What is Experiential Therapy?
As its name suggests, experiential therapy involves actions, movements, and activities rather than the more traditional “talk therapy.”
Developed in the 1970s, experiential therapy is a therapeutic approach that encourages clients to identify and address deep rooted issues and traumas through activities such as guided imagery, role-play, and a range of other active experiences.
Experiential therapy is actually a category, rather than one specific type of therapy. Examples of experiential therapy include recreation therapy, equine therapy, expressive arts therapy, music therapy, wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, and psychodrama.
One of the many advantages of experiential therapy is that the experiences and activities that form the core of the process provide opportunities for the therapist to observe patients in situations where the patients are not focused on the therapy itself.
What are the Benefits of Experiential Therapy?
As clients progress through structured experiential therapy activities under the guidance and supervision of an experiential therapist, they have the opportunity to experience successes, identify obstacles, develop improved self-esteem, and take greater responsibility for their actions.
Change, emotional growth, and personal empowerment are all among the benefits of participating in an effective experiential therapy program. Because experiential therapy clients are often focused on the task or activity at hand, rather than on the therapeutic aspect of the experience, they are more likely to behave in a less guarded and genuine manner.
When the experiential therapist and the client process the experience, the client will receive specific feedback regarding specific actions or behaviors. At the same time, the client has the opportunity to identify and evaluate the behaviors that he or she has exhibited during experiential therapy, as well as the thoughts or prior experiences that may have prompted those behaviors.
Though not necessarily a primary focus of experiential therapy, the activities that patients participate in may also serve the purpose of providing them with new ways of filling leisure time or other down time during their daily lives. This may be particularly important for individuals who are in treatment for substance abuse or addiction, as part of the recovery process involves finding healthy and productive leisure activities to fill the hours previously occupied by searching for, acquiring, and using alcohol or other drugs.
Experiential Therapies Offered At Sea Change Recovery
At Sea Change Recovery, our clients participate in activities during experiential therapy sessions, which they can hopefully continue to implement in their daily lives upon completing our treatment program. The following are some of the therapies offered:
Salt Water Therapy
At Sea Change, we believe that after years of receiving artificial joy from substances and escapism, that our clients must learn to once again take pleasure in nature and authentic experiences.
The ocean offers many benefits to the people of Sea Change. Not only is spending time in the ocean a physically invigorating and relaxing experience, but ocean water itself is believed to have many positive health benefits on brain and body. Our Salt Water Therapy Program provides physical exercise, mental relaxation, and spiritual healing.
Salt Water Therapy gradually introduces men to the sea. Through careful instruction and patient leadership, our Salt Water Therapist, Jack Newkirk, teaches men how to safely and comfortably enjoy the ocean and the basics of surfing. While learning to surf can be tremendous fun, the primary focus of this work is coming to experience the profound peace of surrendering oneself to the overwhelming power of the sea, to understand our place in a greater natural ecosystem, and to become less focused on one's self and more connected to nature and others. The program also encourages men to help one another learn, a process that helps people redevelop trust, rekindle self-worth and form true friendship.
Days at nearby Santa Monica or Venice Beach can include ocean front meditation practice, group discussion, surf lessons, and generally having a fun and relaxing experience with peers and friends.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Anyone with a little time under their belt will tell you that living sober is moment to moment—focusing on the present, on living life in the here and now, and getting into action. At Sea Change, jiu-jitsu allows clients to get into action in a way that’s both challenging and cathartic.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is known particularly for its ground level nature, for its real-life physical expression combining two of the most meditative martial arts, judo and original Japanese jiu-jitsu.
Sea Change offers jiu-jitsu experiential groups twice a week, helping people find their way forward by focusing on the present moment and getting into action. Jiu-jitsu can be a powerful way to channel addictive tendencies into a positive way of living.
Breathwork is a general term used to describe any type of therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health. Many forms of breathwork therapy exist today. Each has its own unique methods of using breath for healing purposes. It draws from Eastern practices like yoga and Tai Chi while incorporating Western psychotherapy techniques.
In general, the goal of any breathwork therapy is to support people in achieving a greater sense of self-awareness and capacity for self-healing. It also helps people work toward overall improvement in mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Breathwork therapists, or Breathworkers as they are sometimes called, guide participants through various therapeutic breathing techniques.
Our therapeutic approach to yoga is low stakes. It is a safe practice that can mimic life off the mat. Yoga poses and stretches often carry similarities to themes and sensations that are inevitable in life. Our hope is to use the practice of yoga show our clients how to dialogue with pain and discomforts and make respectful adjustments without pushing past or ignoring them and without detaching or shutting down.
Yoga was designed as a way to calm the nervous system and find more ease and stillness in the body and mind. We have a strong understanding of the science behind yoga and mediation, which we believe is crucial when teaching our patients how to self-regulate through potential triggers.
The body knows how to healthfully discharge unwanted stress and reset itself. Through moments of authentic, free-flowing movement our clients are able to strengthen this process and begin to trust their body’s intuition as well as create appropriate boundaries in physical space and also in relationships.
Through helping others, we also help ourselves. Giving back is a fundamental part of the Sea Change philosophy. The disease of addiction can cause people to focus solely on themselves. The seemingly unstoppable need to feed one's cravings keeps them from seeing and responding to the needs of others. This is one of the reasons that drug and alcohol addiction can devastate families and personal relationships. As people begin to experience relief from the grip of addiction and substance use disorder, they can begin to re-establish their ability to empathize with and respect the needs of others. One's ability to give also coincides strongly with the 12 step tradition that is a major part of the Sea Change experience.
Sea Change takes an active role in community service. Whether helping to feed the hungry at local food pantries and shelters, or helping to set up 12-Step meetings, the men and women of Sea Change learn the powerful benefits of helping others. One of the most important lessons learned through community work is that true respect is earned through simple, selfless acts, not through the artificial trappings of material wealth that is overvalued by our culture. Community work develops authentic respect for the inherent value of ourselves and others. In many cases, the most profound personal satisfaction can be found in receiving thanks for being of true help to others in need.
Often, the practice of giving becomes one of the most desirable and memorable aspects of one's time at Sea Change, and many Sea Change alumni continue to take part in community service long after their time here.
For more information about our experiential therapy click the link below: