When it is used
Experiential therapy is widely used in treating trauma, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, anger management, grief and loss recovery, substance abuse, and various physical and behavioral addictions, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors like gambling. It is also recommended for those who wish to be free from painful, unhappy, or otherwise bad feelings from previous experiences to change the nature of their current and future relationships and reach their full potential. Experiential therapy is offered in individual, clinical, and medical settings, including various recovery, treatment, and rehabilitation programs in conjunction with different traditional talk therapy styles.
What to expect
Experiential therapy is not necessarily a specific form of treatment. You may focus on different types of “hands-on” interventions and experiences in addition to talking therapy. By participating in these interventions under a therapist’s guidance, you will gain deeper access to your emotional processing: creativity, inner thoughts, and interactions with others. At the same time, you will learn to reflect on your experiences to make your own decisions more comfortably as you move through life and free yourself to become you. Your therapist will focus on your awareness and perception of what you are experiencing through these interventions and explore your emotions’ meaning. Conversations with your therapist can take place during the conduct of the activity or a private consultation session.
A fundamental premise of experiential therapy is that perception determines one’s behavior. By reliving and releasing repressed negative emotions from the past, the client can have positive feelings such as love, forgiveness, and being calm in the present, changing their perception of reality. In practice, experiential therapy can take various forms and is customer-oriented as the client’s preferences for specific interventions should be taken into account. For example, one client may be more attracted to animal-assisted therapy while another may be more interested in sculpture or drama as a form of expression.
What to look for in an experienced therapist
For a private consultation, find a licensed and experienced clinician with additional training and experience in a specific experiential approach, such as art therapy or psychodrama. In addition to verifying credentials, you should feel confident and comfortable working with the therapist you choose. In clinical or medical facilities, stick to reputable, government-licensed, or certified treatment centers staffed with licensed, professional mental health workers.
What is experiential therapy?
Experiential therapy is difficult to define as it can encompass a range of therapy methods aimed at restoring the experience in an environment where the unconscious can emerge more fully. The integration between the conscious and the unconscious takes place. There are many ways in which experiential therapy can be practiced, and even societies of therapists are dedicated to this type of work. The basic idea in each of the medicines used is that simply “speaking” may not be enough to solve problems. Speaking and experiencing something else at the same time could be more effective.
There are several backgrounds to experiential therapy. This includes Gestalt therapy, where it was often assumed that treatment combined with action would be more successful. Gestalt therapy often focuses on people’s actions (tapping a foot, shrugging their shoulders) in traditional therapy sessions to look at the person’s full expression, which is not limited to verbal language. Other forerunners of experiential therapy are Jacob Levy Moreno’s work in the early 20th century, who developed psychodrama, a method of solving problems rather than just discussing them. Meanwhile, many other counselors and doctors have added additional ways to experiential therapy,
It is sometimes the case that experiential therapy is defined as action with therapy or therapeutic activity, but the steps need not be giant. They could include drawing during the discussion, hypnosis, therapy methods such as desensitization and eye movement reprocessing (EMDR), or acting out feelings in some “drama.” In contrast, some experimental therapists can take a much more active approach. People can undergo “therapy” while navigating a high ropes course, riding a horse, or creating a sculpture.
People who work on challenging topics often say they know what to do, but they may not know somewhere deep in their hearts or subconscious. The theory behind experiential therapy is that experience can lead to a deeper level of knowledge. There is some benefit to this when people think about the number of conversations they have that they are quick to forget. However, if something is revealed while an action is taking place, it can stay in mind.
Many therapists practice experience-based therapies, and many clinics and facilities also use them. Psychiatric clinics offer various therapies throughout the day, which can be experienced like art therapies. Treatment centers for addiction and things like eating disorders can base their programs on experimental methods.