The Power of Healing Through Recreational and Movement Group Therapy
Moving your body can be a powerful way to process your feelings and work through past traumas. Learn more about recreational healing in San Diego – group therapy through movement – and how it can be beneficial to everyone.
Traditional talk therapy can be helpful but sometimes using a different approach can lead to greater breakthroughs.
“Group therapy is great but it doesn’t include the physical healing aspects, it doesn’t include the whole body or holistic care,” says Dr. Allison Brownlee. She noticed that the traditional 50 minutes of talk therapy didn’t really feel like enough for her clients and their unique needs.
“There are some things that people didn’t really feel comfortable talking about in therapy or opening up about,” says Brownlee. “So we started bringing people outdoors to recreational activities and really finding that experiential activities were helping people to open up and come alive and in contact with traumas and challenges in a different way.”
Dr. Allison Brownlee / Courtesy photo
Recreational Group Therapy Offerings in San Diego
This led Brownlee to create Stronger Together Community Services, which provides traditional talk therapy services as well as recreation healing activities including hiking, paddleboarding, and rock climbing.
The organization also offers “herd healing” programs, where individuals and groups can experience meditation with miniature horses, equine healing therapy and goat yoga. All recreation healing activities are led by a Stronger Together therapist who also does the recreation activities alongside the participants.
“Your therapist is right alongside you saying ‘There’s that thing that we keep coming up against. There’s that message. What can we do in this moment to overcome that feeling? What can we do to challenge that thought? The voice says you can’t get back on the board. I believe you can. What would it be like to get back on the board?’ So we can have those really cool therapeutic moments that we wouldn’t be able to have sitting in an office,” Brownlee shares.
Having a therapist participating in the recreation healing activities also helps to shift the power dynamics between a therapist and their client.
“Oftentimes people don’t see therapists as real people with real problems who are also working through their own stuff,” says Brownlee. “We’re able to show that we’re real humans working through real stuff, like falling off a paddleboard in front of a client and show that I’m also a human being with flaws, or lack of balance. That’s something that’s really important to me — creating connection and community with clients.”
The recreational group therapy healing activities are beneficial for everyone but have been particularly powerful for those who have experienced body-related trauma.
“This work can be very helpful for people with body image issues or who have very difficult relationships with their bodies because we are doing activities that engage your body,” Brownlee says. “For example with domestic violence survivors, oftentimes the messages that they receive are: ‘You’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re not worthy, you’re not valuable.’ And then we would hold these groups to go paddleboarding or hiking, and inherently people were getting the message: ‘I can do it. I can stand up. I can fall in the water and get back on my board. I can climb this mountain.’ So this is a challenging and really powerful way to regain control of your body or relationship with your body.”
Along with recreational healing and support groups, Stronger Together Community Services also offers low fee counseling services to individuals, couples and families with the mission that mental health services should be accessible to all. Recreational group therapy events are also open to the wider San Diego community; you need not be a Stronger Together client to sign up.
To learn more and join an upcoming group therapy event in San Diego, please visit strongertogethersd.org