Navigating the Waves
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Reasons to be Cheerful
Posted: October 3rd, 2023
Natalie Small looks at the ocean. “How high are the waves today – the ones out there on the water and the emotional ones within me? These are questions she likes to ask at the start of every group therapy session on Ocean Beach in San Diego, California. Small ... is part of a burgeoning niche of psychotherapy that blends traditional therapy with a sport proven to build resilience, confidence and well-being. More than a hippie wellness novelty or New Age fad, surf therapy is being embraced by psychologists and government agencies alike as a way to increase access to mental health care while delivering evidence-based, lasting results. Kristen Walter ... received a $1 million grant from the Navy to research surf therapy for military personnel. “We see immediate benefits,” Walter confirms. “Post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety decrease significantly.” Walter’s research has shown that the effects of surf therapy are lasting: When she randomly assigned 96 military participants with mental health diagnoses to either hiking or surf therapy, both groups spent three to four hours per week in nature. After six weeks, both groups showed improvements — 55 percent of the surfers and 46 percent of the hikers were no longer considered clinically ill. “But when we checked again three months later, the improvements in the surfer group lasted significantly longer,” Walter says. “74 percent of the surfers were considered healed versus only 47 percent of the hikers.”
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