Experiential Therapy: What It Is and How It Helps

Experiential Therapy: What It Is and How It Helps

Experiential therapy was developed in the 1970s and has quickly become popular since it was introduced. Researchers and mental health professionals all over the world have attested to the positive benefits that experiential therapy can provide to those who participate in it. While it is still a relatively new form of therapy, it has still proven to be successful and offer a number of benefits that other forms of therapy often do not. Here’s a quick breakdown of what experiential therapy is and how it has been shown to help.

What Is Experiential Therapy?

As its name suggests, experiential therapy is a form of therapy that incorporates other activities into the process. The fundamental theory behind it is that when people are focusing on other tasks, they are much more relaxed and are able to access parts of themselves that they otherwise wouldn’t want to or even be able to. When done correctly, experiential therapy is much more than simply having fun; it’s a way for people to reconnect with the hidden parts of themselves that they have been suppressing, ignoring, or unaware of.

Some Forms of Experiential Therapy

It is important to know that when people are participating in these activities, they are not simply having fun. While that is an important element, they are also being guided by a therapist who is using the activity to relax the client and help them to lower the defenses that they so naturally put up. Here are only a few examples of experiential therapy, all of which have been shown to be effective with many people, especially those who have not responded well to talk therapy.

  • Music therapy incorporates music into the therapeutic process. It has been known to be especially effective because music is an inherently emotional art form. Often, music therapy is used to help people access their emotional side.
  • Art therapy is another effective form of experiential therapy because some people are able to express themselves more freely with art than they are with words. With the help of a therapist, they can be guided to discovering things about themselves and their emotions that they did not know before.
  • Play therapy is often used to resolve psychological difficulties. Additionally, it can be used to give people a “break” from the more serious side of therapy. It is often used in substance abuse rehabilitation centers to help recovering addicts relax in what can be an otherwise tense setting.
  • Animal-assisted therapy such as equine therapy incorporate animals into the therapeutic process. Some people are able to connect with animals in a way that they aren’t able to with humans, and caring for animals can help to relax and open them up.
  • Creative writing therapy helps people to express themselves with words at a much slower pace, which relieves some of the pressure that can be put on them during a face-to-face conversation. It gives them the opportunity to think about what it is that they really mean to say.

The Benefits of Experiential Therapy

As mentioned before, experiential therapy provides a wide array of unique benefits, most of which revolving around openness, communication, and present awareness. You see, when people are involved in an activity such as music, art, writing, or any other activity that is used in experiential therapy, they are focusing on what is happening right now. They cannot dwell on the past or the future and instead are living completely in the moment. That is very beneficial because it helps them to stay present, even while they are talking about the past or the future. In this way, it allows them to think about the past and the future without dwelling on them and it therefore enables them to be more productive in their thoughts.

People who regularly participate in experiential therapy are able to better process traumatic events that happened to them in the past and are able to think about the future without being fearful or anxious. They are also able to open up more, be more vulnerable, and address issues that they otherwise would not have wanted to or been able to. Those are all incredible benefits that can change people’s lives for the better. It’s no wonder that experiential therapy has become so popular in such a short amount of time!

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. A nice, succinct explanation of experiental therapy. Thanks! Going to share this one around.

  2. Rehabs cram so much into their schedules it is exhausting. The day is constant pressure. There needs to be a lot more experiential time. People in recovery need time to regroup and process. Being present is a huge deal in daily life. We need to stop cramming education into people and allow them to experience their day.

  3. Hi, you have to publish such a wonderful article.

  4. In this world, lots of people face different kinds of addiction but substance like drug or alcohol addiction is one of the worst things that each every person faces. I am very happy this kind of Experiential Therapy can help people to recover from addiction.

  5. Fabulous article. I’m sober 27 years and my personal toolbox is filled many therapies. From equine, cooking and music. Thank you again.

    1. That sounds great! Horses are an excellent part of a comprehensive recovery program. I agree with music as well. Especially playing music and composition. Cooking would not be good therapy for me, though I do like eating good cooking 🙂

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