Mental Health
What is Experiential Therapy?

What is Experiential Therapy?

5 min read


Jareena Silva

Experiential therapy is an exciting alternative to cognitive or behavioral therapy, or even traditional psychotherapy. People who have participated in this form of therapy say it's effective for overcoming depression, stress, and trauma. This type of treatment helps to promote self-awareness, develop healthy boundaries, and recover from emotional and mental pain.

What is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy is the practice of using what is the person's environment in order to provide emotional and psychological support. It can be used to process and understand emotional experiences and build emotional resilience. The goal of this type of therapy is to help the person recognize their own emotions and develop skills to regulate them.

Experiential Therapy includes many different forms such as art, drama, narrative, and wilderness therapy. All these types of therapies are more hands-on than traditional talk therapy.

The Benefits of Experiential Therapy

Experiential Therapy is based on the idea that the best way to understand a person’s emotional state is to experience it directly. This type of therapy often includes activities or exercises that allow clients to explore their feelings and emotions.

Experiential Therapy can be effective in emotional processing.

There are many benefits to experiential therapy. First, it can be a very effective way to help people understand their emotions. Experiential therapy can help people become more aware of their feelings and how they are affecting their behavior. It can also help people learn how to manage their emotions more effectively.

Additionally, it can be a powerful tool for change. When people explore their emotions directly, they can often make changes in their behavior and attitudes. Experiential therapy can help people resolve emotional conflicts and deal with difficult emotions.

Experiential therapy can be a creative way to explore the self.

Experiential therapy often includes activities that are enjoyable and stimulating. For example, drawing illustrations, playing instruments, and role-play acting. It can be a great way to learn more about oneself and help people learn new coping skills and strategies. Experiential therapy can be a great way to build self-esteem and confidence.

Experiential Therapy can help you view situations from other perspectives.

Through exercises such as role-playing, people can work through alternative points of view by fostering empathy, challenging emotions, offering a safe outlet to process negative or painful thoughts and emotions.  

Experiential therapy can help you to learn new coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills, and to develop a better understanding of yourself and your relationships.

Types of Experiential Therapy

There are many different types of experiential therapies. Some of the most common include:

Art therapy

Art Therapy can include digital art, photography, painting, drawing, and making collages. Mental health providers may suggest Art Therapy to explore their feelings if the client finds it difficult to express their emotions by words.

The therapist can help the client interpret their artwork and use the information to understand their emotions and thoughts.

Music therapy

Music therapy can be helpful in improving mood and other mental health conditions by engaging in music. In music therapy, you'll be given an instrument and a song to play. You'll be asked to play something that you feel as you listen to the song. You might also be asked to create a story about the song or to sing it.

Music therapy may help lower blood pressure, improve memory, increase motivation, manage pain, improve communication, and allow one to self-reflect.

Drama therapy

Drama therapy can be a great way to help children and adults explore their emotions, improve communication, and develop social skills. Drama therapy can be beneficial for those with attention and mood disorders, those who have experienced trauma, and those that are grieving.

Drama therapy utilizies acting, storytelling, games, improvisation, and creative writing. The mental health provider can guide the client through a specific activity and allow them a safe environment to express their emotions and thoughts.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is typically used to treat trauma. It is a body-based technique that uses eye movements and taps in order to process memories. The mental health provider may examine the client's eye movements from left to right while they recall a specific life event or memory. Eye movements may also be substituted with tapping on their body. This process is called bilateral stimulation or BLS.

Although EMDR is used to treat a variety of issues, a mental health provider will need to evaluate the client's situation to ensure EMDR is appropriate.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a therapeutic approach that uses the stories that people tell themselves about themselves to help them gain clarity and understanding. A mental health provider will ask the client questions and then help them find their story. The goal of narrative therapy is to help people identify their own unique experiences and use those experiences as a tool for growth.

Narrative therapists believe that our stories are central to understanding who we are, how we relate to others and how we make meaning in our lives. They also think that helping people identify and change their stories can be an effective form of treatment for mental health issues.

Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy is an experiential treatment approach that seeks to empower individuals and groups by helping them learn how to respond effectively to their problems and concerns in ways that promote growth and foster positive change. It is based on the belief that people can best heal themselves when they are immersed in a healing environment. This means that wilderness therapy programs are designed to provide participants with opportunities for growth through direct experiences in nature.

Wilderness Therapy exercises may include hiking, gardening, games, animal-assissted activities, camping, swimming, and biking. The activities are designed to confront clients with their own thoughts and feelings about themselves, giving them the opportunity to build independence, grow stronger, and experience a sense of achievement.

Experiential Therapy can help with a variety of conditions and experiences.

Therapists use Experiential Therapy to support clients that experience various mental health conditions.

  • Anxiety
  • Compulsive disorders
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Mood disorders
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse
  • Trauma

Is Experiential Therapy Right for Me?

If you are looking for an approach to therapy that will allow you to explore your feelings and experiences in a safe and supportive environment, experiential therapy may be right for you.

This type of therapy can be helpful for those who are looking to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationships. It can also be beneficial for those who are seeking relief from symptoms such as anxiety or depression.

Some people may be hesitant to try experiential therapy because they are unsure of what to expect. It is important to discuss any concerns with a therapist before starting experiential therapy. This type of therapy can  It is also important to be open to new experiences and be willing to try new things.

If you're thinking about starting therapy or are curious about Experiential Therapy specifically, take our Get Matched quiz to explore your options for a mental health provider.

Download MyWellbeing's 2024 Mental Health Planner!
Thank you! Your download was sent to your email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.
Think this could help someone?
Share it with your network!
Want more helpful content like this sent to your inbox weekly?
Click here to sign up for the MyWellbeing Newsletter!

Recommended Reading

Author's headshot

About the author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.

Find the right therapist or coach for you

Complete our free, confidential questionnaire to easily and quickly match with 3 personalized coaches or therapists.

Get matched