Experiential Therapy Addiction Treatment
Treatment for addiction and mental health disorders usually involves a programme of rehabilitation that incorporates various treatments. One such treatment is experiential therapy, which has proven to be an effective method when it comes to overcoming a variety of illnesses. Continue reading to learn more about experiential therapy and whether it would benefit you.
What Is Experiential Therapy?
Experiential therapy is an action therapy as opposed to a talking therapy such as CBT. It uses activities and expressive tools to help with recovery from a number of mental health conditions, addictions, and behavioural disorders.
As you might find it difficult to talk about your past or things that have led to your current situation, you may benefit from experiential therapy. The main reason for this is that it involves the use of expressive tools such as role-playing, arts and crafts, acting, animal care, recreation, and music to help you address issues arising from past events and relationships.
You might find that experiential therapy makes it easier for you to address the issues that you have spent many years ignoring or burying. With this type of therapy, you can tap into underlying issues that could have led to your current problems, whether this is substance abuse or a mental health disorder.
Despite experiential therapy being a form of treatment for a host of conditions, it adds an element of fun and adventure to treatment. This has proven to be extremely effective, particularly for those who have experienced difficult life situations that have led to mental health or substance abuse problems.
How Does Experiential Therapy Work?
Counsellors and therapists trained in experiential therapy will use various techniques to help you get to the root of your problem. You might think that some of the activities you are being asked to take part in have nothing to do with your illness, and you may not understand how it could help you to get better. Nevertheless, good therapists can utilise various tools to help you uncover the issues that are affecting your mental and physical health.
When taking part in activities during experiential therapy, your therapist will be with you throughout and will be asking questions about the things you are doing and how you are feeling while doing them. The idea of this type of therapy is that you are likely to be more willing to open up when engaged in another task than you would be if you were in a one-to-one therapy session that you might feel was confrontational.
Experiential therapy will give you the opportunity to experience success, which has the aim of improving your self-esteem. The upshot of this is that you can learn to take more responsibility for your actions. Moreover, there are so many benefits of experiential therapy, including that it allows for emotional growth and personal development and empowerment.
During therapy, you and your therapist will discuss the activities that you are taking part in and he or she will provide feedback either during or after your session about specific behaviours and actions that might need to be addressed for you to overcome your illness and regain control of your life.
Understanding Experiential Therapy
Experiential therapy is commonly used for those suffering from behaviour disorders, substance abuse issues, trauma, eating disorders, and an assortment of other mental health conditions. As there are several types of activities utilised during experiential therapy, you might find that those you partake in are completely different to those of another patient.
Experienced therapists have a range of tools at their disposal when it comes to experiential therapy and so will choose an activity that they feel will be most effective in getting you to open up. With guidance from the therapist during your sessions, you will probably find yourself more willing to talk and get in touch with your emotions. You should then find it easier to reflect on past experiences and how these made you feel.
As your sessions progress, you will be taught how to make good decisions as well as how to be aware of your emotions and what they mean. Since these conversations will be taking place while you are performing a specific activity, you will almost certainly feel more comfortable and less ‘under the spotlight’.
What Abuse/Addictions Is Experiential Therapy Used to Treat?
- Sex Addiction
- Shopping Addiction
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How Does Experiential Therapy Help in Addiction Recovery?
It is often the case that talking with a therapist or counsellor is difficult for those in recovery from addiction. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of talking one-to-one with a counsellor, you might be a prime candidate for experiential therapy.
If you have addiction issues in conjunction with mental health problems, this type of treatment will be useful as part of your therapy programme. It is also an excellent choice if you are uncomfortable talking about past experiences that you find upsetting. By therapists giving you something to focus on other than therapy itself, you are more likely to be responsive.
You could find that talking about things that happened in your past makes you upset or angry. It is likely that these issues are what led to your current situation. If your way of dealing with painful memories was to abuse a mood-altering chemical such as alcohol or drugs, you might have spent years trying to bury these memories, so dragging them to the surface now might fill you with dread.
The very idea of having to discuss these memories with a counsellor or therapist could be making you feel anxious. In this situation, your counsellor might suggest that you take part in some experiential therapy sessions.
If you like the sound of the idea of incorporating music, drama, art, or animals into your therapy, you will probably end up benefitting from it.
