Shrewsbury based mental wellbeing therapist Jo Fallows has swapped a traditional consulting room for the beautiful Shropshire countryside.
You won't find Shrewsbury-based mental well-being therapist Jo Fallows in any traditional consulting room. Her 'office' is out in the beautiful Shropshire countryside, and her consultant's couch is more than likely a rocky outcrop on the Long Mynd in south Shropshire or a stack of logs on the path at the top of Rodney's Pillar near the Welsh border.
She launched her consultancy, Jo Fallows Wellness, in December 2021 and is continuing to build on a successful start. Jo says, "My walking boots are made for talking".
Jo, a qualified personal trainer and a member of the organisation for Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists (ACCPH), completed a therapeutic counselling course at Shrewsbury College in 2019.
Bringing together hiking and personal therapy Jo has created specialist 'Walk and Talk Therapy' sessions and says, 'It's known as 'ecotherapy. The benefits of physical activity, social contact and being outside in the natural light are all recognised by experts such as the mental health charity, MIND."
She aims to provide her clients with strategies to cope with mental health challenges whilst encouraging them to follow a more physically active lifestyle incorporating the beautiful Shropshire countryside.
Jo says, "I focus primarily on what I call the 'green prescription'. Looking to help people work through various challenges by talking in the great outdoors. That could be anything from anxiety, stress, trauma and or relationship difficulties which includes an individual's relationship with themselves.
"Of course, people can get out into nature and walk on their own, but being able to talk about yourself and your issues with someone who is there walking by your side, listening without judgement, I believe can be even more beneficial."
Jo believes the simple, physical walking motion enhances the therapeutic connection between herself and her clients: "The rhythm of walking causes nerve impulses to flow back and forth across the brain's hemispheres from the left, where we think, to the right, which controls our feelings," she says.
"That can help promote intellectual and emotional healing from stress and trauma. And because you're not sitting in an office, clients are less likely to suffer insecurities caused by searching for eye contact or wondering if they've said 'the right thing' or not. When you're at one with the great outdoors, part of a stunning landscape like the Long Mynd or Caer Caradoc, people tend to find that their thoughts and feelings, and therefore their words, flow more easily."
While Jo is happy to suggest to her clients a walk, she is also mindful of their physical capabilities, which she assesses first in a free 15-minute consultation and then in a 90-minute initial therapy session.
"It's all about meeting the client's needs," says Jo. "The first session gives us time to talk about the client's issues, agree on contracts, sign confidentiality agreements and, importantly, discuss suitable routes. After the first consultation, we meet again for an hour at a time. My advice is that a minimum of four sessions is beneficial; this allows me and the client to explore the issues and monitor progress fully. It also means we get to add more 'green' to the therapy."
Jo is thankful to her mum, Cleo, for encouraging her to get her walking boots on again after years of working in various office-based jobs: "Mum found an old book of Shropshire walks and reminded me that roaming the countryside was something I had always loved doing when I was younger."
Jo read the book and started to retrace the walks reconnecting with the great outdoors: "I love being fit and active - I used to ride horses in my teens and early twenties. I love being around people."
The walking gave her a change of direction and a determination to make mental well-being therapy accessible to all.
"When I started publishing pictures and videos of my treks in the hills, people started to ask me about them. It triggered lots of conversations, and the walk and talk idea emerged. It gave me the green prescription that I'm now looking to pass on to others," Jo explains.
Snowdon is his mountain that stole Jo's heart. "What more can I say? It's the highest peak in Wales and a place I will return to often. The Watkin path is my fave route up there so far. The waterfalls and pools are lovely for a post hike dip too!”
“Stiperstones has a lovely rocky terrain, a little hard on the ankles, but on a clear day the views over to Long Mynd are breathtaking. With the Long Mynd, I rarely do the same route twice. There are so many different walks. I like to park at Rectory Woods and come through that way - you get to take in the stunning woodland before entering carding mill valley or going up an alternative route.”
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Caer Caradoc - The tallest hill in Church Stretton.
"It’s great fun exploring up there and trying to find the cave (I know where it is)," Jo says.
Carding Mill Valley - A beautiful walk that passes a water fall, a reservoir and trig point the summit of Pole Bank with views out towards Stiperstones and beyond.
Earls Hill is in Pontesbury a favourite of Jo's to watch the sunset. It’s a steep climb but worth the views. There is an alternative route around the base which is pretty flat.
Ragleth Hill is the baby of the Stretton hills and usually Jo's first choice for her clients who would like to incorporate a hill into their sessions. Amazing views over to the Long Mynd and also lovely for sunset walks.