Running Therapy Is About Getting Outside And Getting Moving

One doctor in London has claimed ownership of a technique for therapy he is calling “Dynamic Running Therapy,” according to The Independent. For his therapy sessions, the doctor removes his patients from what he describes as “the static atmosphere of the therapist’s office” and take them instead to a park or natural area. With some of his patients, they go for a run. Combining classical and evidence based talk therapy techniques with the healing power of nature, there is a greater effect in the therapeutic process. Since a patient does not feel confined in a power struggle, they feel more at ease to open up. The “static” atmosphere of a therapist’s office can present a power struggle because it is the therapist’s domain, oozing officiality and “treatment”.

Physical exercise is a common prescription for recovering from mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders find great relief in the use of physical exercise. Additionally, numerous studies have found that spending time in nature or even being near nature greatly improves the health of the brain and feelings of overall wellness. The Independent cites, “A recent study shows that exercising in a natural environment can make a person feel revitalised and more energetic, as well as less tense, confused, angry, and depressed.” Taking therapy outside can be nothing but a good thing. However, not all outdoor therapy has to include physical movement. Running isn’t for everybody and shouldn’t be a mandated part of the process. As always in the arguments for treating addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions, what works for one won’t work for everyone. The article explains, “…potential difficulties might include the client feeling self-conscious or inexperienced in running, in which case the therapist might be seen as the ‘expert’ runner only serving to reinforce the traditional therapist client hierarchy.”

Another complication might include the specific symptoms different conditions present. For example, “…many people suffering from depression and other mental health conditions have very low motivation. To put on a pair of running shoes and get outdoors may simply be too much for some.” Treatment centers offer a variety of physical activities to help meet the needs of each client, without putting anyone in a corner. Most have open gyms and available trainers, but no mandated exercise. Going on walks and participating in outdoor activities as well as yoga and other forms of movement help clients create a stronger connection between mind, body, and spirit.

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