by Len Lear
You might say that Mt. Airy licensed marriage/family therapist Lauren Kahn is perfectly positioned to deal with a pandemic. That's because even though Kahn is a founding member of the collective, Mt. Airy Psychotherapy and Wellness, at 7127 Germantown Ave., Kahn has for years specialized in “outdoor therapy” for her clients; in other words, instead of having indoor office sessions with a therapist, which has been pretty much verboten since the pandemic started almost four months ago, Kahn has done therapy in parts of Wissahickon Park where social distancing is not an issue, and the air is clean.
According to Kahn, “Nature is a healing place. It provides comfort, relaxation and clarity. There is a whole field of ‘wilderness therapy’ now, and there is no shortage of evidence that there really is healing. I am still the therapist out in the woods, but I am using nature as a way of expanding their consciousness.”
According to one of her clients, Ross R., of Manayunk, “Outdoor therapy brings a sense of peace and connection to the basics of life and offers a new perspective everywhere you look,” and Ellen B., of Glenside, another client, added, “Being in the woods encourages better listening."
“While I miss being in the office,” Kahn told us in an interview last week, “working online does provide some flexibility and convenience for both my clients and myself. However, I know many clients are excited that they can once again take advantage of the option I offer to take therapy outside ... It allows us to harness the healing power of nature to address many of the mental health issues that bring people to therapy. It also helps to envision a more positive future and cultivate hope for a better, more peaceful world.
“I recently resumed seeing clients outdoors, wearing masks or face shields, which have been shown to be equally as effective as cloth face coverings with the advantage of being cooler and clear so we are able to see each other’s faces and expressions as we walk and sit together at a safe distance.”
Kahn wrote an article, “Ecotherapy: A Natural Approach to Today’s Mental Health Challenges,” which was in the May/June, 2020, issue of Family Therapy Magazine, published by The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The essence of the article was a discussion of how Kahn structures her outdoor sessions, whether virtually or in person, using what she calls the four “P’s”: Place, Pace, Perspective and Possibilities.
I always ask any interviewee for his/her age, and some do not want to reveal it or ask that it not be mentioned in the article. But not Kahn. “I don’t mind saying that I'm 57. I’d also like to say that I still bike, ski, walk my dog every day, do yoga, play tennis, hike and swim, and I feel like I do all those things almost as well as or in some cases better than I did them when I was in my 20s, so 57 is still feeling pretty good.”
Now a Mt. Airy resident, Kahn grew up in Lower Merion and later moved to Haverford. She attended Baldwin, a private all-girls school in Bryn Mawr. “They only taught us how to say, ‘I can do that.’ We were not given the ‘no’ button. We had a very good education.”
Kahn earned her undergraduate degree in 1985 from the University of Pennsylvania (BA in English/psychology) and a master’s degree from Boston University School of Social Work in 1991. She had post-graduate training from The Philadelphia Child and Family Therapy Training Center, completed in 2008.
Kahn's father, who ran a company called Regal Thread & Notions Company, was killed in a car accident when he was just 50. “He is the person I miss most when thinking about the past … Having outlived him now by 7 years, I have a deep appreciation for how much of life he missed.” Kahn's mom was an interior designer. Her stepfather is a psychiatrist who still practices medicine in center city at age 86. “He has pivoted quite easily to seeing his patients on Zoom. He is quite a nimble guy in body and mind.”
Kahn also provides supervision for marriage/family therapists, licensed professional counselors and clinical social workers. She recently designed a training modality for local clinicians who are interested in taking their therapy practices outdoors safely during COVID-19. She also just started a voter registration effort called Cycle to Vote. Here is its Instagram page. (The website will be live soon.)
For more information, visit laurengkahn.com You can reach Len Lear at email@example.com