What Is Experiential Therapy?
Experiential therapy is a unique form of therapy that uses many different approaches to re-enact emotional situations from past and present relationships. These approaches can include role-playing, guided imagery, animal care, music, or arts and crafts. The individual focuses on the activity and by engaging in the experience of the activity, begins to identify with certain emotions. These emotions can include success, self-esteem, or disappointment. Individuals will work with a trained professional who specializes in this type of therapy and can begin to explore and release negative emotions as related to past experiences. It is believed that these negative emotions can become blocked or unreleased and with the use of an activity, can become released.
Experiential therapy is used to treat many disorders including eating disorders, substance abuse, anger management, grief, and behavioral addictions such as problem gambling or a shopping addiction. Many people engage in experiential therapy to heal painful memories or bad feelings from past experiences.
This type of therapy can also be useful for those who simply want to rid themselves of past, painful experiences and to move past the pain and develop a more defined sense of self. Experiential therapy can be found in many recovery programs and medical settings and is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy.
Exploring feelings through an experiential process can help a person to free themselves from their past. The focus is on awareness and what is experienced during treatment and can even assign meaning to feelings. It is believed that through this assignment of meaning to feelings, one can begin to make their own choices and be free to become who they want to be.
Experiential therapy works by using one’s perception to determine behavior. If a person engages in an experiential activity, they will release repressed negative emotions and be better able to experience more positive feelings. In essence, the individual is changing their perception of the emotion. Each person who attends experiential therapy sessions can use an activity that they enjoy. Many individuals use animals or music to help release these negative emotions and develop more positive feelings.
If someone is interested in experiential therapy, they should look for a therapist who has training and experience with using this technique.