You may think addiction recovery is mostly about detox, therapy, and relapse prevention. These aspects are certainly part of the recovery journey. However, did you know that experiencing various activities is also a way to improve that journey? When people are not only focused on completing a therapy session, they tend to engage more authentically with their emotions. This is why experiential therapy can be a very effective addition to treatment.
The Therapeutic Effects of Positive Experiences
Experiential therapy is a particular category of hands-on activities that occur outside a therapy session. For example, you can be part of an art-making group or an outdoor hike. These are interactive experiences where people can do things together and express themselves by nonverbal means.
Experiential activities can open up new ways for you to move forward if you are recovering from past addiction, traumatic events, or mood disorders. Completing hands-on tasks can help you concentrate, turning your focus away from troubling thoughts. Experiential therapies are excellent ways to restore the mind-body connection. With the guidance of a professional therapist, such experiences can be very therapeutic and healing.
Working Through Negative Emotions in Experiential Therapy
Past trauma or negative emotions need to be processed and released for a person to heal. Although traditional talk therapy does help people work through negative emotions by giving them a safe space to talk and share verbally, this may not work for everyone. When it is challenging for people to share openly with a therapist, they may benefit from nonverbal means of working through their emotions.
Action-oriented techniques can create a positive experience that replaces negative thoughts and feelings. Individuals can use creative and engaging activities to express and release emotions, even without words. The success of experiential therapy is due to its non-intrusive nature. For example, after an individual creates a piece of art that feels liberating, it is up to them to share its inspiration or meaning. Either way, they have externalized something stuck and festering internally.
Choosing From a Wide Variety of Experiential Therapy Options
There are many different forms of experiential therapy. This is excellent, as it means individuals can choose a type that interests them. For example, the most common forms of experiential therapy include art and music therapy. These are known as creative techniques of healing. In art therapy, individuals build self-awareness and gain confidence in self-discovery by engaging in creative expressions.
Those who favor doing things outdoors may want to try adventure therapy. Adventure therapy might include hiking, biking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities. Usually, a therapist will lead a group to complete an activity or challenge. Social interactions and communication may naturally arise during the activity. Since recovering individuals are among peers who also enjoy the outdoors, connecting is easier. Removing the group from the bounds of the treatment center can work wonders.
Another kind of experiential therapy involves emotional support animals. Many people have heard of the healing powers of horses and dogs. By doing simple chores and caring for these animals, individuals can care for their needs. Because animals do not judge and have rich emotions, interacting with them can make individuals regain positive confidence in themselves.
The Complementary Role of Experiential Therapy
Some people may find certain forms of experiential therapy easier or more beneficial than other forms of treatment. However, recognizing that these methods complement other traditional treatment methods, not strictly alternatives, is essential. Experiential therapy is not meant to replace psychotherapy or other traditional treatment methods. Unfortunately, one cannot rely on therapeutic recreation alone to overcome addiction.
Finding the right treatment plan is like choosing a diversified and balanced diet. When talk therapy gets challenging, experiential therapy can help prepare individuals for more collaboration with health professionals. Clinical and evidence-based methods exist when the individual is ready for something deeper. It is ideal to have a good mix of therapies as part of an individual treatment plan.
Because experiential therapy is non-intrusive and can be more fun, it can be combined with other methods to help people with conditions such as dual diagnosis, eating disorders, or a history of trauma. Young people are more likely to benefit from experiential therapy because their brain is in a developmental state to be interested in trying out new things.
Expectations When Working With an Experiential Therapist
When beginning a particular experiential therapy, one can expect it to be highly interactive, both with the environment and other people. Participants are asked to do many hands-on activities. Some activities may even seem irrelevant to recovery. While the task is taking place, the therapist may ask participants to explain their thoughts and feelings.
The best way to enjoy the benefits of experiential therapy is to immerse oneself in the activity entirely. This may not happen naturally, and it can depend on the individual’s level of interest in the activity. Even when they feel bored, participants must trust the therapist who knows the therapeutic purpose behind doing these activities. Cooperation and follow-through are essential. Given time and practice, anyone can enjoy the healing powers of these methods.
Experiential therapy is an important component of addiction treatment. They often involve hands-on activities that help people look at ingrained problems in new ways and address various issues from different angles. Laguna Shores embraces a holistic approach to addiction recovery by integrating a wide variety of treatment methods, including experiential therapy. We have experienced mental health professionals who apply evidence-based treatment techniques and help people have fun in treatment and recovery. We will also connect you with a community of recovering individuals through our various programs, including medical detox, cognitive-behavioral therapy, 12-Step programs, and art and adventure therapy. Call us today at (866) 774-1532. Early intervention is key. Do not delay treatment.