Experiential Therapy

Experiential Therapy

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

What is Experiential Therapy?


Events from the past can have a way of colliding with the present. This is especially true for millions of people who relive the past repeatedly. Whether it’s an embarrassing moment, a mistake in judgement, or losing someone close, such memories can be quite powerful.


The same is true for facing present situations where it brings up strong emotions that are difficult to handle. In such cases, standard therapies do not address the key issue. This is where Experiential therapy can be of service1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807882/.


Understanding Experiential Therapy


Put simply, Experiential therapy lets patients recreate specific situations from the past or those they are experiencing today to deal with them in a healthy manner. This is role playing that may use props, art, or music to bring awareness to the thoughts and emotions that are influencing them at this moment. This means that their successes, failures, responsibilities, and self-esteem are being subjected to this form of therapy.


It is in a way facing up to your past or present as a role-playing event so you can release the negative emotions associated with it. Understanding what is Experiential therapy helps patients clear their mind of the negative emotions and feelings so they can progress forward with their lives. It also enhances coping mechanisms, so that future events can be better handled by the patient.

Where is Experiential Therapy Used?


This form of treatment can be used on a wide range of issues that include addiction, trauma, disorders, unwanted behaviors, and poor communication between the patient and their loved ones. Many clinical practices include some form of Experiential therapy as part of their overall healing approach. It is occasionally used in rehabilitation along with dialectical and cognitive behavior therapies.


However, the form of Experiential therapy differs considerably thanks to the many treatments that are available. This may include the following:



More than one type of therapy may be used depending on the situation. Equine therapy for example is the care of horses, a popular treatment in locations where stables are nearby.

Benefits of Experiential Therapy


The primary benefit of Experiential therapy is that it deals directly with the painful memories that may cause the following conditions:


  • Behavioral and Eating Disorders
  • Intense Anger or Grief
  • Compulsive Behaviors and Drug Addiction
  • Trauma and More


In addition to dealing with painful memories, Experiential therapy also helps people cope with current or even future events that otherwise might turn into a regret they have difficulty overcoming. The ultimate benefit is the healthy release of negative emotions while dampening the guilt, shame, and pain. Experiential therapy can be of benefit to both Teenagers and Adults.

Now that you understand what is Experiential therapy, the next question is whether the treatment is right for you. Everyone can benefit from the healthy release of negative emotions. From facing painful memories to dealing with difficult situations, Experiential therapy also has the benefit of not requiring drugs or medications. This is an exercise of the mind to help confront and deal with strong emotions and releasing them in a healthy manner.

References:  Experiential Therapy

  1. Bandura A. (2004). Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: the role of perceived self-efficacy. Behav. Res. Ther. 42, 1129–1148. 10.1016/j.brat.2003.08.008 []
  2. Evans S. E., Davies C., DiLillo D. (2008). Exposure to domestic violence: a meta-analysis of child and adolescent outcomes. Aggress. Viol. Behav. 13, 131–140. 10.1016/j.avb.2008.02.005 []
  3. Kolb D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience As the Source of Learning and Development. New Jersey, NY: Prentice-Hall. []
  4. Remland M. S., Jones T. S. (2005). Interpersonal distance, body orientation, and touch: the effect of culture, gender and age. J. Soc. Psychol. 135, 281–297. 10.1080/00224545.1995.9713958 []
  5. Wasserman J., Beyerlein S. W. (2007). SII method for assessment reporting, in Faculty Guidebook: A Comprehensive Tool for Improving Faculty Performance, 4th Edn. eds Beyerlein S. W., Holmes C., Apple D. K. (Lisle, IL: Pacific Crest; ), 465–466. []
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