Sidewalk Talk: I am heard, therefore I exist

Written by Laurel Kuzins on February 21, 2017

A core component of our business here at SimplePractice are the unique partnerships we form with different organizations. But life isn’t all business; to kick off 2017 we started seeking alternative alliances and found the perfect opportunity with “Sidewalk Talk”.

The origins of “Sidewalk Talk”

In 2014, two therapists started “Sidewalk Talk” because they wanted “to help heal that which divides us through the fine art of skilled listening on the streets of San Francisco.” They didn’t know what was going to happen but wanted to take the risk because they “could feel a collective stir to evolve the way we interact with mental health, connection, and community and we wanted to be part of it.”

Today, “Sidewalk Talk” exists in cities across the U.S. and has a pool of hundreds of volunteers serving thousands of people with free listening. There is no advice given, money exchanged, or selling of services. You simply set up chairs and listen. 

SimplePractice team hits the sidewalk

On Valentine’s Day, the SimplePractice team went out with open hearts and minds to set up shop on a busy LA corner. Upon arrival, it was admittedly awkward. “Would anyone even want to stop and talk? What were we really doing sitting out here in chairs in a public space?” We had a two-hour time slot and were simultaneously nervous and excited for anything and anyone to come our way. And you better believe it did.

Here are some of the pictures from the afternoon we spent listening to the community.

“The more we can do to come together and care for each other, the better off we will all be as people. Sidewalk Talk is one of the ways we can focus on connection, rather than division.” – Phil, Customer Advocate

 

“I loved seeing how some people who seemed initially confused by the scene ended up walking away with a great smile on their face and showed a great deal of gratitude towards the experience.” – Will, Insurance Specialist

The man with the diamond earrings, the homeless woman toting all of her belongings, the business professional who was taking a quick break from work, the elderly couple who lived a few miles away and walked these streets every day. These were just a few of the myriad of folks we had the pleasure of listening to. One woman gave us chocolate, many passersby looked confused, some complimented us on the dedication, and one woman laughed and told us we were “weird” as she coolly strolled by sipping her coffee.

“This experience made me realize that I shouldn’t settle for as many superficial conversations.” – Fletcher, Director of Operations

Needless to say, it was moving, in the best way possible – we were given the chance to “walk the talk” of those we work to support with our software every day. Not to mention, form a sense of groundedness and connection to the community we work in.

“It has a greater meaning than just sitting out on the street, listening. It’s the opportunity to connect with people and feel more grounded to the place where you work and live.” – Laurel, Head of Business Development & Partnerships

Afterwards, we walked back to our office in awe of what we had learned and how quickly we had been pushed out of our comfort zones into something far more meaningful.

Key takeaway: “Empathy over problem-solving is the foundation of listening.” – Paul, Director of Marketing

 

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About the Author

Laurel is the Head of Business Development and Partnerships at SimplePractice. She has a passion for mental health and enjoys being active and teaching pro bono yoga classes on the weekends!

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  • Howard

    Just want to say that I couldn’t be prouder of my team at SimplePractice. Coming together to support the bigger mission of what we do. You all inspire me!