In December of 2019, Adrian Juric had the idea to start a therapeutic practice in which he would take clients out for walks. The long-time educator and psychotherapist had spent the better part of his life in classrooms as a teacher and counsellor in countries like Singapore, Dubai and Cairo, and had managed his own practice briefly in 2014 under the name Cedar Path Counselling.
His second attempt, dubbed Vancouver Walk and Talk Therapy, seems to have been exceptionally well timed. A few months after Juric launched the business that, as the name implies, offers counselling via walks in nature, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, rendering many Vancouverites unable to do anything except take walks.
“During the first couple of months people were sort of in shock. But around May it was a real sharp uptick in people calling and wanting to get moving,” says Juric, who notes that he has about 25 regular clients (whom he sees on a weekly basis) and saw some 70 new ones since the pandemic hit.
“People were tired of being on Zoom and wanted to get outside and walk their dog and needed someone to talk to. As a neutral observer, you’d see two people walking a dog and wouldn’t know anything therapeutic was going on.”
The idea for the practice came to Juric after he moved from his native Toronto to Squamish in 2008 to serve as an elementary school counsellor. “You could just see that some of these kids were impossible to contain,” he recalls.“But it happened completely by accident that we went walking around the trials by the schools and it was the absolute tonic for some of these kids, boys in particular. School isn’t built for a lot of us—myself included—who can’t sit hour after hour in the same place.”
Juric, who still does some counselling work for Metro Vancouver school districts as well, usually takes clients for walks in places like Lighthouse Park, the Cleveland Dam or Stanley Park, depending on where they live.
“The pandemic has overwhelmed people,” he says, adding that while his clientele includes people from all walks of life, it skews toward the 40-year-old range. “They have a lot of good coping strategies and plans—but you take away somebody’s gym, their social network, their restaurants, their social club or golf buddies—you take away all that and suddenly the coping strategies people had aren’t available to them and that’s pretty hard.”
Juric uses what’s called a strength-based approach in order to help clients solve problems and get them out of ruts. “It’s about reminding them, hey, you’ve actually handled this before in your life, let’s talk about that,” he explains.
“And they begin to feel like they actually do have power and the right to exercise it over what’s plaguing them. I try and make them a bit more conscious about the resources and people and skills they have in their lives.”