How Does Experiential Therapy Help Patients?


Therapy and treatment programs can make a massive difference to those dealing with addiction, abuse, mental health disorders, and more. The problem is that talking therapy and one-on-one counseling don’t work for everyone. It can be difficult to open up in an unfriendly room where you feel under a spotlight. That’s where treatment centers with experiential therapy can help. So what is experiential therapy, and what are some examples patients may experience?

How Can Experiential Therapy Help?

Experiential therapy has the potential to guide patients through uplifting experiences and maybe some major breakthroughs. It puts them in a whole new situation where they can take on challenges and tasks that prove beneficial. They can use the time to learn new skills, express themselves, explore their issues, and also have fun with other people in similar situations. It offers a more engaging approach to talking therapy and more clinical approaches, which could help those struggling to progress with their care.

5 Different Forms Of Experiential Therapy

1) Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy is an important therapeutic tool and a massive tool in centers like BIG SKY Treatment. The challenges of the different activities help participants push themselves out of their comfort zones and build confidence in their abilities. This can be vital for anyone with mental health disorders or addiction struggles who doesn’t feel worthy, strong, or able to break old patterns.

Adventure therapy can come in many different forms. They are typically outdoor experiences that generally work as social or team-building experiences to get the best out of the experience. Having said that, indoor facilities with escape rooms, rock climbing walls, and other challenges are perfect in urban environments. Outdoor rock climbing, caving, rafting, and similar experiences can help patients tackle fears and insecurities together. They are also great bonding experiences for those who form friendships in group therapy sessions.

2) Animal Therapy

Animal therapy can be a lot more soothing than going out and doing adventure therapy. It allows for moments of calm where patients can relax and maybe even communicate with a new animal friend. An added bonus here is the chance to combine animal therapy and adventure therapy activities on retreats. The former can follow the latter as a way to wind down and process experiences and feelings.

A popular form of animal therapy is equine therapy, where patients get to meet and maybe even ride horses out on a ranch. They can spend time grooming the animals, taking care of them, and talking to them without being judged. Llamas are another popular creature for this sort of interactive experience. Alternatively, therapy centers can have therapy animals come to their facility, such as dogs. Licensed animal experience trainers may also bring exotic animals to work with those deeper phobias and build self-confidence.

3) Music Therapy

Music therapy is something that has caught on in all kinds of facilities, not just therapy and treatment centers. Music has an incredible power to trigger emotions and memories. The right songs and collaborative experiences can prove to be especially healing for those struggling with addiction, mental health struggles, grief, and more.

Music therapy can work on different levels. At their more basic level, participants can all take a percussive instrument or other item and play along to a song. These collective experiences are great in care homes with elderly patients with cognitive issues. Those in therapy for addiction or mental health issues may need something more substantial. Access to instruments in a music room or a chance to sing can be much more personal and expressive. There may also be an opportunity for patients to write out their struggles and feelings in song lyrics.

4) Art Therapy

Art therapy works similarly by allowing people to express themselves via an emotive medium. Many people will say they can’t do art because they were told they aren’t good at it. Being good isn’t the point. It’s about connecting to an image and expressing an idea, desire, or memory on the page. It can be very freeing and maybe even tap into a skill that patients didn’t know they had.

Art therapy can take many forms and is adaptable to different abilities. With fine art practices, it can be as simple as supplying a group with paints and canvas and letting them get expressive. Guided lessons for life drawing and still life drawing add more structure. Those lacking the confidence to start may appreciate more gentle tasks like coloring and painting by numbers to act as a distraction. Then there are the craft sessions where patients can make items out of fabric, clay, or other materials. These can be rewarding if they make something for a loved one who supported them or they’re trying to make amends.

5) Play/Psychodrama

This final one is worth putting together as one category because the forms are so similar. Play therapy is generally more focused on younger patients and kids while Psychodrama relates to therapy for adults. However, the basic principles are the same. Patients are encouraged to act out scenarios to uncover feelings, triggers, fears, and anything else holding them back.

These role-playing games are a little like drama classes at school. Therapists will give participants a situation and have them respond or create a short dramatization. The sessions can seem like escapism, but they also help patients express feelings and relive past situations in a new light. The sessions can be quite revealing when handled well. There may even be a chance for patients to develop stories into performances for loved ones.

Getting The Best Of Out Patients To Aid Recovery

The point of all this is to find the ideal outlet for patients in their recovery. Treatment centers can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to care because patients will respond in different ways. Adding experiential therapy to treatment plans helps. Still, centers have to offer enough variety to help patients find the right fit. They won’t know if a breakthrough will come with art therapy, talking to horses, rock climbing, or something else unless they try.