Why Experiential Therapy is Effective for Treating Addiction

There are a number of well-established therapies used in the treatment of addiction, from individual and group therapy to more specialized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, more and more therapists are taking patients out of the traditional therapy environment to help them progress toward their goals. 

It can be difficult for many people to get in touch with their emotions, express suppressed feelings, understand their true self, and build confidence and self-esteem when sitting in a room and speaking with a therapist or group. Experiential therapy can help patients overcome these obstacles and get unstuck by incorporating various activities into their treatment that allow them to approach problems differently.

What Is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy is no single type of therapy. Rather, it’s more of a blanket term referring to a wide range of activities and tools that can help an individual identify emotions and explore negative feelings such as anger, hurt, shame, and disappointment that are associated with past experiences and relationships.

A trained experiential therapist can help the person become aware of these feelings, reflect more comfortably, and release them through action, movement, and different forms of expression, rather than simply talking. This makes it easier to experience and embrace positive feelings, such as love, forgiveness, and calm. By focusing on the task or activity at hand, they often let their guard down and express themselves more openly.

The patient will often gain a deeper access to emotional processing and creativity and improve interactions with others, which can lead to tremendous growth and empowerment.

Experiential therapy can be used to treat drug and alcohol addiction, as well as eating disorders, anger issues, grief, and a number of the behavior of disorders. Rarely used as primary or standalone therapy, experiential therapy is a useful supplement to traditional forms of addiction therapy. All experiential therapy activities are closely supervised to ensure the safety of the patient and other participants.

Adults standing at easy for art experiential therapy for addiction

Types of Experiential Therapy

There are dozens of types of experiential therapy in use today. The therapist will recommend activities based on the needs, challenges, goals, and physical condition of the individual patient. For example, forming a bond with a dog might be more effective for one person, while another might express their thoughts and emotions more freely through the arts.

Types of experiential therapy include but are not limited to:

  • Art therapy (painting, sculpting, drawing, arts and crafts, etc.)
  • Music therapy (playing instruments, singing, dancing, writing music, etc.)
  • Poetry therapy (literature and writing)
  • Psychodrama, theatre, or role-play therapy
  • Animal-assisted therapy (horses, dogs, etc.)
  • Wilderness therapy (rock climbing, hiking, fishing, etc.)

Experiential Addiction Therapy at Sea Change Recovery

Our adventure therapy program offers physical exercise, mental relaxation, and spiritual healing through activities in and near the ocean in Santa Monica. Rehab could involve surf lessons, swimming, oceanfront meditation, and group discussions on the beach. These activities are both invigorating and relaxing, enabling you to connect with nature and find peace.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experiential groups are offered twice a week, allowing you to express yourself emotionally, challenge yourself physically and mentally, and channel addictive tendencies into positive behavior. We also believe in giving back to the community and offer opportunities to gain respect for the value of yourself and others by participating in community service projects.

To learn more about experiential therapy, our adventure therapy program, and other addiction treatment in our Santa Monica facility, contact Sea Change Recovery today.

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