Experiential Therapy

Addiction therapy comes in all different formats. This is because people respond to different therapeutic methods. For example, some people respond best to talk therapy. Others respond better to forms of therapy that activate their sense of sight. One form of therapy that many people often respond well to is experiential therapy.

What Is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy is therapy through the practice of engaging activities. In other words, people that receive experiential therapy actively go out and do things. The purpose of experiential therapy is to help individuals get a better sense of self.

It’s also meant to shift the perspective of its recipients. That way they can make new discoveries about themselves.

This form of therapy can even help open people up emotionally. It can do this by forcing them to get out of their heads and be in the present moment. Mindfulness is key to experiential therapy.

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Common Types of Experiential Therapy

There are many different types of engaging activities that people can take part in for experiential therapy. Some of these engaging activities may require people to engage with animals. Other types of experiential therapy may require people to tap into their creative sides.

Regardless of the type of experiential therapy, the purpose is the same. To help shift the perspectives of patients, help patients gain a better sense of self, and open patients up emotionally.

Some common activities that therapists make people take part in during experiential therapy include:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Canine therapy
  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking and other outdoor activities and games
  • Dance
  • Creating poetry
  • Role-playing, otherwise known as Gestalt therapy

When individuals take part in different types of experiential therapy, they may have to call on different experiential therapy techniques. In fact, some common experiential therapy techniques directly align with certain types of experiential therapy.

Common Experiential Therapy Techniques

Experiential therapy techniques are the psychological methods that therapists often use on patients during experiential therapy. Like with all things, some experiential therapy techniques are more common than others.

Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy

Equine-assisted psychotherapy is an experiential therapy technique that directly aligns with the equine-assisted type of experiential therapy. For those that don’t know what equine-assisted therapy is, it’s using horses to help create engaging and therapeutic activities.

What may surprise many people is that more often than not, people who take part in equine-assisted psychotherapy don’t ride horses. Instead, they feed, groom, and walk the horses around

Forcing individuals to take care of horses causes them to tap into their emotional and mental states. This can then give therapists an insight into the emotional and mental states of patients.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, otherwise known as EMDR, is a therapeutic practice that makes individuals think about past traumas while being guided visually with a pen or finger. EMDR therapy helps people manage the negative thoughts and emotions that arise within them when dealing with trauma. Due to EMDR therapy, many people can be triggered into thinking about past trauma without it consuming them or causing them to start abusing substances.

Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy uses outdoor activities to make patients live in the present and open themselves up emotionally. Common types of experiential therapy that are also considered forms of adventure therapy include rock climbing, hiking, and other outdoor games. Adventure forms of therapy force patients to be responsible, communicate, make their own decisions, and problem solve. Oftentimes, adventure forms of therapy occur in group therapy formats.

Art Therapy

Creating art is one of the most popular experiential therapy techniques. This is because creating art can help individuals express the thoughts and emotions that are laying dormant in the minds. Creating art can also help individuals work through their negative thoughts and emotions in a productive manner.

Who Would Benefit Most From Experiential Therapy

Many individuals would benefit from receiving experiential therapy. Individuals that struggle to step outside of themselves and connect with their emotions while in addiction treatment could benefit from experiential therapy. Individuals that also struggle to connect with their therapists and fellow addiction treatment patients could also benefit from receiving experiential therapy.

Who Would Not Benefit From Receiving Experiential Therapy

Individuals that are not of an age or level of maturity to properly engage in certain forms of experiential therapy would not benefit from them. For example, a young child may not be mature enough to handle practicing animal-assisted forms of therapy on their own yet. Therefore, such individuals would not benefit from this form of experiential therapy.

Individuals that are genuinely psychotic also should not engage in experiential forms of therapy. This is because they would not be able to get the emotional and mental benefits from it. Also, being psychotic while engaging in experiential therapy activities that require problem-solving and trust is dangerous.

Individuals with severe cognitive or physical limitations should also not engage in experiential therapy activities. This is because doing so could be very dangerous. This is especially true when it comes to experiential therapy activities that are very physical or require higher levels of problem-solving.

Individuals that genuinely have no desire to engage in certain forms of experiential therapy due to fear, extreme shyness, sensitivity to criticism, or something else should never be forced to do so. For example, a person that contains an intense fear of animals should not receive animal-assisted forms of experiential therapy. Instead, therapists could introduce such people to more creative forms of experiential therapy such as art or music therapy.

Receive Experiential Therapy At Grace Land Recovery

Here at Grace Land Recovery, we specialize in numerous different treatment modalities, one of which is experiential therapy. Therefore, individuals that struggle to connect with others or their own emotions can take advantage of the different forms of experiential therapy that we offer.

Because Grace Land Recovery is a dual diagnosis treatment center, individuals that want extra assistance in the treatment of their co-occurring disorders can also take advantage of our experiential therapies. Individuals can even pair our experiential therapies with their other forms of addiction therapy to maximize the results of both.

To learn more about Grace Land Recovery and the other unique forms of addiction treatment and therapy programs as well as services that we offer, contact us today! Our phone lines are open 24/7. For those that would rather visit our facility in person, our treatment center is open Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm

How Experiential Therapy Can Help With Addiction Treatment

Experiential therapy is an effective tool in addiction treatment for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are described below.

Helps Recovering Addicts Practice Life Skills

One reason why experiential therapy is an effective form of addiction treatment is that it helps recovering addicts apply the life skills that they’ve learned thus far in psychotherapy in practical, hands-on environments. For example, these common experiential therapy techniques are great ways to help recovering addicts practice ways to cope with negative thoughts and emotions:

  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Art therapy

Ultimately, experiential therapy is a great tool to pair with various forms of addiction therapy. Some forms of addiction psychotherapy that experiential therapy can help maximize the effects of are motivational enhancement therapy (MET) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Helps Recovering Addicts Shift Their Perspectives

Another way that experiential therapy is an effective tool to use in addiction treatment is that it helps recovering addicts shift their perspectives. Often, this is great when treating addiction because it’s only when individuals shift their perspectives by engaging in actual activities are they able to put their guards down and connect with their authentic, raw emotions. Connecting to authentic, raw emotions through experiential therapy can help individuals get to the root of why they start abusing substances in the first place.

Helps Addiction Treatment Patients Better Connect With Others

Some addiction treatment patients struggle to connect with therapists and other recovering addicts. Such individuals could benefit from experiential therapy. In fact, research indicates that animal-assisted forms of experiential therapy can help increase the bond between therapists and addiction treatment patients. Animal-assisted forms of experiential therapy can also, over time, help individuals better relate to other people in general.

Helps Addiction Treatment Patients Improve on Their Problem-Solving Abilities

Even adventure forms of experiential therapy can help addiction treatment patients. This is because adventure forms of experiential therapy help addiction treatment patients improve their problem-solving abilities. This could help addiction treatment patients later on when they’re in recovery and they need to learn how to overcome daily triggers on their own.

Co-Occurring Disorders That Experiential Therapy Can Help Treat

On top of being able to help treat addiction, experiential therapy can help treat many co-occurring disorders. This is because experiential therapy can help people work through the negative thoughts and emotions that often arise due to mental illness.

Some co-occurring disorders that experiential therapy can help treat include:

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