What Is Experiential Therapy?

What Is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy has become increasingly more popular in treatment centers and hospitals across the United States. One of the reasons for this is that it can uncover hidden wounds with unique effectiveness and efficiency.

History of Experiential Therapy

Developed in the 1970s, experiential therapy is a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address subconscious issues by engaging in various activities. Instead of traditional talk therapy, experiential therapy uses role playing, guided imagery, props and a range of other active experiences to uncover issues that need work. Experiential therapy includes the following practices:

  • Recreation therapy restores, remediates and rehabilitates a person’s level of functioning and independence
  • Equine therapy helps patients explore patterns of relationships and address issues of communication, empathy and basic interpersonal respect
  • Expressive arts therapy uses visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing and other creative processes to foster personal growth
  • Music therapy uses music to address a patient’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs
  • Wilderness and adventure therapy encourages people to explore themselves through physical activities while focusing on collaboration with others

Each of these methods helps counselors observe patients outside of therapy and how they engage in particular activities.

Benefits of Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy engenders an element of unique interactions and experiences. Patients can experience success, identify obstacles and take responsibility for their actions. Additionally, patients can benefit from changing previous beliefs, emotional growth and personal empowerment.

Through experiential therapy a person gets to look at her past experiences and thoughts to determine how they influence her to act. Through discussions with the therapist, she can also explore different and healthier ways to act in the future.

When used to treat substance abuse or addiction, a patient can learn about healthy and productive leisure activities to occupy his time rather than searching for and using drugs.

What Does Experiential Therapy Treat?

Experiential therapy can treat any of the following issues:

  • Substance abuse
  • Addiction
  • Behavior disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression

In addition, it can address addictions to behaviors, such as sex and gambling.