This morning I had the chance to talk to Frank Kjerstein about his atypical approach as a clinical psychologist. He is the entrepreneur and psychologist behind Djursland-psykologen, a Danish start-up combining nature, technology and clinical psychology.
1. Would you introduce us to yourself and your company, please?
Sure! But first I want to thank you for calling and for taking an interest. I’m glad the time difference worked out. Anyway, my name is Frank. I’m a licensed psychologist educated at Aarhus University in Denmark and I’m the founder of the Djursland-psykologen. Put plainly, the therapy sessions take place in Mols Bjerge National Park, while I hike with the client. I also started a company in IT security years ago, but that is a story for another day.
My current company, Djursland-psykologen, offers conventional psychologist treatment of stress, depression and anxiety. This is wrapped in an atypical nature-inclusive clinical practice, where scenic views and hiking take a central position in the therapy. Some clients label me as an outdoor psychologist. But I also do supplementary video-based therapy session between the outdoor therapy sessions. So it is basically a combination of nature and tech, as well a combination of outdoor and indoor therapy.
2. That’s a very refreshing approach! What inspired you to start as an outdoor psychologist?
I personally enjoy the combination of nature, technology and psychology. It’s a way of practicing as a clinical psychologist that I couldn’t find elsewhere in my career. The idea struck me while running, as I personally find long runs therapeutic.
Later on I got inspired by Aksel Inge Sinding, a Norwegian psychologist, who offered free outdoor counseling for a couple of weeks, while he was between jobs, I think. There is definitely also some inspiration from Grete Nordhelle, another Norwegian psychologist, who do therapy walks with her clients in her garden. Her writings added fuel to the concept of profiling Djursland-psykologen as an outdoor psychologist. And as soon as I started, I saw immediate demand and positive response, which led to a growing number of both local clients from neighboring towns such as Rønde, Hornslet, Auning and Ryomgaard, as well as from Aarhus, the nearest major city. Of course, the popularity of hiking in a national park helps in getting your brand out there in a visual way that many can relate to. The combination of nature and therapy is simply intuitive. It just works in everybody’s favor.
3. What is the main benefit of outdoor therapy?
Natural movement and focus. Getting out of the office and breaking down the walls, both literally and figuratively. Walking, just like being next to each other while driving in a car together, takes a lot of the pressure off the clients. We don’t sit face-to-face and gaze at each other. Articulating the sentences, finding the right words within, suddenly comes naturally. It empowers the dialogue and creates a natural flow of intensity and pause. Nature and its smells and sounds, along with awareness of the warmth in your leg muscles, the ebb and flow in your heartbeat and the intensity of your breathing, all come together in creating a very natural and associative, yet focused therapeutic setting.
4. What primary challenge does your industry struggle?
Basically, there are those who lean towards a mental sickness paradigm and those that lean towards a mental health paradigm in regards to seeing a psychologist. There’s still some stigmata associated with seeing a psychologist among some demographics, mainly among the senior generations.
5. How have you overcome this?
Actually, internet usage is high among the 60+ population in Denmark. And social media posting of age-relevant material has been quite effective. For instance, sharing a psychological article with advice on how to reduce the risk of dementia as you age. It’s been one of the most successful articles, so far.
6. How else do you develop your profession and company?
I enjoy the variation of tasks involved in launching a new company. I’m also very much attracted to the strategy and business development side of things, but mainly I thoroughly enjoy therapy and counseling sessions, of course. I particularly appreciate developing the company profile with an emphasis on nature and preservation of nature and water resources. Which directly led me into integrating video sessions, as a way to reduce the need for transport. And it also offers the clients a very flexible solution for easily integrating their psychologist appointment into a busy schedule. I personally enjoy a work life, where I can combine my interest in and passion for nature, technology and psychology. It’s grown into a way of practicing as a clinical psychologist, that I haven’t found anywhere else.
7. Could you share a valuable experience for entrepreneurs?
I basically learn by getting out there. Every day at every opportunity, or as close as humanly possible, anyway. And I learn from the best by getting myself positioned in and with a mix of people who are more skilled than me, better than me and more successful than I am. Then I challenge my preexisting views and my comfort zone, especially. Simply by applying their advice and methods. It’s quite a journey.