In the past, most addiction treatment programs focused completely on the 12-Step Model and incorporated psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”) into the recovery process. Today, there are a number of different types of Experiential Therapy used in conjunction with traditional therapy approaches.
Here are a few examples:
- Equine Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Surf Therapy
- Gestalt Therapy
- Adventure Therapy
- Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Music Therapy
- Wilderness Therapy
A Brief History of Experiential Therapy
The concept of Experiential Therapy began in the 1970’s. Over the years, it has evolved, gaining more recognition with time. However, only in the last decade has it become mainstream. More than ever, addiction experts are recognizing the benefits of Experiential Therapy for those who are recovering from a substance use disorder.
Many addiction rehabilitation centers now utilize Experiential Therapy in their treatment plans. There are also experiential programs available outside of the walls of rehab. Many therapists, mental health professionals, and community organizations offer this type of therapy.
What is Experiential Therapy Anyway? What Are the Different Types?
Experiential Therapy involves unconventional clinical approaches that are focused on promoting an individual’s mental, emotional, and psychological health through activities. They take therapy out of the office and encourage expression and engagement in different ways. It usually happens under the direction of a trained therapist, counselor, or mental health professional.
Experiential therapy centers around activities designed to allow subconscious beliefs, attitudes, and self-defeating behaviors to emerge and become conscious. It allows an individual to be mindful and exist fully in the present moment. This gets people out of their heads to engage their senses.
Only when someone has a strong sense of self-awareness about maladaptive thoughts and behaviors can they make a positive change in their life. Experiential Therapy makes this kind of awareness possible.
Experiential Therapy allows an individual to explore his or her innermost self in ways that cannot be experienced through talk therapy. Sometimes, talking with a therapist alone is an insufficient outlet for connecting with and expressing fears, unresolved trauma, negative self-talk, and other important issues.
Now that we have introduced the basics concepts of Experiential Therapy, let’s introduce three different types.
Hang Ten With Surf Therapy in Addiction Recovery
What? Surf Therapy? You mean that catching a wave can help you recover from drug or alcohol addiction? That’s right!
Surf Therapy has been embraced in oceanside communities across the United States in recent years and it continues to gain popularity. Here in sunny California, there are a number of Surf Therapy programs available. These offer conventional talk therapy followed by individual surf instruction and participation. Many programs are peer-focused, meaning that therapy happens in a group setting.
Those who engage in Surf Therapy say it requires them to be completely connected to their body and entirely engaged in the present moment. In this sacred space, hidden truths are revealed and epiphanies shed light on otherwise unconscious places in the mind.
Those in recovery enjoy Surf Therapy because it allows them to become one with the ocean, which puts problems into perspective and generates a true sense of humility.
Art Therapy and Addiction Recovery – Finding Healing in Creativity
In many addiction treatment programs, Art Therapy has become an integral part of the healing process. Whether it’s sculpting, painting, or drawing, this type of Experiential Therapy allows an individual complete creative expression through artwork.
Art Therapy is a nonverbal process. It allows someone in recovery to better understand themselves and express their emotions without the pressure of having to verbalize them. Most people in early sobriety are completely detached from their feelings and find it difficult to communicate their inner experiences with words. Art Therapy provides a safe outlet for communicating without language.
The beauty of Art Therapy is there is no pressure to create a masterpiece. There is no need to be perfect. Like a child who creates art for the simple enjoyment of creating, this Experiential Therapy allows a recovering individual to be present in the moment and channel their feelings through artwork.
Equine Therapy – How Horses Can Aid in the Process of Addiction Recovery
Equine Therapy is a type of Experiential Therapy that involves working with horses. It may involve grooming the horse, leading the horse on a walk, feeding, or haltering the animal. In some cases, it may involve actually riding the horse.
At first glance, it may seem strange to work with an animal to achieve and maintain sobriety. However, many treatment centers promote Equine Therapy as part of their treatment plan. Also, many people in sober living work with horses when they transition from rehab.
Working with a horse in Equine Therapy allows the individual to form a bond with the animal, which comes more effortlessly than it does with another person. This promotes compassion, empathy, boundaries, responsibility, and a sense of connectedness.
Horses are very sensitive creatures who are in tune with the person caring for them. Quite often, they will exhibit behaviors based on the emotions of their handler. This teaches those in therapy to have self-awareness and recognize how they impact the world around them.
Pursue Experiential Therapy to Enhance Your Sobriety
Recovery is a lifelong process that involves continued soul-searching and self-improvement. By engaging in an Experiential Therapy, you can find healing and deepen your level of self-awareness.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things. You may feel intimidated by pursuing one of the therapies mentioned because they are unfamiliar and might seem “weird.” This is understandable.
However, if you step outside of your comfort zone and become an active participant in your recovery, you will be amazed at the results. Maybe you would benefit from Surf Therapy. Maybe Wilderness Therapy is your thing. Perhaps you would enjoy Art Therapy. You might love Music Therapy. You’ll never know where you might find your healing if you never look.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 310.403.1032 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.