Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Benefits of Experiential Therapy

by Alek Sabin

Experiential therapy isn’t necessarily one particular type of therapy, as much as it is a group of therapies that fall under a similar philosophy. According to practitioners of experiential therapy, traditional therapy doesn’t work for many people because personal growth and change can be difficult to reach in a single room where you talk to a professional for an hour and then go home.

Experiential therapy is based around the idea that engaging in mentally, physically, spiritually, and creatively fulfilling activities, such as painting, climbing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, sculpting, etc, can be used as a launching point to grow and tackle strongly deep seated issues, whether that be trauma, stress, depression, or other things. As this article explains, it’s a tool that can get past the usual barriers that we deal with in talk therapy. Here are some of the benefits of experiential therapy.

Takes People Out of Problematic Environments

Many times, people who have mental or behavioral issues that require the help of therapy have problems in their home, work, or social environments that contribute to the obstacles that prevent them from making progress. These problematic environments are a key hurdle that experiential therapy works to get over. By the nature of what experiential therapy is, most facilities that offer it require a dedicated period of time for people to come and stay immersed in that experience. This offers people a fulfilling and stimulating place away from the other problems in their life, so that they can reflect on their place in those environments and begin to make meaningful changes to undo the damage that is being done to their psyche.

Get Away from Technology

Today, we live in a world that is oversaturated with technology. Between working a computer job, taking online classes, communicating on social media, and consuming digital entertainment, a person could conceivably spend entire waking days (and many of their nights) wasting away in front of a screen of blue light. It’s for this very reason that the smartphones in our pockets have been linked with rising rates of depression (learn more here). Experiential therapy is almost always based on natural environments, real interactions, and physical activities. As such, many facilities to offer experiential therapy actually require their patients to forego computers and phones during their stay, in order to cleanse their minds from the hold of these addictive technologies.

Creatively Inspiring

A common subset of experiential therapy is expressive therapy, of which there are multiple types. Expressive therapy uses art and acts of expression to convey difficult emotions and help a patient work through them. The types of expressive therapy are often dependent on the specific type of medium that is being used. Some examples of expressive therapy are music therapy, art therapy, poetry therapy, and psychodrama, among many others. By enabling patients to unlock a more creative facet of their personality, expressive therapy creates another outlet for patients to deal with underlying issues and cope with mental problems.

Compassion-Building Exercises

Another one of the most common types of experiential therapy is animal-based therapy, and especially equine therapy. Equine and other animal therapies are powerful tools for patients who tend to lock themselves away and have issues expressing compassion. Equine therapy is based around the idea that patient is paired with a horse that they must feed, groom, and provide emotional support towards. Horses are incredibly emotionally intuitive animals, and have the potential to help people recognize the responsibility that they have towards other living creatures, their fellow humans, and nature, in general.

Successful for a Variety of Conditions

Experiential therapy continues to grow in popularity, because it offers a venue for people who find that solely using the traditional methods of therapy are unproductive. Experiential therapy may not be for everyone, but for individuals who are physical or creative learners, it may be incredibly useful at combatting a wide variety of different conditions, including the following:

  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorders
  • Trauma
  • Grief
  • Sex Addiction
  • Gambling
  • And More!

About the Author

Alek is a conman who somehow tricked people into paying him to write. Whether you want to talk boxing statistics or Gilmore Girls episodes, Alek will fervently get into any topic that you are passionate about. On weekdays, you can find him eloquently babbling in tongues to businesses about their marketing. On weekends, you can find him daydreaming about hosting a wine-and-cheese tasting travel show on PBS. There’s definitely an audience for it!

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Recovering The Self is a forum for people to tell their stories. Individual contributors accept complete responsibility for the veracity, accuracy, and non-infringement of their reporting.
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