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Experiential Therapy

Experiential Therapy Techniques and Activities for Treatment

Traditional therapy involves sitting and talking. Experiential therapy focuses on activities. The idea is that a patient’s perception of reality is a major factor in their behavioral issues. The goal of experiential therapy is to help the patient think about or relive past experiences. This helps them release the emotions associated with those experiences. After releasing these trapped emotions, the patient will gain a healthier perspective.

Experiential therapy activities are done with respect to a patient’s boundaries. For example, being around dogs and other animals can be healing for many people. Yet, one patient may fear dogs. In that instance, forcing the patient to interact with a dog could be traumatic.

The point of experiential therapy is to help the patient develop a healthier perspective about life. Therefore, it’s important that the patient moves at his or her own pace. A qualified therapist will be able to decide what types of therapy are ideal for the patient.

What are the different types of experiential therapy activities?

Experiential therapy techniques were first developed in the 1970s. It’s a broad category of therapy that encompasses the following therapeutic practices.

  • 1. Role-Play :

    Role-playing can help a patient face past traumas. It can also be a way to practice healthier patterns of behavior. During a role-play session, the therapist will play a character from the patient’s life. In some cases, role-play is even utilized during group therapy.

  • 2. Breathwork and Meditation

    Research has shown that breathing exercises can help with psychiatric disorders and addictions. One study even found that experiential therapy activities that involved mindfulness work reduced substance dependence and cravings. Experiential therapy also helped with improving mood and regulating emotions.

  • 3. Art

    Working on an art project is relaxing. Experiential therapy activities involving artwork can help people express their emotions in a healthy way. It can also boost self-esteem and awareness.

  • 4. Adventure and Wilderness

    Adventure therapy and wilderness therapy often go hand in hand. Patients may go hiking, rock climbing, rafting, or simply exploring in nature. The purpose of this therapeutic practice is to help the patient improve his or her psychological well-being. Being in nature is relaxing, and enduring a challenging activity can improve a patient’s self-esteem.

  • 5. Music

    Experiential therapy techniques involving music have been shown to help patients address emotional and cognitive needs. Music can be relaxing and uplifting. Music therapy may include dance therapy, listening to positive music, or playing with musical instruments.

Who can benefit from experiential therapy activities?

Studies have shown that experiential therapy can improve a patient’s coping skills, which can be helpful for a variety of disorders and conditions. Experiential therapy has even been shown to be as beneficial as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Experiential therapy can benefit people suffering from:

  • Drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Compulsive behaviors.
  • Anger disorders.
  • PTSD and past traumas.
  • Grief.

Experiential therapy can also help people improve their interpersonal relationships. For example, someone might not be suffering from an outright disorder, but perhaps that person has always struggled with intimacy. Maybe he or she never realized that this struggle is tied to a traumatic incident from the past. Experiential therapy, especially when combined with other types of therapy, can increase a person’s self-awareness and help that person discover his or her next steps in healing.

Is there anyone who should avoid experiential therapy techniques?

As beneficial as experiential therapy techniques are for people that are trying to recover from addiction, it isn’t for everybody. If you suffer from one of the following conditions, experiential therapy is likely not for you.

  • Physical Limitations

    Some people with physical disabilities may not be able to participate in certain experiential activities. This is especially true for strenuous activities, such as exercise, yoga, or hiking in the outdoors.

  • Psychosis or Psychotic States

    If the patient is in a state of psychosis or is demonstrating psychotic behavior, it’s important to avoid experiential therapy techniques. The priority for such patients is mental stabilization. It might be possible for such a patient to benefit from experiential therapy activities after he or she has been stable for a while.

  • Cognitive Impairment

    Addiction treatment patients with cognitive impairment should avoid most types of experiential therapy. They may benefit from certain types of animal therapy though. However, it’s important that a supervisor keep a close eye on them during that process.

What forms of treatment can compliment experiential therapy techniques?

Although experiential therapy can offer some wonderful benefits, it isn’t a stand-alone treatment. Therapists will often recommend experiential therapy in conjunction with other forms of rehabilitation. The other forms of rehab that therapists will likely recommend that experiential therapy go along with are described below.

  • Outpatient Programs

    This type of addiction treatment program allows patients to remain at home while they work on themselves and their problems. Patients of outpatient programs will usually visit a treatment facility on a set schedule. During these visits, they’ll meet with their team, which will include doctors and therapists.

    Outpatient programs often involve CBT and group therapy. The practitioner may recommend experiential therapy to complement the other aspects of the program.

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs

    This addiction treatment program can help patients develop a higher level of responsibility and independence. The difference between intensive and regular outpatient programs is that regular outpatient programs are for people who aren’t at medical risk.

    Much like regular outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs may involve the use of experiential therapies in conjunction with CBT and other forms of therapy.

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs

    Partial hospitalization programs allow patients to spend their nights at home but require that they attend treatment all day for anywhere from five to seven days a week. Partial hospitalization program patients will spend most of their time at the facility during the day doing therapy. A practitioner may choose to incorporate experiential therapy activities in the treatment regimen of patients that are attending partial hospitalization programs.

  • Inpatient Programs

    Inpatient programs require their patients to live at the facility that they’re receiving treatment at. As a result, inpatient program patients receive 24/7 monitoring and therapy. Experiential therapy activities are often an important part of the daily regimen of inpatient program patients.

  • Medications

    Certain disorders, such as bipolar disorder, require medications. Medication will assist the patient as they work through various forms of therapy, including experiential therapy.

Use experiential therapy in your addiction treatment regimen here at harm reduction center

Are you struggling with substance abuse? Would you like to receive addiction treatment in beautiful and sunny Florida? Then you should attend addiction treatment at Harm Reduction Center.

Here at HARC, we understand that addiction treatment isn’t a one-size fits all process. That’s why we provide countless different forms of therapy and treatment practices within our addiction treatment programs, including experiential therapy.

To learn more about HARC and the services that we offer, contact us today. We are more than willing to help you reach the next step in your addiction recovery journey.

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