The Value of Experiential Therapy

What is Experiential Therapy?

Rooted in Rogerian empathy (“person-centered” psychotherapy), this therapeutic technique utilizes tools and activities to allow participants to re-experience and re-enact emotional situations. Experiential therapy is different from traditional talk therapy in that it involves the exploration of complex feelings through external media, not necessarily direct conversation. This method can be especially effective for those who have blocked past feelings and traumas, making them difficult to speak about. It can be thought of as a “hands-on” approach to treatment for addiction.

When is It Used?

Experiential therapy is considered especially effective in the treatment of complex issues like substance use disorders, trauma, eating disorders, anger management, grief and compulsive behaviors like gambling. It is also helpful for those who wish to work through past issues and experience, breaking free of the burden from the past. By addressing pivotal issues in past relationships, individuals are better equipped to move forward with healthy coping mechanisms and attitudes.

The best candidates for experiential therapy are those who have a difficult time expressing themselves verbally. These can be individuals who become upset or agitated by the events in their past, or those who have been abused. They may also include people who are generally unwilling to open up about private issues. Those who are passionate about music or art may find it easier to put their feelings into that format, rather than saying them out loud.

Why Does It Work for Addiction?

As written in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the core conceit of the Twelve Steps is to create a “psychic change” – a complete shift in one’s perspective. Generally, this is best achieved through experience, not through a lecture or neatly packaged information session. When people are focused on an activity, rather than the idea of therapeutic participation, they let down their guard. This permits them to react authentically to prompts and reflect more clearly on their concerns.

Many individuals intellectualize their addiction; they attempt to gather as much information as possible to equip them for the future. We understand that lasting healing comes not merely from studying the subject matter – recovery is much more complex than that. By accessing deeply rooted, unresolved issues through experiential therapy, people are much more likely to work through these problems and open themselves up to inner peace.

What to Expect in Experiential Therapy

This therapeutic approach is available in individual and clinical settings, including treatment centers like Cumberland Heights, in conjunction with group and individual talk therapy services.

There is no one approach to experiential therapy. Instead, it is a collection of therapeutic approaches. These techniques are all centered around the idea of action and are led by a therapist.

Experiential therapy sessions may include:

  • art therapy
  • props
  • role-playing or acting
  • arts and crafts
  • sand tray therapy
  • music therapy
  • guided imagery
  • labyrinth experiences
  • equine-assisted therapy
  • adventure therapy or recreation

Whether people write songs or paint portraits, they are able to explore their feelings through the creative process. Adventure therapy, on the other hand, keeps individuals physically and mentally engaged with ropes courses and teamwork exercises. Sand tray therapy allows participants to experiment with new solutions through play.

By taking part in experiential therapy, you can expect to be guided through an activity that grants you deeper personal insight. The therapist will help you to take part in the task at hand, while also prompting you to consider specific ideas. They may ask you to focus on your perceptions or awareness, and later will help you to unpack the meaning of your emotions.

Experiential Therapy at Cumberland Heights

Cumberland Heights is proud to offer a wide array of experiential therapy sessions. Our services include adventure-based therapy, art therapy, labyrinth experience, music therapy, sand tray therapy, spiritual care and yoga. We believe in healing the whole person through whichever approaches are most resonant for them. Our individualized therapies are tailored to the needs and personalities of each client. To learn more about experiential therapy at Cumberland Heights, contact us online or call 800-646-9998 today.

Why is it so meaningful to give to Cumberland Heights?

Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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