A new fitness “movement,” which started in London, is gaining momentum among those seeking a more holistic mental health counseling. Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT), developed by British psychotherapist William Pullen, targets stress, anxiety, depression, addictions and trauma by linking both body and mind through on-the-move sessions.
Pullen, 47, tells us it was a personal experience that led him to develop his new practice.
“I was running with a friend of mine, who is going through a divorce, and I also had some personal issues, when I realized how easily it made us talk,” says Pullen. “I noticed how it empowered me, and made me feel like I was confronting things that I didn’t have much control over.”
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The technique was demonstrated in the 2013 documentary “The Runners,” in which filmmakers Matan Rochlitz and Ivo Gormley approached runners to try and talk to them. The first thing you notice is how deep a conversation they easily start: talking about their views on marriage, family issues and even the most negative aspects of their lives.
Emotion in motion
Far from being breathily shrugged off by irritated runners, 80 percent of those approached agreed to chat. “Running is like a meditation — it centers you,” Rochlitz says.
“It also releases endorphins which make you feel powerful, and in a sense less vulnerable,” he continues. “I also believe that in life we use our bodies to help keep our guard up.”
When their bodies are not otherwise engaged, people may cross their arms, step back or otherwise physically close themselves off to a conversation, or even outright lie. “But if you’re running and your body is busy, it’s harder to bullsh—!” Rochlitz notes.
Reconnecting your mind and body is key
Pullen, who charges about $230 for a 50-minute session, begins with the patient in a park, where they sit and take stock of where they are and what’s going on, in every sense.
“We do a check-in of the physical body, emotional body and the environment — smelling, touching and feeling,” he says. “Then we take off, led by the thought the client wants to focus on. We walk, sit, run with it and into it, and in that way we find ourselves able to tap into the unconscious.”
There’s no running proficiency necessary to enjoy the benefits of DRT.
“Once you get outside, I think there is an inclination for the topic to run deeper and to be more detailed. As long as you can walk, or even just get into the park and sit on a bench, I think there is still value in being outside,” says Pullen.
Being outdoors can also help calm some anxious people, who may be intimidated by an office setting, he says.
If his client has just experienced something traumatic, like a divorce, running can help the person gain back self-esteem. “If you have an opportunity to go out and feel vital, when the rest of the time you feel like you’ve been involved in a failure, it can be a great relief,” Pullen concludes.
Follow these points for a successful session:
• The emphasis is on listening, not discussing. Questions are fine and useful; however, opinions are less so.
• Don’t feel the need to fill any silent moments.
• Take your time and be gentle and patient with yourself.
• Notice how your body and your feelings interact; DRT is holistic.
• Allow time to calm down physically and emotionally at the end.