Skip to content
NHS logo

Access Talking Therapies

Get Urgent Help

Heart Wood is a mental health charity based in Hexham, Northumberland. Their team of counsellors and therapists offer free group counselling for men in natural environments, to support them with their mental health.

Men’s counselling groups in nature is one of the projects run by Heart Wood Charity, and is partially funded through the Northumberland Voluntary, Charitable, and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Mental Health Alliance, which Everyturn Mental Health is proud to lead.

Heart Wood offer weekly groups in spring and summer, and monthly ‘connecting sessions’ in autumn and winter. Men are supported in talking and listening to one another, managing woodland for greater biodiversity, and taking part in group activities like learning bushcraft skills or making soup on the fire. The group sessions are relaxed and people can take part as much or as little as they’d like to, which can help members to talk about how they’re feeling and build a support network.

We’ve been chatting to Chip, the founder and lead therapist at Heart Wood Charity, all about movement and the link with mental health!

What impact have you found movement has on mental health?

“We find that movement in terms of light physical activity such as gathering and chopping firewood or chopping veg for soup, can provide a more relaxed context in which people can connect with themselves, counsellors and each other and the natural environment in our groups.”

“For some, sitting and facing a counsellor/psychotherapist indoors is too intense. We know that relationship is the most important element of therapeutic change, so anything that makes this more relaxed is a good thing for people’s nervous systems. It is essential to feel as safe and relaxed as possible if talking about traumatic experience for example”

“We emphasise the fact that we don’t have to do the conservation work, which is available to our group members, but that they can do a bit if they want.”

What would be your one piece of advice for someone who wants to be more active, but isn’t sure where/how to start?

“We know that advice can be experienced as pressure, so we try to support people in getting a sense of what they might like to do in terms of activity, and giving them the time, space and relationships in which to explore that, so that when they do act, it is driven by them.”

Have you always had an interest in movement/physical activity?

“I have personally had an interest in movement and activity – particularly running, cycling and gym/weights exercise.”

“As a survivor of trauma I am aware of how easily exercise can become an unhealthy way of losing connection with myself if it’s too vigorous.”

“I’ve found that, as expressed by polyvagal theory, to be very, very still, such as in some yoga and in meditation, can be at least as healing as movement and exercise. It’s tricky to get the balance right.”

Last but not least, do you have any recommendations in terms of signposting, that you or others have found useful when it comes to moving more?

“I personally have recently started to get a lot from yin yoga, but the key is that people find what suits them.”

“I also like gentle walks which can be available to anyone who is physically able to do that.” There are wellbeing walks available near Hexham but I don’t have personal experience of them.”

“There are lots of online resources for mediation and yoga. Yoga with Adriene is popular.”

To find out more about Heart Wood Charity and the work they do supporting people with their mental health, visit their website.

Delivered with