Tag Archives: art therapy

Tag Archives: art 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.

creating art in addiction treatmentJust last year, CNN covered the story of a young man who struggled with alcoholism while in school. He had difficulty coping with his parent’s divorce at a young age and found himself drinking a lot in order to relate to others. Eventually, his parents sent him to a recovery program where he met a teacher who helped him discover his talent for painting. Even though he struggled with relapse and with a traumatic injury after an accident, he pursued his love for painting at an art school. He stated, “It relieves a lot of stress for me knowing that I’m good at something. Someone told me you gain self-esteem by doing esteemable acts. That stuck in my head.”

Addiction recovery is a vulnerable time where self-esteem is refined, especially as many people in recovery feel lost and hopeless. Addiction is often considered a disease of the soul because it takes people away from their true purpose in life and all of those meaningful connections that help them thrive. While not talked about as often, art can be an incredibly transformative process to build that sense of self back up. Consider trying the following projects to do just that:

  1. Collage. Design 2 collages, using whatever materials you can find around the house. On one, create a collage that represents the destruction that addiction brings to your life – on another collage, design your ideal future that’s filled with happiness, purpose, service and hope that sobriety can give you.
  2. Mindful scribbles. Without having any set of idea of what you’re going to draw, start drawing. It could be something definitive or it could merely be scribbles. See where the lines take you and stay glued to the present moment as you’re doing it.
  3. Poetry. Write a poem about what you had for lunch, how you slept last night, what forgiveness means to you or something similar. When you’re done, draw out your poem as part of the background.

In 2014, researchers published a study in the Journal of Addictions Nursing which found that both art therapy and 12-Step programs (such as AA) can provide individuals with the unique elements they need to heal throughout their journey to recovery. Consider incorporating more of these projects into your daily routine – you might be surprised what you find.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. 

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.

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