I’m just going for a walk. A walk with, if not a friend, then a person who will listen. I meet her at a pre-arranged spot on Lake of the Isles. It’s a cold and snowy morning. After the kind offer of hand warmers, she says what I imagine every human being in the world wants to hear: “Don’t worry. I’ll walk at your pace.”
Her name is Tammie Rosenbloom, and she is a licensed clinical social worker and counseling therapist with over 25 years’ experience. She has recently begun an innovative therapy business called Walk Talk Therapy. Rosenbloom is quick to point out that walk-talk therapy is not for everyone; she’d choose to treat an acutely suicidal client, for example, in a more traditional setting. She has a history, however, of helping many: clients have stopped self-harming, others have successfully coped with suicidal thoughts. Many people who have felt they were “stuck,” in one way or another, have freed themselves of problem behaviors. “I’m often asked by clients, ‘Why does this [job or relationship problem, for example] keep happening to me?’ I offer them ways to change, both in practice and perspective.”
Rosenbloom explains that she comes from a family of walkers. “I used to walk with my mom and my aunts. I noticed that they often got into serious conversations as they walked. It happened when I’d go for walks around the lakes with my own friends, too. People really open up when they walk.”
The reasons for this are many, says Rosenbloom. Sometimes, for people who otherwise have difficulty with attention, physical movement can help them concentrate. People who are less inclined to exercise are often surprised by the purely physiological benefits of movement. “Many treatments for anxiety and depression call for an active kind of therapy in part because of the benefits of exercise,” she says. Still others who aren’t fond of eye contact may find it’s easier to walk next to a therapist than to face her across a couch. Rosenbloom says this is particularly true for men, who are less likely overall to go to therapy.
J, a friend of Rosenbloom’s who prefers not to use her full name, has had all the benefits of walk-talk therapy without the formal client-therapist relationship. Several years ago, J approached Rosenbloom about a personal issue she was dealing with. The two friends engaged in several walk-talk therapy “sessions.” “Tammie is kind, compassionate, non-judgmental, easy to share with,” says J. “She helps you work through a situation. She guides you through your emotions.” Rosenbloom says many times peoples’ emotions hold them back because they believe things that might not be real.
As for the issue of privacy in such a public setting, Rosenbloom will occasionally ask a client if they’d prefer to step off the path for a particularly sensitive subject. And weather? Well, snow doesn’t seem to be a problem for Rosenbloom, but she’s happy to relocate to the skyway, shopping mall or another indoor setting.
She walks with people of all ages, from teens with anxiety or ADHD and college students with questions of sexual identity and autonomy to married couples (yes, she walks with both) to parents to older men and women facing issues of isolation and loneliness. “Sometimes I’ll go to their senior residence and we’ll walk a little, sit down to rest, and walk a little more.” Her favorite clients? “People who have the intention to change. They might not know how to achieve a goal, but they’re open to feedback.”
The snow is unrelenting, even as we part ways. “When you’re out trying new behaviors,” Rosenbloom offers, “it’s like walking in a snowstorm. You might say to yourself, ‘It’s cold. This is hard.’ But you’re out there, you’re practicing something new. It’s good to develop new behavioral pathways in the brain.”
It’s good to walk. And talk. Especially with someone who goes at your pace.