Using experiential therapy in recovery has become increasingly popular in recent years. In these therapies, a patient uses creative tools to re-create situations or emotions from the past. Experiential therapy recreates experiences that bring subconscious feelings, urges, or behaviors into a person’s conscious awareness. These techniques are not used in recovery on their own, but often supplement parts of treatment programs to provide a patient with tailor-made treatments. It’s hard to create a formal definition of experiential therapy because so many therapeutic methods can be used. Baecause of this, there are a lot of misconceptions about these techniques. Whichever technique is used, experiential therapy should provide insight into the nature of a person’s behaviors and feelings.
Types of Creative Therapy
In terms of motivating a patient in recovery, creative therapy has an abundance of benefits. It helps relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety about treatment. It also helps build strong relationships between therapists and patients. There are many different types of these therapies available for addiction recovery, including:
Some people have a hard time explaining their emotions. Art therapy is guided by a therapist who encourages the patient to use artistic expression to relay thoughts and emotions rather than words. Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves and examine the psychological and emotional influences in their art.
Art can also be very therapeutic because it is believed to help patients connect their mind and spirit. The creative process has always encouraged self-expression, which is a useful tool when helping patients identify their emotions or change their emotional responses. Art therapy can also be a crucial tool in helping patients understand their moods and how to manage them.
Music therapy is beneficial to addiction recovery because music inspires feelings in people. The energy of music can quickly affect a person’s mental state. If a patient is having trouble expressing how they feel in therapy, music allows them to pick songs and sounds that help reflect their emotions. This is one of many reasons why music therapy is beneficial for treating substance abuse, as well as anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
Research has shown that music can relax muscles, calm anxiety, and create stronger interpersonal skills. Realistically, any emotional traumas or mental health issues should be addressed in recovery, and music therapy has proven to be useful in mental health settings.
The techniques used in music therapy may include:
- Lyric analysis
- Relaxation training
- Musical games
- Improvising music based on emotions or other topics
These techniques have numerous benefits ranging from positive emotional changes to reduced anger in patients. People may have a difficult time understanding their emotions well enough to adequately explain them to a therapist. Music therapy encourages creativity as a way of presenting their feelings, which can be an effective motivator toward changing their behaviors.
Writing has long been seen as the best way of self-discovery. We often write to learn about ourselves, such as journaling, which is a good way of keeping track of habits or behaviors and how they affect us over time. This can be helpful in recovery, especially if a patient is setting goals towards change. Writing also allows for the patient to create an open dialogue with themselves. Sometimes, patients can also be instructed to write open letters to people in their lives or to themselves.
Writing therapy is often a tool that providers encourage their patients to continue outside of treatment. Sometimes, it’s hard to notice the small goals we are reaching when we have bigger, more prominent goals to meet. Journaling after treatment is a great way of showing ourselves that we are succeeding in completing goals and are making positive strides forward in our recovery. Writing therapy also helps us work through trauma and become more self-aware of what triggers our stress which helps avoid those situations and environments.
These types of therapies can also be referred to as “experiential” therapies because the patients are experiencing an activity that is allowing for a natural release of dopamine. For example, wilderness therapy is all about self-discovery in nature. This type of therapy is especially useful for behavioral modification, helping people become aware of how they process experiences, and what emotional triggers influence their thought process. Wilderness therapy is often not considered formal treatment from the patient’s standpoint — to them, it feels like a break from treatment. This may encourage them to express themselves more and feel more relaxed in a therapy session. Another popular form of experiential therapy is animal therapy. Animals allow patients to reach out for a comforting touch in an environment when physical touch is not always appropriate. It’s like holding onto a teddy bear for comfort.
Using art therapy is a healthy way for people who suffer from addictions and mental illness to gain self-awareness. It allows for people to connect with a part of themselves they may have lost or never quite felt a connection to.
At Avalon Malibu, we offer art therapy to help patients find balance between mind and body. We have many different treatments available, and can work with you to find one that can best meet your unique needs. Through therapy, you can address addiction and/or mental health concerns so you can begin to live a healthier, happier life. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction or struggles with mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help.
Call us today at (866) 659-0516 to learn more about the programs we offer and how we can help you on your recovery journey.