Trailblazer alum uses running psychotherapy to help clients

January 12, 2024
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Saint Michael’s alum, Beth Connolly ’04, Psy.D., believes in treating the mind and the body at the same time. She has built a running psychotherapy private practice in Hampton, New Hampshire, called This is My Happy Pace, which combines movement with talk therapy.  

Despite the cold temperatures, she sees an uptick in clients during December and January. Connolly explains this has less to do with folks trying to kickstart their New Year’s resolutions, and more to do with the holidays, a season that can stir up “emotional turmoil and unresolved conflict rooted in families of origin.”   

Connolly running in Hampton, NH (Courtesy photo by Scott Raymond)

Much of the therapy is done outside, even in January.   

“I’ve used running, myself, as mental health practice and definitely as a stress reliever,” Connolly said.  

Beth Connolly ’04, Psy.D.

Connolly graduated from St. Mike’s in 2004 with a B.A. in Psychology and earned her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire. She opened her private practice four years ago after reading a magazine article in Runner’s World about a clinician in Los Angeles who was integrating running and walking with talk therapy. Connolly flew to California to train with Sepideh Saremi, a therapist and coach who also offers training and certifications to other clinicians who want to follow her path. Connolly was the first East Coast provider for this type of therapy.

Connolly said she always knew movement was a key ingredient to improving someone’s mental health, but trying to motivate her clients to get moving was often challenging in a traditional office setting during talk therapy sessions. Now, her office is positioned close to the ocean, near Hampton Beach, and most of the sessions are spent outside moving. Connolly said the ocean helps her clients reach an additional level of mindfulness. 

“Part of the practice is helping people to start getting back into their bodies in a way that they’re evaluating what they actually need that day,” Connolly said. 

The people she works with have a full spectrum of running abilities. Some of her clients can walk only short distances while others can clock five miles in their hour-long session. This means Connolly is moving a lot too.  

 “There were days where I was doing marathon distance— like 26 miles in a day,” Connolly said.  

Luckily, this would not be her first. In September, Connolly ran her 100th marathon. She achieved that personal goal on the 11th anniversary of her first marathon, something she had planned.

Courtesy photo

She has made intentional adjustments since launching her practice, and now tries to stagger her clients in a way that caps her own movement to around 12 miles throughout the day. 

“People have responded so well to it,” Connolly said. Even the practice of being outside, walking side by side, instead of looking at each other directly has helped. “There’s something about people’s defenses that come down so quickly when you’re participating in something with them.” 

For the coldest winter days, Connolly has two backup treadmills in her office if clients don’t want to brave the single digits. But she’s found many of her New England clients don’t get too thrown off by the cold. 

Connolly is from a St. Mike’s legacy family. Her older sister and her two younger sisters all went to Saint Michael’s. Connolly played on the women’s basketball team her first year. She also did work at the Arbors Retirement and Assisted Living facilities in Shelburne, and at the Howard Center in Burlington, where she received work practicum experience. 

“There was so much access to experiences in the community,” Connolly said of her time at Saint Michael’s. “I do feel really grateful for the path that it put me on.” 

A path that, so far, has been filled with miles and miles of open terrain for this trailblazer who has been dedicated to helping others. 

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I’ve used running, myself, as mental health practice and definitely as a stress reliever.

Beth Connolly '04, Psy.D.

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