Your thoughts and emotions have infinite power to brighten, discolor and uproot your world. They can both hinder and fuel the process of your addiction and recovery.
Experiential therapy diffuses harsh, negative emotions and equips you to take charge of your life and recovery outlook. This kind of therapy reaches beyond simple “talk” therapy; it encourages individuals to take an active role in their mental health. The term experiential encompasses a colorful range of therapies, such as recreation, expressive arts, music, wilderness, psychodrama and adventure.Here’s an insight into Experiential Therapy.
What is Experiential Therapy?
Experiential therapy combines Gestalt therapy with family, group and play therapies. It is all about action and exploration. The first step is to build a trusting, expressive relationship with your therapist. Your emotions and feedback will guide the sessions. They will encourage you to seek and explore your triggers, pains and anxieties. That is why this therapy takes on many forms; the therapist and client will need to gently experiment until the root feelings reveal themselves. For example, painting the traumatic scene may not yield positive results, but play acting through the event with others may offer an uplifting epiphany. It all depends on your personality and needs.
The next step is to reinvent how those emotions and traumatic events affect you. This is all about developing healthy ways to confront and experience these feelings. You work through them beyond simple discussion. Your therapist is more than just a guide; you forge a healing alliance with them. Together, you will discover the actions and experiments that work best for you.
What is Gestalt Therapy?
Developed by psychoanalysts in the 1940s and ’50s, Gestalt therapy is built on two key principles. The first is that is is crucial to focus on the here and now. All healing lies in the present, and this time should be embraced with gratitude, creativity and personal responsibility. Secondly, it deeply values the interconnectedness of all people; a healthy client-therapist bond that grows over the course of counseling is essential.
You have power in the present. You cannot will the past to change and you cannot imagine the future. Gestalt therapy encourages you to focus on the emotions you experience as your current life unfolds with no past or future strings attached, and this equips you to truly understand reality rather than merely creating interpretations about it. This knowledge reveals exactly what behaviors must be changed. The therapist is right there alongside you to help you implement the changes.
Of course, any life changes require personal responsibility. Gestalt therapy reinforces that you must take control of your life and own the present moment. You affect everything and everybody around you; when this truth is embraced, it will be easier to decide a course of action and stay dedicated to it.
When starting Gestalt or experiential therapy, I urge recovering addicts to open up and build a bond with your therapist. Skepticism, anger, shame or anxiety may make this difficult, but I assure you that with time and patience, a wonderful and healing relationship will grow.
How can it help with recovery?
Addiction always has an underlying structure of pain and anxiety that fuels it. With experiential therapy, you’ll confront these negative emotions, disarming them as relapse triggers. You’ll learn to live in the now, releasing resentment and embracing change. Newfound confidence will empower you to make healthy progress in your life.
There are more steps to breaking free from an addiction beyond therapy, but I firmly believe that it is an essential facet of any recovery journey. I urge you try experiential therapy along with other types of addiction therapies. The most important thing is that you discover what works best for you.
By Angela Lambert
Photo by: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)