Experiential Therapy

Authored by Matthew Idle

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Philippa Gold

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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 service11.B. Binson and R. Lev-Wiesel, Promoting Personal Growth through Experiential Learning: The Case of Expressive Arts Therapy for Lecturers in Thailand – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807882/.


Understanding Therapeutic Experiences


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 This 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.


Experiential therapy includes the following modalities:


  • Equine, Psychodrama, and Art
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Adventure, Play, and Music
  • Wilderness Therapy


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 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, this form of 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, this therapeutic modality 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.


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    1.B. Binson and R. Lev-Wiesel, Promoting Personal Growth through Experiential Learning: The Case of Expressive Arts Therapy for Lecturers in Thailand – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5807882/
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