Experiential Therapy Activities: Re-experiencing Emotions in a Therapeutic Setting

October 4, 2021

The idea of experiential therapy is to help individuals process emotions that are not consciously accessible. Experiential therapy activities are less about the therapist being a facilitator and more about the client taking on an active role in their own therapeutic journey.

There are many experiential therapy methods, but some of the most common include emotional processing, experiential bodywork, experiential psychodrama, and experiential art therapies.

The Techniques Taught

Trauma, behavioral disorders, and anger management are all treatable with experiential therapy. The techniques taught in this type of treatment benefit individuals struggling from these issues by teaching them how to cope or let go if they have negative emotions like fear and shame while still managing other aspects during their life that might need attention too.

In experiential therapy, clients can be involved in activities such as role-playing and enactment where they practice skills that will help them feel more comfortable when faced with difficult situations or emotions. Feeling safe to express themselves during these scenarios is a big step towards being able to do so outside of the therapeutic setting too.

Inexpressive behaviors are just some examples of experiential bodywork methods that involve movement, touch, and awareness exercises which allow the individual’s emotions to surface without having any judgment from their therapist present at all times. Experiencing one situation at a time allows for less fear about what might happen next while feeling supported throughout the process creates an open atmosphere for learning coping skills by trial and error instead of memory.

The wilderness is a great way to help clients explore their past while staying grounded in the present moment as they encounter the outdoors. This creates a sense of safety and promotes awareness, gratitude, and empowerment.

The experiential therapy activities are not just limited to the wilderness or experiential bodywork methods. There are many therapeutic approaches that can be used in session as well that encourage self-reflection through creative expressions such as art, music, writing & journaling, dance/movement work (e.g., yoga), drama exercises with an emphasis on improvisation techniques for improving communication skills within social interactions, and mind-body practices such as breathwork.

Re-living Painful Experiences

In experiential therapy, the client is in control of when they experience traumatic events from their past memories. They have a choice whether to face these memories or not during the session based on what would be therapeutically beneficial for them at that time. In order to fully process each memory, emotions need to be re-experienced with all five senses; this allows clients to gain perspective about how much courage it took them simply by surviving through those life experiences and gaining insight into how making different decisions now can help prevent future negative outcomes. Re-living painful experiences (e.g., war/combat/abuse) helps reduce repeated behavior patterns which lead to increased self-esteem & empowerment.

The experiential therapy activities can be tailored to meet the needs of each client. For example, some clients may need help with building up their courage in order to complete certain experiential exercises while other clients are already comfortable facing these memories and will benefit more from processing what they have gone through.