As part of our Whole Person treatment philosophy, Aspire Wellness complements its evidence and outcomes-based core therapy groups with holistic experiential groups. As its name indicates, experiential therapy involves participating in activities through physical actions and movements, and does not involve the “talk therapy” that takes place in the more traditional core therapy groups. It is a very important part of our therapeutic approach to treating eating disorders because it encourages patients to identify and address hidden issues by participating in a wide range of structured activities.
Origin, Definition and Examples
Developed in the 1970’s and quickly accepted as a beneficial therapeutic approach for any comprehensive substance use disorder or eating disorder treatment program, experiential therapy is actually a category, and does not designate 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.
How does it work?
One of the goals of the experiential activities is to put the participants in situations where they may experience successes, learn from failures, identify obstacles, develop improved self-esteem, and take greater responsibility for their actions.
When the experiential therapist and the patient process the experience either during or after the activity, the patient often receives specific feedback regarding their actions or behaviors. At the same time, the patient has the opportunity to identify, evaluate and reflect on the behaviors that he or she exhibited during experiential therapy, as well as the thoughts or prior experiences that may have prompted those behaviors.
And because experiential therapy patients 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 more unguarded and genuine manner, without any conscious behavior filters.
The Benefits of Experiential Therapies for Eating Disorders
Experiential therapy has been an effective component of comprehensive treatment programs for individuals who are struggling with a range of issues.
Change, emotional growth, and personal empowerment are all among the benefits of participating in an effective experiential therapy program. Experiential activities also provide individuals with much-needed breaks from the more intensive “therapy” aspects of the program, while also introducing them to healthy leisure activities that they may want to integrate into their weekly schedules as part of their long-term recovery plan.
Structured Experiential Activities Offered at Aspire Wellness and Recovery Center
Whether suffering from anorexia, bulimia, binge–eating disorder or some other kind of non-specified eating disorder, the experiential therapy activities we offer are meant to expose our program participants to new, healthy and even fun (!) activities. Some examples of the experiential groups we offer are: expressive arts therapy, Yoga, dance movement therapy, mindfulness meditation, cooking classes, and meal outings.
All of these activities are taught only by our licensed or certified specialists who are experts in their field.