Experiential therapy guides clients in the use of expressive tools and activities to re-experience emotions tied to past situations and relationships. Through psychodrama, use of props, creative arts, music, guided imagery, equine or canine therapy, wilderness experiences, ropes course, or another experiential method, clients learn to identify, explore and release specific emotions.
Unlike psychotherapy, which typically takes place in an office setting, experiential therapy is an active, hands-on approach, which can take place in a variety of settings. It is sometimes easier for clients who find it difficult to express deep emotions or traumatic experiences to do so while being physically engaged.
Experiential Therapy and Addiction Recovery
The premise behind experiential therapy is that each individual is an expert in every facet of their life. According to the American Psychological Association, experiential therapy helps people take that knowledge and learn to assume a leadership role in their own lives.
As clients participate in various experiential methods, they build self-confidence and a sense of empowerment, strengthening their ability to confront challenges, including triggers to addiction.
Traumatic experiences and negative emotions are often linked to substance addiction and other mental health disorders. Guided by a trained experiential therapist, clients learn to process and release negative emotions such as guilt, anger, shame, and other negative feelings and beliefs that may be hampering recovery.
In addition to addiction recovery, experiential therapy is effectively used to treat trauma, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, grief, and anger management.
Examples of Experiential Therapy
- Ropes Courses are physically and mentally challenging rope systems with ladders, bridges, and other high and low elements that help clients overcome fears, build trust through working with others, and build confidence and self-esteem.
Ropes courses can be especially beneficial for those seeking to overcome addiction, as the challenges faced on the course are like challenges experienced during recovery. As clients learn to overcome fear and negative emotions, support, and be supported by others and experience the challenge of overcoming something both difficult and frightening, they become better equipped to overcome the triggers to relapse.
- Wilderness Therapy is a combination of nature, survival techniques, and rehabilitation therapy as participants learn to overcome challenges in an unfamiliar outdoor environment. This therapy builds confidence and self-esteem, problem solving techniques, and teamwork, all of which are valuable tools in long-term addiction recovery.
- Dance Therapy promotes healing of mind, body, and spirit as participants freely express themselves in a supportive environment. The therapy is especially helpful for those who have difficulty talking about past trauma and other painful emotions.
There are many other forms of experiential therapies. To learn more about the different forms see our collection of articles on:
Long-term sobriety is challenging, and most people find success when they are able to resolve complex emotions that can trigger relapse. Because experiential therapy is so effective in helping individuals understand and release negative emotions that often underlie addiction, it is frequently incorporated into addiction recovery treatment plans.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.