Talk therapy gets a lot of attention in addiction recovery, because it plays a vital role in the process. It helps people discover and better understand the feelings that drive them to abuse drugs or alcohol. Even so, talk therapy isn’t the only way to help someone recognize and cope with those feelings. Experiential therapy, part of our addiction treatment therapies, uses a hands-on approach to help a person access and channel those feelings.
What Does Experiential Therapy Involve?
Experiential therapy isn’t a single activity. Different treatment centers offer different options based on the skills of their staff and the size of their grounds. A small center or one in a city might focus on writing or music, because they use less space. A large center in a more rural area might offer wilderness therapy.
A few of the more common experiential therapy options include:
- Equine assisted therapy
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
How Does Experiential Therapy Work?
Many people use drugs or alcohol to numb painful feelings or memories. As they work through recovery, those painful feelings surface. Talk therapy puts a lot of focus directly on the person. That combo of focus and painful emotions make some people withdraw.
Activities, such as caring for horses, give people something else to focus on. By taking the focus off of themselves, it relieves some of the pressure. Talking about something painful is easier if another person isn’t watching and waiting. It’s probably the reason there are screens in Catholic confessionals.
Mastering the activity also stands in for other experiences. If a person doesn’t brush the horse well enough, it gives them a way to talk about feelings of failure or anger. Doing it well gives them a chance to talk about struggling accepting success.
It’s important to understand that experiential therapies don’t replace talk therapies. Their job is creating more chances for people to get at their feelings. The hope is that clients will bring those breakthroughs into individual or group therapy. The more emotional work they do during rehab, the better their chances of staying clean long-term.
Benefits of Experiential Therapy
This hands-on approach offers several benefits. The most important short-term benefit is giving people other paths to reach their feelings. Until a person can come to grips with those feelings, they’re much more likely to relapse. You can’t come to grips with something you can’t stand to talk about.
Hands-on therapies also teach people how to use their free time in non-destructive ways. A hobby, such as painting, gives people better ways to fill the hours they used to spend on drugs or alcohol. Developing a hobby isn’t the point of the therapy, but it’s often a happy byproduct.
Some of the therapies also offer health and fitness benefits. Yoga, in particular, is good for improving strength and flexibility.
Santé Center for Healing
The Santé Center for Healing, located in Argyle, TX, has helped people recover from addictions for over 20 years. We base our approach on the time-tested 12-step program model but embrace experiential therapy. In addition to music therapy, equine assisted therapy and yoga, we also have:
- Rope courses
- Massage Therapy
- Mirror imaging
Santé Center provides individual and group therapy, educational courses, and non-denominational spirituality groups. Our residential treatment programs last from 45 days to over 100 days. We also offer intensive outpatient treatment programs and transitional living programs.
At our healing center, we place special importance on aftercare planning and relapse prevention. We want our clients to have the best possible chance of a successful, lifelong recovery.