What is Experiential Therapy?

November 30, 2022

3 mins

Never Alone Recovery


The term "therapy" often evokes traditional one-on-one talk therapy, but experiential therapy opens the door to a broad spectrum of possibilities. Here's what you need to know about experiential therapy.

You can find all kinds of therapy out there – not just the “talk therapy” we see depicted in popular entertainment. In reality, therapy is quite versatile, designed to address very targeted symptoms or effects.

You might need acute crisis management for detox and emergency medical treatment. Or if a crisis has recently passed, group and family therapy offer the opportunity to vent your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is essentially traditional one-on-one counseling, can help you take your thoughts in a positive direction. 

In addition, there’s an entire branch of different therapies that are more engaging and, in many cases, more physically exerting than conventional therapy, falling under the blanket term of experiential therapy. 

Let’s find out if experiential therapy is right for you. 

What Does Experiential Therapy Mean? 

Experiential therapy is therapy through experience. Through a variety of different experiences, you can learn to express yourself and frame your experiences in ways that may have been less accessible in a conventional talk therapy setting. 

There are many situations where experiential therapy makes a lot of sense, such as when you’re dealing with traumatic experiences that are hard to talk about. 

Types of Experiential Therapy 

With experiential therapy, you can pick and choose providers that specialize in experiential therapies tailored to you and your interests.


Drama therapy, also called psychodrama, is the most common form of experiential therapy. 

By acting out traumatic experiences, you’re able to regain a sense of control or to gain perspective. It’s an opportunity to liberate suppressed emotions associated with trauma. Changing some of the experience as you act it out can provide closure that can aid in other types of therapy too. 

Animal Therapy 

Working with animals is known to be therapeutic. Additionally, interacting with animals alleviates loneliness, which is particularly helpful if addiction has damaged your social bonds. The added sense of responsibility that comes from taking care of an animal, and the pride you get from success, helps too. 


Art therapy spans many visual arts. Painting, sculpting, drawing, and more. But it’s more than just an experience to relieve tension as art therapy is also a chance to learn a new skill and see satisfying progress. 

Like with drama therapy, you can express things through art that you are sometimes more difficult through words.  


Music therapy includes both the physical and creative parts of music. You can play the music yourself, write the lyrics to a song, sing and dance, or just listen to and discuss the music with others. 

Outdoor and Adventure 

You can do a lot with adventure therapy. Wilderness therapy, adventure activities, and therapy sessions outdoors all fall under this umbrella.

Many forms of adventure therapy – e.g. hiking, ziplining, rock climbing – involve exercise, giving you to opportunity to push yourself towards your fitness goals. But it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Adventure therapy can mean doing something you may not have had the chance to enjoy before.


Although it originated as a therapeutic tool to use with children, play therapy has seen great success across all ages. Play therapy gives both children and adults the chance to express things in a uniquely creative, engaging, and even inspiring way. This works especially well for people with limited vocabulary or other communication difficulties. 

Why Experiential Therapy for Substance Abuse? 

Experiential therapy can offer you the chance to feel success and pride again, which can feel unattainable after hitting rock bottom. When you need a change in perspective, most experiential therapies are a chance to do something new, to move your body in a new way, or to think in a new way.  

Can Experiential Therapy Work Outside Substance Abuse? 


Experiential therapy is also used for

  • Anger management 
  • Grief 
  • Compulsive behavior 
  • Loss recovery 
  • Other physical and psychological addictions 

The versatility of experiential therapy is important because mental disorders often co-occur with other disorders. With experiential treatment, you can often treat both conditions at once. 

Making Experiential Therapy Your Own 

The best drug rehabs find a way to set themselves apart. Experiential therapy is a great way to do that while also taking advantage of nearby biomes. For example, one drug rehab situated near to a nature trail may incorporate hiking and outdoor therapy in the curriculum. Another might have a large, open performing space for music and drama.  

Learn More From Never Alone Recovery Support Services 

Experiential learning is a unique branch of therapy, but there are a variety of others to suit many needs. Never Alone Recovery is here to give you the resources you need. Call our toll-free number to learn more.

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