Experiential therapy encourages openness and communication in a setting that you are likely to be more comfortable with. Depending on the type of experiential therapy that is used, there are many ways in which you will benefit.
For example, you may find that your communication skills improve, and it might become easier for you to focus and concentrate. Your ability to manage stress will also improve, as will your sense of control over various situations.
Due to the mental stimulation, you are likely to notice a decrease in feelings of anxiety and stress while you could also start to feel a renewed sense of self-confidence and competence.
Depending on the type of rehabilitation programme you choose and the specific treatment provider, you can expect your care plan to include various therapies all designed to help you fully overcome your illness.
Experiential therapy might form a big part of your treatment programme and is likely to be used alongside other therapies such as individual counselling and group therapy.
<p>Although the activities that you take part in with experiential therapy are not the main focus of the exercise, you might actually find that you develop a new love for a specific activity. This could then develop into something that you take with you on your return to everyday life. </p>
It is especially beneficial to those in recovery from substance abuse problems who need something to fill their time with when living a sober life after recovery. Addiction can be a time-consuming problem – you will undoubtedly be aware that your life has been revolving around the substance you have been abusing. You may be worried about how you are going to fill that void once you have completed rehab.
You could find that experiential therapy provides you with something that you can focus on going forward – a new love of art or music for example, or a new hobby that you can get involved with.
Experiential Therapy Techniques
There are many different activities used during experiential therapy. The ones used for you will depend on your personal situation and the type of illness you are affected by. Below though are a few examples of the techniques commonly used:
- Art Therapy – incorporates activities such as painting, sculpting, and drawing. It may also use music to help you express yourself. Using art and music as a therapy can help you to work through your negative emotions in a creative and healthy way.
- Drama Therapy – The use of drama and acting can be a terrific way to help you deal with the underlying issues that could have led to your illness. Acting out your own personal story and experiences can help you tackle the cause of your illness head-on, without you having to talk about them on a one-to-one basis. If you are finding it difficult to express yourself verbally, you might find that drama therapy helps. The process of role-playing and acting can help to reveal issues such as conflict, unresolved trauma, behavioural problems, and painful memories.
- Animal-Assisted Therapy – can dramatically enhance the healing process for a variety of conditions. Equine-assisted therapy is particularly powerful in terms of helping addicts to learn about themselves and how they deal with life issues. With this type of therapy, you will not be learning to ride the horses but rather interacting with them by grooming, harnessing, or feeding. Research has found that such therapy is effective in terms of helping you to learn more about your negative thoughts and behaviours and how you can challenge them.
- Psychodrama – takes place in a group setting, with one member of the group taking on the role of the leading character. Other members of the group will play the supporting roles and together everyone will re-enact a specific problem or situation. This type of therapy allows you to take a fresh look at a particular situation and try out new ways of dealing with it.
- Gestalt Therapy – used to help patients focus on the present. You will be encouraged to take personal responsibility through role-playing or the ‘empty chair’ technique, where you imagine something or someone and have a conversation with the aim of working through conflict.
- Wilderness Therapy – involves outdoor camping or backpacking and is often used when treating teenagers or adolescents. In a group setting, you will be encouraged to become more responsible and self-aware as you deal with life in the wilderness. The idea is that the great outdoors is something that cannot be manipulated or bullied.
How Experiential Therapy Differs from Other Psychotherapies?
Experiential therapy differs from other psychotherapies in that it is a ‘doing’ therapy rather than just a talking one. Role play is commonly used in this type of therapy, with a therapist taking on the role of another person in your life, such as your partner or a parent.
The use of art, music and animals can also help when there is a reluctance to talk about painful issues. Exploring hidden problems that you might have found difficult to deal with in the past can be easier when you are being active and concentrating on another task.
Experiential therapy is less structured than other types of therapy in that a specific set of steps does not have to be followed. Therapists trained in experiential therapy work closely with patients and are trained to notice both verbal and non-verbal expressions. Therapists pay attention to how you are acting in addition to what you are saying, and they can help you to overcome the issues affecting your mental and physical wellbeing.
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Co-Occurring Mental Disorders Experiential Therapy Treats Include:
- Grief and Loss Recovery
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Other Supplemental Therapies
- Fitness Therapy
- Holistic Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
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