Running and conventional talk therapy have their connections to meditative healing, but what could the lasting effect amount to if the two were combined as a 2-in-1 treatment for mental health? For Sepideh Saremi, a certified psychotherapist and running advocate, the possibilities birthed Run Walk Talk--a forward-thinking method of integrating movement and talk therapy.
Founder Sepideh Saremi describes Run Walk Talk as "psychotherapy for moving your life forward": It's an innovative first mental health therapy that combines mindful movement and talk therapy to help boost overall emotional, physical, and psychological wellness.
"I’m kinda the therapist for people who hate therapy — or for people who otherwise wouldn’t try it," Saremi states. But Saremi was not always so attuned to the alternative paths of talk therapy.
As a graduate student pursuing a social welfare degree at UCLA, Saremi gained early exposure to using exercise as a modality for mental health therapy in a research seminar, although the notion of exploring running therapy along with the mental-health connection beyond the classroom was not entirely foreign to Saremi, who started running in her mid-20s. "Running was super helpful to me when I was going through mental health issues," she shared.
Fast-forward to a post-grad stint in a neighborhood health center and another at a personal clinic; Saremi has pursued her interest in conducting treatment at full-speed with Run Walk Talk, together with the hopes of broadening the reach of what therapy can seem and feel like.
"For a lot of people, this process of therapy is a lot more emotionally accessible. I take the tools applied in the office and attach them to running," describes Saremi, whose job tends to attract high-achieving people who frequently struggle to dedicate to traditional talk therapy--or even sitting still for an extended time period.
Saremi grounds her operating treatment approach in awareness as well as the mind-body connection. "Sitting still can feel strange or intrusive to some—and it’s a lot harder to notice various sensations in body this way." She continues, "There’s an opportunity when running to slow down and notice your mind in a different way. You can use your body and mind in a different way when moving than when you’re sitting."
Even so, Run Walk Talk is not exclusive to only runners. "I attract people who are active themselves because they know how much I value movement as a habit, but I also have patients who prefer to walk."
The subject of mindful movement echoes throughout Saremi's philosophy on running as a way of treatment--a distinction that she finds super useful for somebody who has difficulty performing a seated meditation. For her, the objective of running treatment is less results-oriented with fitness targets and much more concentrated on "exploring what’s going on internally."
"Running is scanning the body—slow downing, speeding up—and checking in with your mood in the process," states Saremi.
In her experience, the charged nature of running increases the expression of feelings. Just the mere action of being in movement can help hasten the release of anxiety and nervousness, which can aid a person process emotions and continue through the moments.
"It’s about being aware of yourself without judgment," states Saremi, who explains the running procedure as self-exploratory also. "A lot of problems for people are rooted in their relationship with desire—figuring out what they want and how to connect themselves."
When presenting her work and practice to patients, she makes it a point that the purpose of the session would be less fitness- and results-oriented and much more concentrated on "exploring what’s going on internally." "I’m very careful to delineate that we are not working out. We’re moving to work through emotions and whatever else might come up."
Saremi admits the difficulty in advocating for feeling good over looking good, particularly as a professional operating out of the Los Angeles place, in which fitness is profoundly ingrained in the society. "My approach to movement is geographical. In LA, movement fixates on extreme limits and punishment—manipulating your body to look a certain way. It’s all results-driven." Her hopes involve altering the dialogue of fitness to a of intention. "Run Walk Talk is about creating capacity to feel joy and to move slower."
And as it comes to community and camaraderie, she believes you'd be hard-pressed to find a more welcoming sport. "Runners are the most generous people—in terms of encouraging others."
Even when asked about the representation of individuals of colour in running and the wellness world at large, Saremi, who's Iranian-American, views running as the fantastic equalizer of sports. "It’s a true exercise of meritocracy."
While she admits that the therapeutic benefits other forms of movement can have, for example boxing and yoga, Saremi has her eyes set on capping the full potential of running therapy, as she has already started to train other therapists interested in adapting the treatment for their practices.
She expects to deliver the job to community health agencies where therapist burnout is generally significant. "As research develops on the mind-body connection, my efforts are focused on developing running therapy as an approach."
In the conclusion however, Saremi promotes all sorts of movement--for health, enjoyment, and wellness.