Medical Doctors

“Active Sessions”. Take your Shrink for a Walk?

I’ve been chatting quite a bit with Lynne Shallcross, Senior writer for Counseling Today magazine, the publication of American Counseling Association. Our conversation started when Lynne asked me about the nuts and bolts of Active Sessions, something I’ve developed at Alaska Pacific University, as well as in my own private practice.

Now, active interventions (or active sessions) are not new. Outward Bound is what many of us think about when we talk about wilderness therapy, and for good reason. Kurt Hahn, OB founder, began the biggest push toward reconnecting youth with the power of actively engaging youth through their experiences in the wilderness. This model has existed since the 1960s and continues to be refined. But even further back, the great thinkers, such as Socrates, recognized that mental fitness is not separate from physical fitness.

The Child and Nature Network, whom I’ve been involved with for a while now, mostly in shared vision but also in looking at programming, provides a wealth of research addressing the prevalence of Nature Deficit Disorder.

Active Sessions, as they are being defined, are counseling sessions which involve an active component. These components include: walking, running, nordic skiing, and hiking (as well as other ideas, I’m sure). These sessions engage individuals (and the psychotherapist) in ways that can be incredibly helpful to the therapy process. For some individuals, active sessions are the best possible choice. Almost anyone can be a candidate for active sessions, in fact.

But isn’t this different than sitting in the chair? YES!

The differences are notable for the clinician, and practitioners who are considering adding active sessions into their repetoire must take the time to get properly trained, as in any other specialty or method.

In my conversations with Lynne of Counseling Today, we discussed a lot of these differences… what does it take to offer active sessions? Who can do these? What client issues are appropriate? How do you handle confidentiality? These are great questions, and questions that must be asked well before considering this as a modality for your clients.

To assist counselors and people who are interested in active sessions, I’ll be increasing my offerings of professional workshops and classes, usually only offered for university functions and my own clients.

So… be on the lookout! I’ll be adding techniques, tips, and ideas for implementation. I’ll also be adding schedules for workshops, conversation points, and other tidbits.

Get active, keep thinking, and stay fit, mentally and physically!


Categories: Counseling Psychology, Counseling Today, curative power of nature, Doctor's Orders, For Professionals, latest research, medical community, Medical Doctors, Obesity, Research, Wilderness Therapy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chronicle of Higher Education, to which most of us academics subscribe, has released an article on the anti-depressant effect of physical exercise. What’s most surprising, so far, is that there are NO detracting statements in the posts that follow. I mean… in the world of academia, and certainly within this site (CHE), the strings of posts that desparage the contributing writer tend to go on and on, ad nauseum

Regular, Brief exercise is shown to improve mental health.

In a show of good taste, and apparently, (insert shocked tone) in consensus, the academics have weighed in of one voice.

In the months to come, I will be focusing on transitioning to winter exercise, mental health aspects, and our upcoming adventure options.


Stay healthy and active!

DB Palmer

Categories: Adventure Based Couseling & Family Therapy, Chronicle of Higher Education, Doctor's Orders, For Professionals, latest research, medical community, Medical Doctors, Research | Leave a comment

The Washington Post- Doctor’s Orders = Get Outside!

While I generally deplore major media’s discourse on anything to do with mental health, counseling, and psychology as pop psychology, at best, and blatant marketing by the psychopharma industry; there are infrequent moments of clarity in major medicine and media. In the continuing saga of the slowly awakening medical community, the Washington Post has released an article noting that

The Green Prescription

Medical Doctors are now, in part, recognizing the inherent and curative power of wilderness and green space.

They note:

“Forget Tylenol. Your pediatrician might prescribe a walk in the woods.

 The National Park Service initiative called “prescribing parks.”may soon arrive locally.  “The idea is to involve the medical community in encouraging families to spend time outdoors,” said Dr. Robert Zarr, president of the D.C. chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is in the early stages of developing the program here.
(Melissa Cannarozzi – The Washington Post) Zarr is working to create a database and rating system for local parks that doctors can use to match the right parks to the right families.

From a health perspective, Zarr said there are valid reasons for prescribing nature. His top three: To combat asthma, which is often exacerbated by indoor pollutants; to lessen some of the symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which has been shown to respond well to outdoor play and, of course, to combat the modern scourge I wrote about last week, childhood obesity.

If you don’t want to wait for a prescription, join Zarr and parks advocates this Saturday in one of their other joint projects: The First annual National Kids to Parks Day . It’s a nationwide effort spearheaded by The National Park Trust to explore national, state or local parks.

The kickoff on the National Mall tomorrow might be soggy. The weather is expected to clear by Saturday, when families in the region are invited to Mason Neck State Park in Fairfax from 9 a.m. to noon for ranger walks, canoe demonstartions and other activities.

For those of us who can’t make it to Mason Neck, Zarr and his colleagues want us to get our families outside, somewhere green as soon as possible. Doctor’s orders.”

Oh, and here’s two posts from The Huffington Post on a similar use of wilderness:

From ABC Family Therapy, Kudos to you all for reinvesting in our natural resources and our children.



Categories: Adventure, Adventure Based Couseling & Family Therapy, American Academy of Pediatrics, Counseling Psychology, curative power of nature, Doctor's Orders, expedition, family therapy, For Professionals, latest research, medical community, Medical Doctors, National Parks, Obesity, Research, The Huffington Post, the Washington Post, Wilderness Therapy | Leave a comment

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