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Caldwell, N.J., Nov. 5, 2020 – No one would debate that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused college students to grapple with many different stressors.  University counseling centers are tasked with assisting students with their stress, but how do they conduct their services during a pandemic?  Caldwell University’s Counseling Services has come up with an original approach called “Walk and Talk Therapy.”   

Like many schools, Caldwell University’s Counseling Services has been providing online sessions and support groups for students since March when a large number of colleges were forced to temporarily discontinue in-person classes .  But once in-person classes resumed in the fall,  Caldwell’s Counseling Center came up with an  innovative plan.  By meeting with students outside, literally in nature, counselors are able to offer an alternative for students who are not satisfied with the on-line format.  With Walk and Talk Therapy, the counselor and student can conduct a therapy session by walking around campus or by grabbing a fold-up camping chair and sitting outside in a grassy remote space on the university grounds.  Of course these meetings occur in a socially distanced manner.  “It fills a need to preserve important elements of a therapy session that may be lost in online interventions,” says Robin Davenport, executive director of Caldwell’s Counseling Services.  The great outdoors is healing too.  “There is definitely a therapeutic power in nature,” says Davenport.  Sure, there are challenges as well – “the gnats, loud leaf blowers, navigating deer doo.”

It is not for all students.  “Not everyone appreciates the outdoors,” says Davenport. Our addiction to modern technology is not the only reason.  She points to the 18th Century Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, who in his famous poem, “The World Is Too Much With Us,” laments the ways in which our busy lives prevent us from reaping the benefits of nature.  For those students willing to experience an outside counseling experience, the colors of autumn and smells of fresh-cut grass add another healing element to therapy.

With colder temperatures, Davenport is determined to make things work, having invested in warm socks and lined gloves. Students only need to get through a few more weeks until  Thanksgiving break, after which all classes will go fully remote leading up to finals.  In the meantime, Walk and Talk Therapy seems to be going well, and Davenport is sharing her experience with her other colleagues at surrounding New Jersey universities.  “To my knowledge, we are the only school doing this.” 

Robin Davenport, executive director of Caldwell University’s Counseling Office, talks with Anthony Pacifico, a master’s level student intern in the Counseling Center. The center has incorporated “Walk and Talk Therapy” where counselors meet with students outside socially distanced. Davenport says it is a good alternative for students who do not want to meet via technology during the pandemic.