There’s no right or wrong way to overcome an addiction, which is why there are several different types of addiction treatment programs; however, there are also a number of different treatments and therapeutic techniques used in addiction rehabilitation programs. One form of therapy that’s being used more and more frequently for addiction recovery is experiential therapy. therapies such as psychodrama, recreational therapy and even art and music therapies.  Experiential therapy incorporates actual involvement with different types of experiences including emotional processing, creativity exploration, reenactment of interpersonal interactions and unconscious reflections  of historical life events – and can transcend traditional “talk therapy” methods.  By incorporating experiential therapy into our innovative program, RISE allows clients to further develop insight into their core belief systems and learn more proactive ways to address emotional needs without returning to the use of harmful chemicals. But what, exactly, is an experiential therapy? How are experiential therapies advantageous? And what are some of the most common experiential therapies that are used in recovery programs?

What Exactly is Experiential Therapy?

When most people think of psychotherapy, they imagine a single patient talking about his or her childhood to a therapist. Although individual therapy is an important part of mental health and substance abuse treatments, there are many other types of psychotherapy, each of which can be extremely beneficial in certain instances. One particular psychotherapeutic modality is known as experiential therapy, which refers to therapies in which the patient is participating in activities, movements, or actions as a central part of the process; meanwhile, the professional observes and interacts with the patient in order to make mental and emotional inferences from the patient’s behaviors. While this is an unconventional form of therapy, there have been a variety of applications for forms of experiential therapy, including adventure therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and so on.

Experiential Therapies for Addiction in Florida

To reiterate, the purpose of experiential therapy is to help a patient identify hidden or subconscious issues through various activities, which can include role-playing, guided imagery, the use of props, and a variety of other activities. In some cases, the intent is to remove the patient from the traditional psychotherapy format since this often makes patients feel like they’re being put on the spot and can make it more difficult for them to express their thoughts and feelings. With experiential therapy, patients get the value of psychotherapy although they don’t feel like they’re in therapy since they’re participating in activities.

Of the many experiential therapies that exist, adventure therapy is becoming increasingly popular. As you might have guessed, adventure therapy involves exploration and experiential education that usually takes place in the outdoors. In many instances, groups of patients will take wilderness expeditions while being led by professionals with therapeutic and outdoors expertise. One of the main benefits of adventure therapy is its ability to help patients develop a positive self-concept, improve their self-esteem and confidence, and even enhance their cognitive and problem-solving skills. Adventure therapy tends to be a preferred form of therapy for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits, especially those that involve wilderness and nature, camping, learning survival skills, and the challenge of subsisting off the grid and working with others.

Equine therapy is a therapeutic approach in which individuals work with and tend to horses on a daily basis, serving to help them rebuild or learn responsibility as well as inspire personal, emotional growth. Relative to other therapeutic techniques, equine therapy is unique because it is a form of experiential therapy, which means that it’s a form of treatment that address an individual’s mental and emotional needs while engaging them in physical experiences or activities. When participating in equine therapy, patients will learn to groom and feed horses as well as haltering and leading. Additionally, equine therapy is often implemented by a mental health professional with thorough knowledge of working with horses, otherwise this form of treatment would require both a mental health professional and a horse professional working together.

Of course, there are many other forms of experiential therapy, too. While the ones above are ‘outdoorsy’ types of experiential therapy, there are also some that are a little more low-key. For instance, art therapy is a popular experiential therapy because it allows people to create visual representations that are often expressions of their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Similarly, music therapy has proven to be therapeutic for a number of reasons; not only is it relaxing and helpful when it comes to dealing with intense emotion, it’s also used to help liberate emotion.

Benefits of Experiential Therapy for Addiction

There are many benefits to utilizing a form of experiential therapy in lieu of or in addition to conventional psychotherapy. As mentioned previously, experiential therapy is a more casual form of therapy that doesn’t make patients feel like they’re being put on the spot. In this more laid-back and engaging environment, patients are able to express themselves freely without having to think too much about conversation. In fact, experiential therapies can be great exercises that help patients and therapists build trust and establish relationships that become particularly beneficial for conventional psychotherapy sessions.

Although it may seem like experiential therapies would be limiting, they can actually have far-reaching applications in the real world. For example, some forms of experiential therapy — particularly adventure therapy and wilderness therapy — present patients with obstacles that they must overcome through logic and reasoning skills. These are cognitive abilities that are very advantageous in day-to-day life. There are more straightforward benefits as well, including being able to focus on the task at hand and break down tasks into a series of achievable steps or stages. In short, this helps with problem-solving and directly applies to the recovery process.

Experiential Therapies as Tools for Lasting Sobriety

When a person falls prey to an addiction, he or she experiences a profound transformation. In particular, there’s a momentous loss of physical and psychological health, damage to relationships, loss of career and other opportunities, financial hardship, and so on. The reason for this transformation is because alcohol or drugs because the center of an addict’s life, causing him or her to effective forget about virtually all other aspects of life. This is one of the things that contributes to recovery being so difficult: learning to live without substance abuse being the center of one’s life. However, experiential therapies help individuals participate in activities that don’t relate to alcohol or drug use. In fact, the ideal scenario would be for an experiential therapy to result in a new hobby or pastime to which a person can begin devoting time. In short, it becomes a constructive pursuit that can be a major asset to long-term sobriety.