Skip to Content

Walk and Talk Therapy by Zoom: Why and How

As someone who writes a lot about the benefits of therapy AND the importance of exercising more, the most common response people give is, “I know those things are important, but I don’t have time to do them both!” Well, what if I told you there’s a fabulous way to combine the two… AND get fresh air? Enter: Walk and talk therapy by Zoom!

Let’s back up to examine the evolution of this practice. Back in 2020 when so many things went remote, my therapist shifted to Zoom therapy sessions, which I would do while awkwardly sitting at my desk or hunching on my couch after remote teaching.

An idea came into focus...
An idea came into focus…

It felt like way too much indoor time, and an overabundance of many screens. Though remote therapy saved time not to go to an office in person and was vital in getting me through the divorce process, there was something that seemed stifling to me when done inside at home.

Meanwhile, to combat the loneliness of everything being shut down, I began to take long walks in Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system while talking on the phone for hours with dear friends. Pairing the walking with the talking helped move emotions through my body, thus deepening our discussions.

One of the paths where I walked and talked on the phone with friends.
One of the paths where I walked and talked on the phone with friends.

Then it hit me: Could I do my THERAPY sessions while outside — maybe even while walking? That day, I asked my therapist. She replied that, yes, I could be outdoors during remote sessions, but for billing and insurance purposes, only Zoom would work — not just phone audio — and I had to show my face on camera.

“Will you be taking your computer outside and holding it?!” she asked, jokingly. Then the solution hit us: The Zoom phone app! Therapy outdoors on a mobile device could be such a breakthrough in work-life balance if it could work! But would it?

The next week, I gave the combo a try: During our therapy session time, I walked out into a secluded path in Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, fired up the Zoom app, held the phone up in front of my face as I walked and talked — and had a successful session!

Not only did it logistically work, but it also enhanced our conversation because of the added physical movement. It also saved me time by combining therapy with outdoor exercise, and left me feeling refreshed and expanded instead of stifled indoors. Success!

I am now coming on 3.5 years of personal experience enjoying therapy session on my phone app while walking outdoors. This means I have some tips to share on the practice, if you’d like to try it.

Before we start the instructions, a quick disclaimer: Like any new exercise, use wise judgment and caution to avoid injury. Proceed at your own risk, and go slow. Now, let’s get into the details of how it works…

Could walk and talk therapy work for you?
Don’t forget to stop and admire the flowers while walking!

How to Do Walk and Talk Therapy

Though there are some therapists who will do walk and talk therapy in person, they are few and far between. Therefore, the Zoom-on-phone option is what I’ll be covering here, as it’s what I’ve used and loved, and it’s much more accessible. Here are tips for how to do it.

1. Safety first! Start slow, and pick paths carefully.

Building the muscles, coordination, and breath endurance to hold a phone up to your face while walking and talking takes some practice! Therefore, you might want to start by simply sitting outside in a private place, then by alternating short walks with being seated. Public parks can be perfect for this latter option, as they have benches regularly placed along the paths.

Once you start walking and talking in earnest, is vitally important to pick a smooth, safe path during Zoom therapy. The ground you’re treading should be regular and even — not rocky like the Bash Bish Falls hike, or you’ll twist your ankle. Paved or mulch paths are ideal (rail trails are the best!), or very well-maintained parks. Even pebbles or gravel can work, as long as you’re cautious about skidding.

There should be no road crossings on your route, or if there is one, pause your session and give full attention to navigating cars before continuing to walk. Regarding interpersonal safety, make sure you’re in well-lit areas with some other foot traffic around, should you need assistance. If at any point you feel your security is compromised for any reason, find a place to stand or sit and pause your walking and/or your therapy session. Safety first!

This smooth mulch path in Boston's Arnold Arboretum is great for walk and talk therapy.
This smooth mulch path in Boston’s Arnold Arboretum is great for walk and talk therapy.

2. Tinker with phone placement.

To hold up the phone during Zoom app therapy, experiment with different arm angles. The therapist needs to see you, but you don’t always need to see them — meaning that you can hold the phone diagonally to the side of your face, and continue looking straight ahead while walking.

If you want to get fancy, you can also buy a hands-free phone-holding device that sits on your shoulders (affiliate link coming) like this model for under $30. I’ve never tried one, but it could work well if your arm gets tired holding up your device. Just make sure to position it so you can still see where you’re walking!

Reaching upward towards new ideas.
Reaching upward towards new ideas.

3. Monitor Zoom reception.

I’ve been able to get good Zoom reception on my phone everywhere from Boston’s Franklin Park to rural upstate New York and the Berkshires, but connectivity is certainly is an issue to watch out for. Keep monitoring your connection to make sure you’re not talking for 15 minutes into a void that can’t hear you!

On new paths, I tend to pause every ten minutes or so to ask my ever-patient therapist, “Can you still hear me ok?” On my favorite route in Boston for walk and talk therapy, I’ve identified the one area that gets spotty reception, and have altered my path to avoid it until after the session.

I got good reception for Zoom therapy on this farm in Upstate NY!
I got good reception for Zoom therapy on this farm in Upstate NY!

4. Be alert for who can listen.

A quality therapy session requires total privacy, so always be checking to maintain enough distance from others outside so you can’t be overheard. (Neighbors don’t need to be privy to my details of how to stop drinking alcohol, or reflections on co-parenting after divorce, for example.) Interestingly, I will actually point out that being outside can afford MORE privacy than being inside many times, especially in old Boston homes with thin walls!

Now, if you want to stroll in a park that seems too crowded for walk and talk therapy, investigate whether there might be lesser-used side paths. For example, Jamaica Pond in Boston has a very busy main loop around the water, but in the back corner, there’s a much more spacious side path that is perfect to avoid being overheard.

I will add that sometimes the juxtaposition of what you SEE around you during walk and talk therapy can be hilarious. The other day while traveling, I was loping near a farm by Pittsfield, MA while tearfully in a therapy session about a certain life transition… then looked up to see a giant cow looking straight at me! It made me giggle, and I turned the phone’s camera around so my therapist could see the big-eyed bovine, too.

What doors will open from walk and talk therapy?
What doors will open from walk and talk therapy?

5. Plan for battery charging.

Doing therapy via the Zoom app on a phone takes a great deal of battery power, because it leverages both audio and video for nearly an hour. Therefore, make sure your device is fully charged before setting off on your walk and talk. Further, make a plan to recharge the phone again right after the session, so it will be functional for the rest of the day; I usually find that a session takes at least 40% of the charge.

6. Wear appropriate clothing for sun and elements.

Depending where outside you’re doing your Zoom walk therapy, chances are that sun, insects, or temperature changes may be in play. Consider wearing a good hat or visor, and layers in case you get chilly or encounter buzzing critters.

Nature helps us reflect more deeply.
Nature helps us reflect more deeply.

Walk and Talk Therapy, in Sum

I hope this article on the benefits of Zoom walk and talk therapy — and the logistics of how to do it as safely as possible — have opened up new possibilities. We can make beneficial habits a part of our lives by simply combining them! I know that this trick of therapy PLUS outdoor exercise has been a total game-changer for me, and I look forward to many more years of delighting in it.

If this combo is something you’ve tried, I’m so curious for you to share how it went! If you haven’t tried it yet, does it seem like a it could be a fit? What questions remain? Do share!

Still looking for a therapist? See my article on an amazing free resource to find a therapist in MA that is covered by your insurance — meaning sessions could be anywhere from $10 to $25 instead of $200!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.