April 27, 2008

The dangers of al fresco therapy

Recently I was reading about the new trend in therapy. A therapist in New York has decided to run his practice outdoors. His patients spend the entire session with him in the park: walking and talking.

I can't think of anything less appealing. Why would someone choose to be outside in the oppressive sunshine when they can be safely inside in the womb-like safety of a darkened room?

But also, there are a multitude of other practical problems. For instance, if I'm going to spend 50 minutes walking that means I have to wear trainers. What if I'm not coming directly from home? I'll have to carry my gear around in a special bag. The way some people carry a bag for the gym, I'll have a bag for therapy? Trainers, pants, sun block and tissues.

Then when someone wonders why I'm not in better shape since I seem to be working out all the time I'll have to explain. "I'm not going to the gym. I'm going to the shrink."

Moreover, what about those of us who have allergies. Are we not supposed to have therapy in the spring? How will my shrink know if I'm crying or if my eyes are watering from the pollen?

I'll have to take an antihistamine before my appointment. But if I take one with speed I'll be power walking. And if I take one without, it will make me drowsy.

That's not very productive. If I'm spending $150, I don't want to be lying down on a park bench fighting to stay alert.

Where we meet is a potential disaster as well. Meeting at an office is easy. But that won't work because by the time we got to the park, we'd have to turn around and head back. So I assume this means we'd meet at a designated spot somewhere inside the park. I'm anxious just thinking of this. I'll end up in the wrong place.

I can hear it now. "I thought you said to meet at the fountain?" Then we'll spend the next 15 minutes discussing what it means that I never listen to directions.

Then there's the possibility of running into someone I know. That's terrifying. Do I stop to say hello and explain the situation?

"I'm in the middle of having a breakdown so I can't really chat. But nice to see you - you look great!"

Even worse than running into someone I know - running into someone I'm talking about. I could see obsessing about an ex who, coincidently happens to be strolling through the park at that very moment with his new girlfriend. And of course this happens on a humid day when my hair is frizzy. Triple session on the spot!

Research shows that a person is likely to feel more alienated and alone when they witness others whose lives have worked out. Walking through the park, this is a constant danger. In fact, I think it can actually cause harm. How? By subjecting a semi-depressed person to increased levels of inadequacy. Thereby plunging them into a full-blown depression.

On the other hand, witnessing those who are worse off can be euphoric.

However, I do see one advantage to an out-of-office therapy session. There's a far greater chance of going over the 50 minutes. Where are the clocks? When time is up, it's not like a therapist can kick you out of the park.