mind by creating a natural scene or environment in the sand box.

Supplies: Tupperware or plastic container with lid filled with sand, bag, natural items found in walk.

  1. Start by taking a walk in nature.  Instruct your child to collect natural items that stand out to them (preferably ones that are not picked but lying on the ground already).
  2. Once your child has collected items, open the sand container.  Place and arrange the natural items to create a scene or a design.  
  3. Follow up with questions such as: 
    1. “How was that for you?”
    2. “How did your mind/body feel while you were creating your scene?” 
    3. “What does this mean to you?”

4.  Once they have time to reflect, take the natural items and ask your child to replace the natural items in a place they choose outdoors. 

If I were a Tree…

Purpose: Art activity to help children express themselves through a natural symbol.

Supplies: Paper, coloring utensil (markers, crayons, pencils, etc.)

  1. Find a spot in nature
  2. Close your eyes and imagine you are a tree
  3. Consider the following questions and read out loud to your child: 
    1. What kind of tree would you be? 
    2. Are you a young tree or an old tree? 
    3. Do you have flowers or fruit?
    4. How do animals live around you?
    5. Do you have deep roots? 

4.  Draw your picture of the tree using paper and coloring materials 

5. Consider follow-up/reflection with prompt such as “Tell me about your creation.”  

Sound Mapping

Purpose: Enhance listening skills for attention and body/spatial awareness

Supplies: Large piece of paper, tape, cardboard, pencil

  1. Find a place outdoors that feels safe.  Put the piece of paper in front of you and secure it by either taping it to a wall (if there is one) or by taping it to cardboard.  
  2. Close your eyes and begin to listen to noises around you.  Take your pencil and “map” out the sounds you hear and draw symbolically what they sound like to you (for example: maybe you hear birds chirping in front of you and you place it on the top of the paper with symbols).
  3. Map all sounds around you with shapes, lines, symbols to create a “sound symphony.” 
  4. Once completed, open your eyes and title your piece.
  5. You can reflect with your child with suggested questions such as: 
    1. “What was that like?”
    2. “Were some sounds easier to recognize? Were some harder to recognize?” 
    3. “What surprised you about your map when you opened your eyes?” 

Each of these activities can be modified to fit the needs of each child/teen completing them.  Part of the process is to be with what unfolds, so if the activities don’t go exactly as planned, that is OK! Mindfulness is a practice that is ever-evolving. 

While I hope these provide a way to harness nature’s power,  my greater hope is that it gives you a fun bonding opportunity with your kiddos in the midst of a challenging time.  Parenting is HARD and I see and value you, parents.  Happy exploring, friends! 

Presley Pacholick, LCSW
Written By: Presley Pacholick, LCSW, RPT

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