Because I use it regularly and have seen patients lives change dramatically and profoundly (as well as often quite quickly) I use experiential therapy as often as possible. Patients often ask me, "What, exactly, is experiential therapy?" I like to simply say, "It's the difference between reading the definition of 'love' in the dictionary and experiencing love with your soul mate. It's the experience that makes all the difference in shifting to a true understanding in the brain!"
.......In A Nutshell
As its name indicates, experiential therapy involves actions, movements, and activities rather than the more traditional "talk therapy.” Experiential therapy is actually a category, rather than one specific type of therapy. Examples of experiential therapy include recreation therapy, equine therapy, expressive arts therapy, music therapy, wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, and somatic or body work. We're excited that soon we'll be offering Walk & Talk therapy to patients who request it and are an appropriate fit! It takes the therapeutic process outdoors (weather permitting) and releases the natural healing powers of endorphins.
Developed in the 1970s, experiential therapy is a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address hidden or subconscious issues through activities such as role playing, guided imagery, the use of props, and a range of other active experiences.
One of the many advantages of experiential therapy is that the experiences and activities that form the core of the process provide opportunities for the therapist to observe patients in situations where the patients are not focused on the therapy itself.
Some Benefits are.....
As patients progress through structured experiential therapy activities under the guidance and supervision of an experiential therapist, they have the opportunity to experience successes, identify obstacles, develop improved self-esteem, and take greater responsibility for their actions.
Change, emotional growth, and personal empowerment are all among the benefits of participating in an effective experiential therapy program. Because experiential therapy patients are often focused on the task or activity at hand — rather than on the therapeutic aspect of the experience — they are more likely to behave in a more unguarded and genuine manner.
When the experiential therapist and the patient process the experience — a discussion that may take place during or after the activity — the patient receives specific feedback regarding specific actions or behaviors. At the same time, the patient has the opportunity to identify and evaluate the behaviors that he/she exhibited during experiential therapy, as well as the thoughts or prior experiences that may have prompted those behaviors.
Though not necessarily a primary focus of experiential therapy, the activities that patients participate in may also serve the purpose of providing them with new ways of filling leisure time or other “down times” during their daily lives.
This may be particularly important for individuals who are in treatment for substance abuse or addiction, as part of the recovery process involves finding healthy and productive leisure activities to fill the hours previously occupied by searching for, acquiring, and using alcohol or other drugs.
Who Is Likely To Benefit?
Experiential therapy has been an effective component of comprehensive treatment programs for individuals who are struggling with a range of issues and disorders.
Experiential therapy has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens who are being treated for substance abuse, have PTSD or a history of trauma, addiction, behavior disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, grief/loss, trauma, sex addiction, compulsive gambling, bipolar, depression and related conditions.