AUSTIN, Texas -- Instead of lending a hand, therapists and volunteers are lending an ear. It's called a sidewalk talk. Inviting anyone walking by to stop in and have face-to-face interactions with perfect strangers.

"They're just offering to listen to strangers. Hear them say anything they want. They can say positive things, negative things, talk about their day," said Dr. Candice Ackerman.

It's an effort encouraging people to step away from  smartphones and engage with others.

"Smartphones are definitely taking away from our ability to connect with one another through facial expressions and non-verbal communications," said Ackerman.

Aside from listening, organizers say they hope to de-stigmatize therapy.

"It's our perception as a whole that 'I can't have problems because then that means I'm sick,'" said Ackerman.

Austin resident Nathan Singhal stopped in during his lunch break and thinks sidewalk talks are a good idea.

"You know, people are just looking down. Plugged into their cell phones and that's what life has become but this was a good opportunity to just let go of that," he said.

The group will hold another listening session at the State Capitol on Saturday at Noon.

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