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What Is Experiential Therapy?

Therapy is tough. Many people struggle to put their emotions into words. As a result, they spend their sessions grappling for the words without really expressing the emotion. However, experiential therapy can help those who struggle with traditional talk therapy. It can also help to supplement traditional treatment, build real-world skills, and create a more positive treatment experience.

Enlightened Solutions understands the difficulty of expressing emotions with words. That is why we offer alternatives to those in recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. In addition, experiential therapy can supplement traditional types of mental health treatment.

What Is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy is any therapy that engages clients in an experience or activity. Hence the name “experiential.” This type of therapy can be part of a comprehensive treatment program. However, the defining characteristic is the activity involved in the process.

Broadly speaking, experiential therapy can involve any activity guided by a therapist or counselor. These can range from outdoor activities, like gardening or hiking. Or, they can involve artistic activities, such as playing music, writing poetry, drawing, or role-playing. 

In addition, experiential therapy can be completed in a group or one-on-one. For instance, clients in a group session can engage in a role-playing exercise or a type of therapy called psychodrama. Alternatively, a client can role-play in an individual session with their therapist.

Common types of experiential therapy include the following:

  • Equine and animal-assisted therapy
  • Art and music therapy
  • Psychodrama
  • Wilderness and adventure therapy

Thus, in some cases, experiential therapy occurs outside of a treatment setting. Sometimes, this can help give clients a fresh perspective on their problems and emotional struggles.

How Does Experiential Therapy Work?

Oftentimes, clients in treatment for substance use and mental health disorders struggle to feel positive emotions. They might be hampered by guilt, doubt, denial, or shame. While talk therapy can help clients work through these emotions, it is helpful to feel positive emotions during therapy. Experiential therapy offers a way for clients to uncover positive emotions and feelings through activities.

In other words, experiential therapy works by providing an outlet for clients to work through their problems and emotions. During the activity, clients get a chance to practice new skills and coping mechanisms within a therapeutic environment. So, when clients are role-playing, they can practice healthy relationship and conflict resolution skills with the guidance of a therapist, for example. 

By building these skills with feedback from a therapist and peers, clients walk away with a positive outlook, as they realize they can find and work through solutions to their problems. Also, some types of experiential therapy help clients with other emotional health problems that accompany mental health disorders and addiction.

Often, people with these disorders struggle with self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. For example, the experiences of doing things like taking care of a horse in equine therapy or completing a challenging hike in adventure therapy help clients build their self-esteem.

What Are the Benefits of Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy offers several benefits for clients in recovery. For one thing, there is an experiential therapy that can match anyone’s interests. This can help to engage a client’s interest in completing a treatment program. 

Regardless of the type, the following are some of the most common benefits:

  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Reduced stress
  • Enhanced awareness of emotions and feelings
  • Improving critical thinking skills
  • Learning conflict resolution
  • Building social skills
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • Developing new coping mechanisms
  • Discovering new interests and hobbies

Overall, the benefits will help to round out skills that are difficult to address in talk therapy. Clients will also have a safe place to practice their skills while gaining confidence. In addition, many clients can learn how to express their emotions during experiential therapy. This will help them engage more fully in traditional talk therapy. 

Who Is Experiential Therapy Best For?

Experiential therapy is best for anyone who struggles to express themselves in traditional talk therapy. Some clients have a tough time expressing themselves or feel intimidated during group or one-on-one sessions. During an experiential therapeutic activity, however, they might not feel “on the spot” and have something else to focus on. 

Sitting in a room with a therapist and just talking isn’t for everyone—especially if they are new to treatment. Some people also need time to build trust with a therapist before they express their emotions. Experiential therapy can help clients build that trust within a group or individual setting. 

This type of therapy also helps those who simply can’t find the right words. However, emotions can be expressed without words through art, music, or drama, for instance. Clients can then learn more about their emotions from feedback provided by peers or therapists.

Begin Experiential Therapy Today

Enlightened Solutions knows that not everyone is ready to express themselves vocally during traditional forms of therapy. Sometimes, clients feel so overwhelmed with emotion that they can’t get the words out. Our experiential therapies can help clients learn more about their emotional wellness while expressing themselves in alternative ways. 

We have locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan to treat addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact us today and start living the healthy, fulfilling life you deserve.

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