experiential therapy

What Is Experiential Therapy for Addiction Treatment?

SoCal Detox
SoCal Detox

SoCal Detox editorial contributors include writers, editors, mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals who are trained to create credible and authoritative health information that is accurate, informative, and easy to understand.

Each individual is unique in their approach to life and interests. As the expression goes, “God made over 2,000 kinds of fleas, then he got on to cockroaches.” Basically, there is a massive amount of variety in the world. Spanning from something seemingly as insignificant as fleas all the way to the different types of people in the world.

Where this matters in drug and alcohol detox and addiction recovery is when it serves as a reminder: every person is unique and will respond differently to different treatment modalities. One of the ways detoxes and treatment centers are able to handle the needs of a variety of residents is with experiential therapy.

Experiential Therapy Background

Experiential therapy is a group of therapies that are tailored to help individuals reveal subconscious thoughts and feelings through experiencing a variety of different activities, as opposed to traditional talk therapy. (Though it is most successful when used in conjunction with traditional therapy.) Sigmund Freud was the psychologist that developed the idea of the subconscious mind, which is the area of the mind in which one is unaware of but strongly influences behavior.

Freud developed psychoanalysis and free association, which are forms of therapy that help an individual reveal what is in their subconscious. Unlike traditional Freudian therapy methods, experiential therapy is centered around the idea that an individual engaging in a variety of different activities can be just as effective in revealing subconscious thoughts and feelings.

The idea originated in the early 20th century. Gestalt therapy, dynamic therapy, and certain forms of cognitive behavioral therapy are its predecessors. In the 1940s, art therapy emerged when the ideas of self-expression and self-exploration started to be utilized. The modern model of therapy became prevalent in the 1970s.

Examples of Experiential Therapy

Art therapy – Through creating paintings, drawing, sculptures, etc., people can reveal their subconscious thoughts, feelings, and possibly memories.

Music Therapy – Music has the ability to evoke emotion from people. Through listening and creating music, people can reveal subconscious feelings.

Wilderness Therapy – Nature has a profound effect on people; hence, many poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote their best works while in nature. When a person is walking through nature, they are calm and more willing to reflect on themselves and their lives.

Animal-assisted therapy – Horses are most commonly used in addiction therapy (equine therapy). Through caring for and interacting with animals, people can get in touch with a different side of themselves. They may be more relaxed, down-to-earth, and open, which will help them articulate their subconscious thoughts and feelings.

Psychodrama – Through acting, people can easily reveal the contents of their subconscious mind through pretending to be someone or something else.

Benefits for Addiction Treatment

Addiction is both a physiological and psychological disease. Experiential therapy helps treat the psychological aspect of addiction in a way that gets deeper and broader.

Its main benefit for addiction treatment is it helps people reveal the feelings, thoughts, and memories that they may be unaware of, yet strongly drive their addiction. For example, an individual who has just entered recovery may use drugs to cope with his or her feelings of low self-worth. However, the individual may not be able to articulate those feeling through talk therapy, but he or she may be able to express it through creating art or open up about it while learning survival skills in an outdoor treatment setting.

SoCal Detox in San Clemente, California

SoCal Detox makes use of experiential therapy in addition to classic one-on-one counseling. If you or your loved one are struggling with addiction and believe this approach might be helpful, please call us today. One of our addiction specialists will be happy to answer whatever questions you have: 888-590-0777.

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