Treating addiction and substance abuse is like approaching an iceberg. While some symptoms of addiction are visible above the surface, the root cause of substance abuse lies in a mass beneath the water. Trauma, unwanted memories, pain and broken promises are issues that aren’t readily visible but leave you susceptible to relapse, even if you appear “fine” on the outside.
The brain is a powerful historian, capable of remembering every experience and lesson you learn. However, it’s common for people to bury traumatic memories to keep the brain from remembering the pain again. It’s these very hidden and subconscious traumas that fuel the vicious cycle of addiction.
And this is where experiential therapy comes into play.
What is Experiential Therapy?
Experiential therapy is a category of addiction treatment options that involves specific activities rather than one specific type of therapy.
Types of experiential therapy include, but are not limited to:
- Equine therapy
- Recreation therapy
- Wilderness and adventure therapy
- Artistic therapies such as songwriting, creative writing, and music
Experiential Therapy at JourneyPure
Through role-playing, guided imagery and other dynamic activities, experiential therapy encourages patients to identify and address subconscious issues. Compare this to “talk therapy,” where patients might become angry, anxious, sad, frightened or feel an urge to use substances.
Experiential therapy is effective because patients are not focused on the therapy itself. Rather, their focus is on completing the assigned task such as working with a horse or creating a piece of art. During experiential therapy, recovering addicts are more likely to let their guard down, allowing the therapists to observe the patient in a setting where mental and emotional blocks are removed.
Benefits of Experiential Therapy
Experiential therapy is a proven methodology in helping patients navigate through painful emotions caused by trauma, abuse or co-occurring mental health disorders. The benefits of experiential therapy include:
– Emotional growth and personal empowerment.
– Resolving past trauma.
– New skills and coping mechanisms.
Because experiential therapy encourages recovering addicts to open up, past traumas and experiences are finally addressed. The patient has the opportunity to identify and evaluate behaviors that appeared during the activity. This alleviates depression, anxiety, fear, anger and other symptoms that could potentially trigger a relapse. After experiential therapy such as songwriting, equine therapy, or psychodrama, many patients discover a new and profound hobby. For many, this is a new way to fill leisure time or healthily cope with negative emotions. This is particularly important for recovering addicts who need new activities to fill the hours previously used to acquire and use drugs.
Focus on the present.
Patients are able to live in the moment rather than focusing on the past, thanks to experiential therapy. This creates an opportunity for healthier relationships, positive behavioral patterns, and freedom from drugs and alcohol. By learning to truly experience and focus on the present, patients are able to move forward with less anxiety about the future and the unknown.