Taking Therapy off the Couch by Dr. Teralyn Sell, LPC, CSAC (Part.1)

During the winter in the Midwest United States many clients display depressive symptoms due to inactivity, lack of sunlight and body chemical shifts. As an avid jogger myself, I recognize how my own activity level impacts my mood throughout the seasons. I have taken this information and have applied it to my own therapy practice by way of walking and talking with clients.

As clinicians we often tell our clients about the benefit they will experience through exercise. But, we don't often have the experience of movement with them or the ability to get them started. As a solo practitioner I have had the benefit of becoming more creative and flexible in my approach to healing and wellness.

Using physical activity is not necessarily new in the field of psychology and can actually be dated back to Anna Freud's (1928) use of play therapy. But this was primarily done with children and adolescents rather than with adults. Hays (1999) points out that recreation therapy is used with adults but this is confined mostly to institutions. Generally we give clients information about the benefits of exercise or just more daily movement and send them on their way.

Currently there is very little research out there on mild physical exercise within the confines of mental health treatment outside of relaying the importance of exercise to our clients. However, there are anecdotal reports of clear thinking and synthesizing new information during and just after exercise. As an EMDR clinician I could hypothesize that this clarity could be in relation to a bilateral activity such as walking while processing challenging information with a therapist. This is only an undeveloped theory of my own which could stand a research challenge.

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