Experiential Therapy

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Addiction treatment is never a one-size-fits-all, and lifelong recovery goes far beyond getting clean and sober. To achieve lasting wellness, therapeutic methods must address the whole person.

Substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions can take a toll on a person’s sense of self and create a disconnect between the individual and the world around them.

Holistic therapy techniques such as experiential therapy can help those struggling with addiction rebuild self-esteem, connect with their emotions, and regain a sense of belonging.

What is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential psychotherapy is a holistic approach that involves the patient engaging in activities or experiences as a means of exploring and processing negative emotions, traumas, behaviors, and thought processes.

Unlike traditional talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which relies on verbal communication, experiential therapy enables participants to use non-verbal forms of emotional processing to work through challenges they face.

Experiential therapy can be used in a variety of settings, including individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

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Experiential Therapy Information

What is the Goal of Experiential Therapy?

The goal of experiential therapy is to help identify and address underlying emotional and psychological issues that may be contributing to their problems, such as addiction, trauma, or mental health disorders.

What is Experiential Therapy Used For?

Experiential interventions can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Grief and loss
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Personality disorders
  • Phobias
  • Relationship issues
  • Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The application of experiential therapy can be custom-tailored to fit the individual needs of the person participating in the therapy, and the specific activities or techniques used may vary depending on the patient and their presenting concerns.

How is Experiential Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment?

Experiential therapy can be an effective component of addiction treatment by helping individuals address the underlying emotional and psychological issues that contribute to addiction.

We see quite commonly that addiction can be fueled by negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma, and experiential therapy can help individuals process and develop more effective, healthier coping skills.

Experiential therapy can also help patients develop a sense of self-efficacy and confidence. By engaging in experiential activities such as art, music, or adventure therapy, individuals can learn to express themselves in new ways.

Therapies you may undergo in addition to Experiential Therapy may include: 

Also, levels of care in which Experiential Therapy may occur include:

What are the Different Types of Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy includes a variety of activities. Some of the most common forms of  experiential therapy include:

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Adventure Therapy
Art Therapy
Dance/Movement Therapy
Drama Therapy
Music Therapy
Adventure Therapy in Drug Rehab: Embracing Nature's Healing - NJ & TN

Adventure Therapy

Adventure therapy involves outdoor activities such as hiking, outdoor games, and rock climbing to help individuals build confidence, improve communication, and develop problem-solving skills. Adventure therapy can be particularly effective for individuals who may benefit from being outside in nature or who enjoy physical activities.

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Art Therapy

This type of experiential therapy uses art materials such as paint, clay, ink, or other mediums to help individuals express themselves and explore their emotions. In an experiential art therapy session, an art therapist works with patients to help them create art that represents their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Dance/Movement Therapy Techniques in Drug Rehab: Promoting Physical and Emotional Wellbeing - NJ & TN

Dance/Movement Therapy

Movement therapy or dance therapy uses motion to help patients process emotions and express themselves creatively. Dance/movement therapists work with clients to create a safe and supportive environment in which individuals can explore their emotions and improve their mental health. This type of experiential therapy is a great fit for someone who is moved by music and may be combined with music therapy.

Drama Therapy in Drug Rehab: Exploring Emotions Through Acting - NJ & T

Drama Therapy

This form of therapy employs the use of drama techniques such as role-playing or improvisation to help individuals cope with trauma, negative emotions, or strained interpersonal skills. Drama therapists use specific exercises or games to help clients gain insight into their emotions and improve their communication skills.

Music Therapy in Drug Rehab: Healing Through Melodies - NJ & TN

Music Therapy

Music therapy uses music to help individuals explore and express their emotions. Music therapists may use a variety of techniques, such as singing, playing instruments, or listening to music, to help clients process their emotions and improve their mental health. Music therapy can also help improve communication skills and promote relaxation.

