What’s the Best Way to Find Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Experiential Therapy: What You Should Know

Processing difficult emotional experiences can be a challenge, both within therapy and in our everyday lives. Thankfully there are several modalities of therapy that can help you to better-identify and understand your experiences, and experiential therapy is a valuable tool for anyone looking to gain new insights and heal from previous traumas and challenges.

What is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapy typically entails the client immersing themselves within a certain experience, placing an emphasis upon actions and personal connection. Unlike other forms of therapy, which classically focus on the conversation, experiential therapy techniques are intended to engage with an activity to assist clients in both revisiting their experience and bringing awareness to the thoughts and emotions which influence their lives.[1]

Perception and viewpoint are often cited as primary drivers of our behaviors, and experiential therapy seeks to assist clients to better understand how events in their lives have shaped their outlook and consequent behavioral patterns. Experiential therapy directs clients to relive their experiences in the moment, helping to develop greater openness, understanding, and resilience in the face of future challenges.[2]

Many experiential therapies are also not limited to an office setting and are conducted in other environments.

Experiential Therapy Activities and Techniques

Experiential therapy is adaptable and can take on many forms, including:

  • Psychodrama: The utilization of role-playing and group dynamics to bring awareness to emotions and emotional conflict.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Directing clients to visualize past traumatic events while being directed through structured eye movements by the clinician, assisting in the re-processing of distressing memories.
  • Art Therapy: Expressing thoughts and emotions via artistic endeavors (painting, sculpting, etc.).
  • Music therapy: Involving music—listening to, creating, or relating to it—in the expression of formative life events and memories.
  • Equine or pet therapy: Providing care and recreation with horses, dogs, or other animals to identify emotions and process through past events.

Although experiential therapies can take on many different forms, they have been studied to be effective in helping those with addiction issues and co-occurring, mental health-based issues to assist with cultivating new insights, develop new and healthier coping strategies, and better understand the challenges of the past.[3]

According to Psychology Today, such therapies can be beneficial for those struggling with trauma/PTSD, addictions (both substance and process-based), and grief/loss, among others.[4]

The Experiential Therapy Process

While there are several different ways in which experiential therapy can be delivered, the general process is often reflective of other kinds of therapy. A thorough intake process will help to determine the best potential course of treatment—including any additional avenues of care to pursue—and your treatment provider will work with you to collaborate on a service plan for your unique situation.

How (and Why) it Works

In general, experiential therapies are intended to bring the client’s focus into the present via actions as past experiences are explored, providing a safe place to examine formative events and patterns to gain new vantage points. Such therapies encourage client’s to feel their emotions fully via the expression of the chosen modality, bringing new themes to light.

Re-enacting or re-experiencing powerful emotions through a new lens can help to pave the way towards the development of new coping strategies, often combined with other treatment modalities (such as talk-based therapy) as well.

What’s the Best Way to Find Experiential Therapy?

Ultimately, experiential therapy offerings will depend on the provider or treatment location. Researching facilities will be a critical component of identifying the kinds of experiential therapies you’re interested in, along with how they fit into the overall treatment picture in combination with a provider’s other offerings.

Find Experiential Therapy Near Me

Click on a pin to learn more information on a specific facility location

Cost of Experiential Therapy

The costs associated with experiential therapy within the bounds of addiction treatment will typically be included in the overall program, which will depend on your individualized treatment plan and insurance coverage. Ask any questions you may have about treatment costs during your initial consultation to ensure you are empowered with the right information to fully engage in the treatment process.

Verify Insurance

Frequently Asked Questions about Experiential Therapy


Can experiential therapy help with addiction?


Yes, addiction therapy can assist those struggling with addiction to develop a stronger sense of self and come to terms with formative past events that contributed to the issue. Non-traditional therapy activities and environments can help those struggling with more office and talk-based interventions to branch out and become more open to exploration.


Are all 12-step programs faith-based?


While experiential therapy techniques are typically well-tolerated, it should also be noted that they usually entail engaging with potentially-traumatic memories and experiences. Some clients may benefit from first working with their team to increase their ability to tolerate such work before engaging in experiential therapy.


Greenberg, L. S., Safran, J., & Rice, L. (1989, January 1). Experiential therapy. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4757-9779-4_9 on July 24th, 2023


(2023). Apa.org. https://www.apa.org/pubs/videos/4310783 on July 24th, 2023


Carruth, B. (2006). Psychological Trauma and Addiction Treatment. Journal of Chemical Dependency Treatment, 8(2), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1300/j034v08n02_01 on July 24th, 2023


Experiential Therapy. (n.d.). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/experiential-therapy on July 24th, 2023

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today