Using animals, yoga, and your laptop to connect with a therapist, new talk therapy methods are challenging the conventional notions of counseling
Hear therapy, and you can’t help but think of the old cliché: You, lying on a dusty leather couch while some guy with a small notepad sits somewhere by your head, jotting down insights as you speak (probably about your twisted relationship with your parents).
But increasingly, therapists are moving away from this trope. Now, you can meet your therapist on the trails, in a yoga studio—even online. These six “outside the talk” therapies put the couch on the back burner.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of meeting in an office, you and your therapist conduct your session while walking (ideally somewhere where you’re out of earshot to others). Some people find it easier to open up when they’re not face-to-face with someone. Plus, research shows that simply walking with others outdoors—especially around wildlife—can help you cope with super-stressful events, like the illness of a loved one. So this kind of session delivers a one-two punch of ecotherapy and talk therapy.
Taking walk therapy to the next level, adventure therapy involves doing something outside your comfort zone—kayaking, rock climbing—with a group of people. It’s thought that doing something new and bonding with others improves self-esteem and encourages you to challenge beliefs or behaviors that might not be working for you anymore. It’s often used in conjunction with more formal talk therapy. (Learn more about adventure therapy in 8 Alternative Mental Health Therapies, Explained.)
There are two types of therapy apps: ones like Talkspace (from $12/week; itunes.com) that connect you to an actual therapist, or ones like Intellicare (free; play.google.com) that offer strategies that target your specific problem (like anxiety or depression). Why people love them: They remove the stress of finding a therapist and fitting appointments into your schedule—and are less of a strain on the wallet too.
You have a therapist you love—but then you or he moves. Distance therapy, where you conduct sessions via video conferencing Skype, phone calls, and/or texting can be a workaround. But you might want to check on the legality first. Some states requires therapists to be licensed in the state in which they're practicing, a law that puts limits on inter-state distance therapy. (If your therapist is based in New York and you live in Ohio, he's technically "practicing" in Ohio when he works with you professionally over Skype, even though he's physically in New York.)
This form of therapy combines talk therapy with traditional yoga poses or meditative breathing. It makes sense: Most yoga lovers will tell you that the practice isn’t just a physical exercise; it’s also intensely emotional. Integrating it into psychotherapy may help clients access and work through tough feelings, while providing a mental boost. And science proves it works: In a study publishing in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that yoga can help ease depression and related symptoms like anxiety. (See 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation.)
Dogs and horses have long been used in the treatment of people with addiction issues or PTSD. Spending time with furry friends is soothing—being around dogs has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol and increase levels of "love" hormones like oxytocin, for example—and is also thought to help improve relationship skills. (Some schools are even bringing in pups to help students deal with exam stress!) This type of therapy is typically used in conjunction with a form of talk therapy.