Psychodrama in Drug Rehab: Exploring Emotions Through Action - NJ & TN


Psychodrama involves acting out past experiences or current concerns to help patients process trauma or work through negative emotions that may be contributing to their addiction. Psychodrama can be particularly effective for individuals who struggle with verbal communication, as it provides a more structured, tangible way to explore emotions and relationships.

Experiential therapy helps individuals process their emotions in a more holistic and integrated manner using their mind, body, and spirit to gain insight and promote healing.

Experienced-Based Psychotherapy for Substance Use Disorders: Transformative Recovery - NJ & TN

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If you or a loved one is stuck in the destructive cycle of addiction or co-occurring mental health disorder, an experiential approach to healing can help.

Call and speak to a member of our admissions team today to discuss our treatment options and holistic therapy methods.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Experiential Therapy

How long does experiential therapy usually last in addiction treatment?

The duration of experiential therapy can vary depending on the individual and the treatment program, as well as the presenting concerns.

For example, some programs may offer experiential therapy sessions once a week for several months, while others may offer more intensive, multi-day retreats that focus on a singular type of experiential therapy.

Is experiential therapy suitable for all individuals in addiction treatment?

There is no treatment, experiential or otherwise, that is suitable for every single person undergoing addiction treatment. Experiential therapy can be beneficial for many, but those who are not comfortable with the idea of engaging in non-traditional forms of therapy may not find as much benefit.

For example, some individuals may prefer traditional talk therapy, such as CBT, because they feel more comfortable in a traditional therapy setting.

How does experiential therapy differ from traditional talk therapy?

Experiential therapy involves engaging in activities to explore and process emotions, while traditional talk therapy typically involves discussing emotions and experiences verbally.

For example, in art therapy, individuals may use sculpture to express their emotions, while in music therapy, individuals may use music or sound to process and communicate.

Can experiential therapy be used in combination with other forms of addiction treatment?

Experiential therapy is often used in combination with other forms of addiction treatment, such as individual counseling, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. An individual may participate in both cognitive behavioral therapy and movement/dance therapy as part of their individualized treatment plan.

Will my insurance cover experiential therapy?

Whether or not Insurance coverage will cover experiential therapy can vary depending on the provider and the type of therapy. During your initial consultation with Epiphany Wellness, our admissions specialists will check with your insurance provider to determine coverage.

Is experiential therapy evidence-based?

There is absolute evidence to suggest that it can be effective in helping individuals in addiction treatment, including recent studies that determined that adventure therapy is effective for those in recovery.[1]

What happens in an experiential therapy session?

Experiential therapy sessions can vary depending on the type of therapy and the individual’s needs. However, generally speaking, experiential therapy involves engaging in an activity and reflecting on the emotions and experiences that arise.

For example, in art therapy, patients may work with clay to communicate their emotions and then relate these skills to their recovery.

Is experiential therapy appropriate for adolescents in addiction treatment?

Experiential therapy can be beneficial for adolescents in addiction treatment, as it can help them explore and express their emotions non-verbally. For example, an adolescent may participate in drama therapy as part of their addiction treatment to help them develop communication and interpersonal problem-solving skills.

Can experiential therapy be adapted for individuals with disabilities?

Absolutely. Most forms of experiential therapy can be adapted for those who are differently abled. Additionally, there are specialized therapies, such as animal-assisted therapy, that are designed specifically for individuals with disabilities.

What are some potential risks associated with experiential therapy?

As with any form of therapy, there are potential risks associated with experiential therapy. For example, some activities may be physically demanding or emotionally intense, which can be challenging for some individuals.

Some individuals may have negative reactions to certain types of therapy, such as feeling uncomfortable around animals during animal-assisted therapy.

Can experiential therapy be used as a standalone treatment for addiction?

Experiential therapy is most effective when used in combination with other forms of addiction treatment and is generally not recommended as a standalone therapy. In most treatment programs, an individual may participate in both traditional talk therapy and psychodrama as part of their addiction treatment program.


[1] Chapter 5—Specialized Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64815/

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If you or a loved one have additional questions about experiential therapy or would like more information on our addiction recovery programs, contact a member of our admissions team today.