• Nicole Arzt

How Experiential Therapy Strengthens The Therapeutic Alliance

When you think of therapy, do you only imagine a dimly-lit office and a comfortable couch? If so, you might be thinking about some of the more traditional forms of individual therapy. But mental health treatment can also extend beyond the confines of a comfortable office. Experiential therapy can cultivate a dynamic connection in ways that other therapies can’t.

What is experiential therapy? What kinds of issues does it treat? And can it help you?


What Is Experiential Therapy?


Experiential therapy refers to using expressive activities and interventions to either reenact or reexperience various emotional situations. This therapy is dynamic and fluid, and it can include a variety of tools like art, music, animals, meditation, role-play, and physical activity.


Experiential therapy treats a variety of substance use disorders and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other compulsive behaviors. Moreover, clinicians from all theoretical backgrounds often integrate experiential approaches into their work.


While it usually doesn’t replace psychotherapy or medication, it can be an excellent resource for clients who need a more dynamic approach of care.


What Are The Benefits?


Experiential therapy offers unique benefits that simply can’t be duplicated in traditional individual or group therapy formats. That’s because the work isn’t achieved through mere conversation; it’s achieved through action.


Experiential therapy can help clients strengthen a variety of skills including:

  • Self-esteem and confidence: Whether it’s interacting with horses in equine therapy or learning how to surf, experiential therapy often involves trying new things, and moving beyond your comfort zone can boost self-esteem

  • Morals and ethics: Learning and interacting in the world around you makes you reflect on your own moral compass. Strengthening your morals and ethics can improve your judgment, relationships with others, and the sense of integrity you carry.

  • Self-awareness: Experiential therapy typically requires you to examine parts of yourself that you’ve denied, suppressed, or minimized. By learning more about these parts, you become more aware of who you truly are as a person.

  • Interpersonal connection: Experiential therapy can involve peer-to-peer interaction and group counseling. This offers you the opportunity to expand your social skills and improve the way you connect with others.

  • Gratitude: Experiential therapy helps you appreciate yourself and the world. This attitude of gratitude helps you keep life into perspective, and it keeps you appreciative of what you have.

  • Mindfulness: Art, music, and being in nature all integrate a sense of mindfulness, and mindfulness is a key cornerstone to mental health.

  • Discipline and self-control: Experiential therapy often requires exercising a sense of discipline and delayed gratification. This is especially true if you are learning a new skill or engaging in a task you haven’t mastered.

  • A sense of purpose: Hobbies, passions, and creativity instill a sense of purpose and meaning into daily life. When you have meaning, you tend to feel more happy and fulfilled.

How It Strengthens The Therapeutic Alliance


Experiential therapy can be a standalone treatment option, but it can also be supplementary for people already receiving clinical services. Regardless, it tends to yield positive benefits for the therapeutic alliance.


Therapeutic alliances are one of the most essential relationships in recovery. You need to feel safe and supported by your treatment team. You need to feel like they have your back, even when you start to feel discouraged.


The therapeutic alliance can take time to form. Many clients enter treatment feeling fearful or uncertain about vulnerability. Sometimes, they have had traumatic experiences of sharing their secrets in the past. They don’t want to reveal all their wounds only to feel rejected or shamed.


Experiential therapy can break through some of the barriers commonly associated with traditional treatment. For one, this type of therapy tends to involve less face-to-face interaction. It’s less about answering questions and more about using your body, mind, and soul in a way that forces you to think and act differently.


That doesn’t mean you aren’t doing reflective work. Instead, it means that you’re using different mediums to express yourself. You are finding your voice, strength, and energy through nontraditional sources. Many clients find that this approach makes them feel more empowered and confident- and that can be the segue they need to feel more comfortable in therapy.


Final Thoughts


At The Resurface Group, we are huge proponents of the power of experiential therapy. We believe that mental health treatment should be unique and powerful. We also believe that, even if it’s work, it can still be engaging and fun!


Our approach meets clients where they are at in their journeys towards wellness, and our approach also helps motivate people to harness their authentic selves. No matter how acute your condition, no matter how hopeless it seems, we have confidence that things can get better.


Are you ready to try something different? Contact us today to learn more.


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Orange County Addiction Recovery • 2900 Bristol St Suite 320, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 • Main (509) 319-0845

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