Experiential therapy is integrated throughout the Sober College clinical program. By moving young adults out of their comfort zone, they can create emotional and therapeutic breakthroughs that impact the insight process and arrest negative behavior patterns.
Sober College offers Urban Experiential Therapy options including Surf, Trapeze, Wind Tunnel and Equine Therapy. Clients work with their therapist in order to unearth hidden emotional issues; therefore, by participating in these unconventional, emotion-provoking activities, clients are able to deal with these emotional struggles better than they would in a traditional office setting. This type of therapy is a great way to internalize confidence-building skills or act as extended care after a wilderness rehab program.
“Experiential Therapy takes therapy out of the office to appeal to the young adult population.“
Clients go through the process of fear, courage, and success and are able to connect with their therapist, their peers, and themselves in a profound way. Sober College’s Experiential Therapy Program takes therapy outside the office to appeal to the young adult population and promote personal growth.
The experiential portion of our clinical program is strongly skills-based combined with a heavy dose of relapse prevention. Young adults in early recovery often struggle to identify the connection between emotions, feelings and physical responses leading to behavioral actions. The experiential process at Sober College enhances our client’s ability to make these critical connections and becomes the foundation for relapse prevention.
What are the Benefits of Experiential Therapy?
Change, emotional growth and personal empowerment are among the benefits of participating in an effective experiential therapy program. 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 be unguarded and genuine. This leads to a more authentic conversation after the experience, which allows clients to identify and evaluate the behaviors exhibited during experiential therapy, as well as other thoughts/prior experiences that may have prompted certain behaviors.
A benefit of this experience is that clients have the chance to discover new hobbies that they can enjoy while clean and sober. This may be particularly important for individuals who are in treatment for substance abuse or addiction, as part of the recovery process involves finding healthy and productive leisure activities to fill the hours previously occupied by searching for, acquiring, and using alcohol or other drugs.
The Richie Gaona Trapeze School, located just two miles from the Sober College Campus, allows clients to walk a high wire, jump on a large trampoline and fly from a trapeze. This therapy activity teaches clients to let go, and trust a power greater than themselves. Not only does it provide the opportunity for clients to experience something very few people have and achieve something they are proud of, but it also allows them to process the feelings and emotions surrounding their accomplishment. Before beginning their own personal flight, the clients are strapped in safety harnesses and briefed on the rules and regulations of the school. They continue with a quick ground lesson on a mini trapeze bar so they can learn safe and correct posture. This process is a practice of patience and following direction, which are essential skills for newly sober young adults both during and after treatment.
Surf therapy integrates surfing and mindfulness skills training, helping participants develop healthy coping styles they can apply later when faced with their addiction. An encounter like this has numerous metaphors and therapeutic opportunities. The group doesn’t focus on getting up on the board, but instead the approach to learning and being fully present in the moment. Clients find surf therapy more engaging than traditional forms of group therapy. Instead of being confined to a room, they are allowed to enjoy nature while learning tools for sobriety.
Indoor skydiving is therapy at 120 miles per hour. The Wind Tunnel allows you to fly at 120 miles per hour in a vertical column of air, giving participants the same experience and the same feeling a skydiver experiences when jumping from 30,000 feet. One by one, the clients make their way into the wind tunnel, flying solo for sixty seconds at a time. For many clients, this activity requires they face their worst fear, the fear experiencing powerlessness. The client’s success during this activity is a direct result of how well they manage their emotions, which is essential in relapse prevention.
In equine assisted therapy, the client is asked to interact with a horse by leading, feeding, grooming, or even catching it loose in the stables. As clients perform these tasks and interact with the horse, the therapist observes closely, and by watching the horse, learns something about the clients.
Horses are said to mirror the human soul. If you approach a horse in anger, the horse gets stubborn. If you act fearfully, the horse acts concerned, and if you show anxiety, the horse gets worried. We can hide our inner feelings pretty well from others around us, but horses always see us for who we are; the horses that mirror our feelings, have no interest in hiding theirs.
You can lie to your therapist, but a horse only acknowledges the truth.
More About Experiential Therapy
Developed in the 1970s, experiential therapy is a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address hidden or subconscious issues through activities such as role playing, guided imagery, the use of props, and a range of other active experiences.
Experiential therapy is actually a category, rather than 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. One of the many advantages of experiential therapy is that the experiences and activities that form the core of the process provide opportunities for the therapist to observe patients in situations where the patients are not focused on the therapy itself. For example, during an equine therapy session, the patient will likely be focused on completing an assigned task with a horse, and will be more likely to let his/her guard down than he or she would during a traditional individual or group talk therapy session.
Experiential therapy has been an effective component of comprehensive treatment programs for individuals who are struggling with a range of issues and disorders. It has been successfully integrated into treatment programs for adults and teens who are being treated for substance abuse, addiction, behavior disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, grief/loss, trauma, sex addiction, compulsive gambling, bipolar, depression and related conditions.
*NOTE: We are not a licensed mental health or psychiatric facility*