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How Experiential Therapy Can Help with Addiction

Jan 28, 2021

If you’ve ever paid attention to your emotional response to a song, you’ve gotten an introduction to one of the main ideas behind experiential therapy. A song can take you to a specific time and place in life, along with uncovering a specific set of emotions tied to them. In this form of therapy, music is one of many approaches to treating substance use and trauma by focusing on the emotions that have helped or harmed a patient. Today, let’s take a closer look at how experiential therapy works and its goals.

Experiential therapy is a hands-on, interactive form of therapy used as part of the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. Forms of therapy include recreation, self-expression, and group activities. Art, music, and equine therapy are common types of experiential therapy. The goals of experiential interventions include helping patients recognize hidden feelings that have been affecting their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Learning healthy coping strategies is a fundamental part of a treatment program offering experiential therapy to patients.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

Overview of Experiential Therapy

Many people think of therapy as simply talking about feelings, issues, or memories. These things are still important in experiential therapy, but they may be harder to access for some people. Experiential therapy is designed to give a patient a specific activity to focus on first and let the feelings follow. Through a particular action or experience, a patient can begin to see how they respond to problems. Experiential intervention is often the first step toward solving many emotional situations.

How does experiential therapy work?

Think of experiential therapy activities as a hands-on, interactive way to problem-solve. It can be created just for an individual or for a group to experience at the same time. Role-playing exercises are an example of experiential therapy in a group. Art therapy uses the medium to help patients put feelings into paintings or drawings. Music therapy allows patients to listen and reflect on carefully chosen songs that may be connected to their past. Equine therapy invites patients to interact with an animal that’s aware of human emotions. The interaction with horses can lead to self-awareness and healing in patients with anxiety, for example.

What does experiential therapy help with?

Experiential therapy can help in the treatment of substance use disorders and mental health disorders. The disorders in that second group include anxiety, depression, PTSD, and trauma. This form of therapy identifies themes that connect activities to specific treatment needs and intervention techniques. For example, a patient’s feeling of powerlessness and tendency to blame others may be revealed during an activity. The goal for this patient can become learning how to feel empowered and starting to take responsibility for their choices.

Goals of Experiential Therapy

The goals of experiential therapy are to help a patient recognize the hidden feelings that have been driving their mental health and substance use issues and empower them to make healthier choices. A patient is given a safe space to feel their feelings, too. Learning to cope with these feelings, without turning to drugs or alcohol, is an important objective as well.

Find an experiential therapist at Hanley Center.

Hanley Center utilizes experiential therapy techniques to treat patients with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. Through recreation, self-expression, and group activities, patients challenge themselves and learn healthy coping strategies. They also learn how to process their feelings safely, create connections within their community, and develop an active, healthy lifestyle.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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