Experiential Therapy is a therapeutic approach that encourages patients to identify and address any hidden or subconscious ideas through an array of activities. Experiential therapy is not just one form of therapeutic intervention, but a number of different types of therapy and interventions designed to focus on actual involvement with different types of experiences including emotional processing, interactions with others, creativity, and reflections that go beyond traditional “talk therapy”.
Change, emotional growth, and personal empowerment are all 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 the therapeutic aspect of the experience, they are more likely to behave in a more unguarded and genuine manner.
In an effort to help clients combat related rigid mind-set and compulsive exercise behaviors, clients at Avalon Hills have the opportunity to participate in a few different forms of experiential therapy techniques. These techniques include:
Outdoor Experiences and Challenges
Outdoor exercises such as mountain excursions, hiking, canoeing, challenge courses, and skiing are organized to challenge individual limits and encourage being present in the moment. Such exercises confront isolation, avoidance, perfectionism, self-consciousness, and unproductive competition. At the same time, these activities enhance self-confidence and worth, positive social interactions, appropriate risk-taking, and non-compulsive fitness activity. Outdoor experiences are individualized according to the client’s health status, treatment level, and ability.
Non-verbal Expressive Therapies
Individuals with eating disorders often have difficulty with direct verbal self-expression. Incorporating less direct forms of therapy such as through the use of arts and various forms of movement encourages the management of emotional distress with healthy new behaviors.
With the excessive focus eating disordered individuals place on body, weight, shape, and size, an effort to stay healthy and fit often morphs into compulsive and extreme exercise routines. In an effort to help clients combat compulsive exercise behaviors, clients participate in non-routinized fitness activities that are both healthy and enjoyable. Clients have some choice in determining the kinds of fitness activities they wish to engage in. Examples include hiking, basketball, wallyball, yoga, Zumba, aerobics, and strength training.
Weekends at Avalon Hills are structured with a balance of outdoor recreation, cultural activities in the community, therapeutic activities, and shopping challenges. Each Sunday, attendance at church services is available. Attendance is optional and the attendees rotate through a list of various denominations.
As patients progress through structured experiential therapy activities under the guidance and supervision of a professional, they have the opportunity to experience successes, identify obstacles, develop improved self-esteem, and take greater responsibility for their actions.