The world of mental health treatment has long stood on a foundation of uncertainty. Some experts say these disorders can be managed by taking the right combination of medicines. Others say the key is counseling, therapy, and a strong social network. But like so many things, true management likely involves some of both. Along with other types of counseling, the benefits of experiential therapy have proven helpful in treating a variety of mental disorders, from bulimia and depression to substance use disorders and anxiety.
At Northpoint Recovery, our experiential therapy program is designed to help you become the best version of yourself. We utilize activities like yoga and meditation, music and art therapy, and exercise therapy to provide an immersive experience that encourages physical movement and connection with your inner emotions. Learn more about our experiential therapy program by calling 208.486.0130 today.
The Role of Therapy in Rehab Centers
Successfully treating a mental or substance use disorder takes more than just medication. Simply put, you can’t cure everything with a pill. The most effective treatment programs include many different kinds of therapies and medical detox. While detoxing is an important step in the process, it’s only the first. The rest of a well-rounded treatment plan should involve a variety of additional therapies that help you cope with your cravings and triggers. While the withdrawal symptoms can be unbearable at times, the real test is whether or not you can abstain from using again once you leave rehab.
Good therapy programs will help you build skills to manage cravings for substances, including:
- Stress management
- Goal setting
- Craving management
- Healthy eating
- Emotional intelligence
- Effective communication
Experiential Therapy for Addiction Treatment
The fundamental principle behind many therapies in rehab is to uncover and address subconscious issues that may have been influencing substance-seeking behaviors. While this is a common aim for many different types of therapy, experiential therapy activities differ by addressing these issues with active, sensory, and usually physical experiences. These experiences could include:
- Working with animals
One of the benefits of experiential therapy is that it allows people to act in a more genuine manner by taking the focus off of the therapy itself. Often, the patient and the experiential therapist will process the experience together either during or after the activity. It’s this discussion about the thoughts and emotions that rose to the surface during the activity that helps the patient become more aware of their feelings. Once these emotions are on the table, they can work together to connect them back to significant memories, events, or feelings that could have had an impact on their continued substance abuse.
Types of Experiential Therapy
Experiential therapy isn’t necessarily a single specific set of guidelines or rules. It’s an umbrella term for a number of different strategies and techniques. What unites each of these experiential therapies together is the common goal of breaking the client free from emotional suppression through activities other than just talk therapy. Participants in these activities are encouraged to feel their emotions as they come about naturally, not bring them on artificially so they can be discussed and analyzed.
These therapies are some of the more recognizable ones in treating mental disorders. They tend to focus on bringing about artistic expression in the patient and ultimately discussing that expression and how it relates to their overall problems. Rehab centers use these types of therapies to treat substance use disorders.
Not only can they help stir up feelings and memories that have been deeply repressed, but they’re also hobbies that can help reduce stress, build skills, and can be taken outside of treatment centers, giving patients another way to cope with the anxieties of a sober life. Some of these types of therapies might include:
- Dance therapy
- Music therapy
- Writing therapy
- Various art therapies
This category of experiential therapy techniques is characterized by experiential education gained through participating in outdoor tasks. These could include hiking and trekking or trying to accomplish a specific goal, like completing rope courses or participating in a cooperative group game outdoors. It differs from other therapies in that there is, at the heart of it, always a risk (physical or psychological) associated with these activities, whether it’s real or only perceived.
By incorporating risk into the equation, many patients deal with feelings that would not have otherwise come about in a more traditional approach like talk therapy. Adventure therapies are also especially powerful when it comes to promoting healthy attitudes and qualities like:
- Increased self-esteem
- Pro-social connection
- Physical health
The use of a service animal isn’t only for people with physical disabilities. In fact, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is increasingly becoming one of the most effective methods for treating a range of behavioral and mental disorders as well. This range of therapies can include a variety of levels of interaction with animals.
It could be as simple as using basic observation of animals to bring about emotional issues or as involved as having a service pet that helps you cope with a severe emotional attack when no one else is around. One of the most common types of AAT is equine therapy, which uses patient interaction with horses to assist with reducing aggression, promoting emotional balance, and managing self-control.
Find Healing Through Experiential Therapy Activities
A substance use disorder can be difficult to recover from. Physically, the process of withdrawal can be quite uncomfortable. Beyond that, maintaining the mental fortitude to fight off cravings and stay sober can be far more challenging. With the benefits of experiential therapy, you can get to the true root of your problems that perpetuated the addiction in the first place. And once you do that, you can finally move on and get back to loving life now that you’re sober.