From sand volleyball and biking to cooking or making music, experiential therapy is a transformative experience that helps one find their authentic self. Practicing new hobbies and skills can provide you with the opportunity to discover a new side of yourself while serving as a therapeutic method to continue your recovery.
The combination of conventional therapy with experiential therapy can help keep your mind stimulated and excited while putting in the work for long-term recovery. Recovery centers such as Spero Recovery Center offer a different form of treatment by maintaining a peer-run recovery program to set up individuals for long-term recovery.
Spero also offers community activities that help individuals engage with their peers while providing a sense of purpose. These activities include hiking, rock climbing, meditation, woodworking, and cooking.
What Is Experiential Therapy?
According to Frontiers In Psychology, experiential therapy involves a philosophy and approach where teachers intentionally engage students in experiences and focused reflection to advance knowledge, sharpen skills, and clarify values. This philosophy, developed by David Allen Kolb, an American psychologist and educational theorist, provides a multilinear model of adult growth as well as a holistic model of learning. It underlines how crucial a person’s own experiences are to their learning process.
According to this research, active participation in the learning process helps students gain interpersonal skills, develop an understanding of the therapeutic process, and helps increase self-knowledge.
Experiential Therapy Through Art Expression
A study conducted by Frontiers In Psychology found that art engages the creative therapeutic process through physiological sensations, emotions, and non-verbal expression. The logic behind including art expression in experiential therapy is the belief that art therapy brings cognitive and emotional material together by providing a visual representation of an individual’s mind or thought process.
The results of the study demonstrated that the experiential learning element within the art expression course contributed to individuals’ well-being, revealed improvements in family and spousal relationships, and enhanced social skills.
After a study conducted in which participants expressed their emotions through drawings, there was growth and improved well-being, which were stated by participants in the semi-structured questionnaire. Additionally, this notion of development seemed to be supported by the impression and attitude of the figures shown toward the end of the program.
Experiential Therapy Through Music
Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-informed use of music interventions to reach individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship to meet physical, emotional, mental, and cognitive needs.
According to Frontiers In Psychology, stress is the main factor that negatively affects our health. Therefore, by learning how to handle daily stress, we can prevent long-term stress. The need to regulate stress is particularly important for individuals with mild intellectual disabilities who tend to have more difficulties managing stress.
Music therapy interventions involve qualified music therapists and can include active and receptive interventions. While receptive therapies just involve the patient receiving the music, such as listening to live or recorded music, active interventions involve the patient creating music during the music therapy session.
Music therapists are taught to use unique qualities of music known as music components which include melody, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, and pitch to work on the patient’s treatment goals.
Experiential Therapy in Nature
Research supports the idea that nature is beneficial for our general health and outdoor therapeutic approaches are particularly beneficial for those struggling with mental health issues. Unfortunately, urbanized and technology-driven lifestyles have damaged human relationships with natural environments and have resulted in health issues and reduced well-being.
Although the lack of nature exposure in people’s daily lives has impacted their mental health, many have now realized the importance of contact with natural environments.
According to Frontiers in Public Health, both outdoor environments and outdoor activities are known to be beneficial for people struggling with depression and dementia. Additionally, research to date has demonstrated that being in nature can have a variety of positive effects on one’s mental health, including advantages in the following:
- Stress and anxiety
- Emotional stability
- Self-perceived well-being
- Quality of life
Additionally, according to this same research, during outdoor therapy, there are multiple modest doses of outdoor therapy that are administered over a long treatment period. If side effects are found, or the dose is found to be insufficient, treatment plans can easily be modified.
During therapy, patients can identify the main beneficial therapeutic effects of outdoor therapies and communicate them to the prescribing practitioners. In some cases, the patient will not have the physical capacity to perform the prescribed outdoor therapy regimen if the practitioner recommends one that is too intense for that patient.
According to this systematic review and meta-analysis, outdoor nature-based therapies have been shown to enhance mental health outcomes for all demographics, including healthy adults and older adults with chronic diseases as well as individuals with common mental health issues. In this regard, nature-based therapies are effective as a therapeutic response to treat pre-existing mental health issues as well as a preventative strategy to keep individuals healthy.
Experiential therapy includes a different approach than conventional therapy. It allows individuals to engage in activities and experiences to advance knowledge and sharpen skills while clarifying values. There are various types of experiential therapy that have proven beneficial to mental health, such as art expression, music expression, and nature-related activities. A combination of conventional therapy along with a variation of experiential therapy can help individuals discover a new side to themselves while preparing them for long-term recovery. Treatment centers, such as Spero Recovery Center, focus on experiential therapy by encouraging a variation of outdoor and indoor activities in order to make each individual’s recovery experience positive. For more information, call (303) 351-7888.