Have you heard of experiential therapy? This therapeutic modality is based on the premise that our perception shapes our behavior. What we experience in terms of thoughts, emotions, and even sensations may contribute to our mind-body connection and general well-being.
We know that substance use affects not just the body, but the mind and behaviors. Because the person is a complex system comprised of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects, recovery from substance addiction requires caring for the whole person. This is why many treatment centers integrate experiential therapy to complement traditional approaches.
Why Experiences Matter for People in Recovery
People who suffer from substance use disorder (SUD) tend to get preoccupied with acquiring and using substances. Addiction can consume their life to such an extent that old hobbies, family time, and some friendships fall in importance. From an experiential point of view, substance use hijacks people with its narrow offerings.
When these people begin treatment, they must open up to a variety of experiences outside of substance use. From managing daily chores, cooking meals, and getting regular exercise, to restarting conversations and social interactions with sober friends, experiences like these may be challenging for individuals caught in addiction to navigate because they have neglected them for so long.
Research shows that people with SUD experience a decline in their communication and self-management skills. Further, some people behave in such a secretive and deceptive way as a result of their addictive behaviors that their family and friends lose trust in them. While healing the body and mind is important, adding positive experiences to the recovery progress is also crucial.
Common Experiential Therapies
The most common experiential therapy is art therapy. During sessions, participants may be asked to draw a picture of their family, themselves, or their feelings. Guided art-making helps people process past experiences and emotions non-verbally, which assists with healing and self-awareness. Art therapy also includes craft-making, acting, photography, and more.
Another experiential therapy is through music, including music-making. This artistic means of self-expression is often used to release stress. Therapists teach people to release negative emotions through music-making. It provides space for mental healing. Both art and music therapies use forms of recreation to re-enact and re-experience emotional situations from the past.
Experiential therapies also include adventure therapy and nature therapy. Outdoor activities such as hiking or rock climbing can help release stress and rebuild self-esteem. For young people in recovery, adventure therapy can fulfill developmental needs. By providing opportunities to escape from the daily routine in nature, adventure therapy helps young people see themselves in a new light.
Benefits of Experiential Therapies
Have you ever enjoyed a piece of good music and felt uplifted? That is one health benefit offered by great music. People in recovery also need this kind of experience. Positive emotions such as relaxation, joy, and peace have the potential to change a person’s perception of reality. These feelings also distract from negative memories and thoughts.
During experiential therapy sessions, participants may be asked to explain what they are feeling and thinking. This helps them articulate emotions and cultivate self-awareness. Sometimes, therapists also guide participants to conduct an activity that may reveal certain emotions and past experiences that their minds and bodies have been repressing. Expressing themselves using nonverbal practices can be liberating for some.
When and How Experiential Therapies Are Used
Different forms of experiential therapy may have therapeutic effects for people who have gone through traumatic events, including grief, loss, and related behavioral disorders. These modalities are often offered in individual, clinical, and medical settings in conjunction with other, more traditional methods of treatment.
For those looking for a treatment center that offers experiential therapies, ensure they have quality standard addiction treatment methods first. Experiential therapies can help expedite recovery progress and strengthen relapse prevention, but not without a foundation of clinical, evidence-based treatment.
Licensed and experienced clinicians can tailor specific experiential approaches to an individual’s treatment plan. Those exploring the options for a loved one who may benefit from these activities should look for a treatment center offering multiple experiential therapies alongside good clinical practices.
What to Expect When Working With Experiential Therapists
Experiential therapy may require a certain time commitment on top of an individual’s participation in traditional treatment practices. Before an individual commits to any experiential therapy, they might observe sessions or watch videos of typical sessions so they can adjust their expectations about it.
Many experiential therapies do not require too much group interaction, and individuals have the space to be guided by therapists. Some animal-assisted therapy sessions may involve chores. For example, equine therapy may require people to care for horses, and healing happens through doing these simple tasks. Patience is a key component in experiential therapy because recovery often happens in small increments.
Experiential therapies involve hands-on activities that help people look at old problems in new ways and address a variety of issues from different angles. Laguna Shores Recovery provides many forms of experiential therapies, including art, music, yoga, horticulture, equine, biofeedback, and mindfulness meditation therapies, among others. Our team works these activities in with quality standard treatment methods, including detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching. We strive to provide customized programs to ensure the best treatment for you. Most of our staff are in recovery themselves, so they know the value of a caring treatment team and an experiential toolkit. You will be included in a strong recovery community that offers ongoing support, even after you complete the program. Schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional or therapist at Laguna Shores Recovery today. Call us at (866) 906-3203.
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