With so many forms of treatment for substance use issues available today, it is the best possible time for you or your loved one to get treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you may want to consider a program that utilizes experiential therapy in Denver as part of the treatment.


This type of therapy can be especially effective for substance abuse issues because it allows you to participate in the therapeutic process without some of the pressure that might come along with more traditional types of therapy.


Use this guide to understand these types of therapies and how they can help with the addiction healing process.


Click on a topic below to jump directly to the sections that most interest you:

  1. What is experiential therapy?
  2. How does this therapy help with drug and alcohol addiction?
  3. What are the types of experiential therapy?
  4. What are the benefits of this therapy compared to other types of therapy?
  5. What can it help with?
  6. Are there experiential therapy rehab services available near me in Denver, Colorado?
  7. Contact Denver Recovery Center today to get started.


What is Experiential Therapy?

Everyone learns and processes information in different ways. Some people learn better by doing instead of hearing or seeing. Sharing thoughts and feelings can be uncomfortable for some people. Others may have a difficult time opening up during individual therapy. Experiential therapy can be a powerful way to process past events and learn new skills for those that feel more comfortable “doing” rather than “talking.”


This type of therapy uses activities, scenarios, and actions as opposed to “talk therapy” to help with personal exploration and growth. Some activities that may be used include adventure, animal assisted, recreational, and other therapies. During these activities, the therapist observes a person’s behavior and guides the experiences based on the insights they have gained during the activity.


Using Experiential Therapy for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

This type of therapy has become more and more popular as a complementary therapy for treating addiction. If you’re considering addiction treatment for you or a loved one, you probably want to know how this therapy can help. Here are some ways it can help to treat addiction:

    • Learn to manage stress: By simulating stressful situations, you can learn better ways to deal with setbacks and frustrations. Since stress is a major trigger for substance abuse, the better you handle stress, the more likely you are to remain sober.


    • Improve interpersonal skills: Activities that challenge the way you interact with others can provide powerful insights into how you socialize every day. Team building exercises and role plays are great teachable moments for building interpersonal skills.


    • Leave your comfort zone: Addiction is a vicious cycle of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. By getting out of your comfort zone and typical thought processes, you can help break the cycle that leads to substance use.


    • Explore new leisure activities: Once you leave an addiction treatment program, one major challenge awaits you: How are you going to spend your free time since you are no longer using? During recreation or adventure therapy, you learn new skills and develop new interests to help fill your time, so boredom isn’t a trigger.  


    • Manage cravings: When you are consumed with an activity you enjoy, you’re less likely to succumb to those brief but often intense cravings.


  • Help with co-occurring disorders: About half of people who struggle with addiction have underlying psychological issues. In some cases, drugs or alcohol are used to self-medicate the condition. For others, a history of trauma or physical abuse contributes to addictive behaviors. This hands-on therapy can help identify and treat co-occurring conditions which may lead to a more successful recovery.


Types of Experiential Therapy

Experiential therapy is a broad term that describes many different types of interventions designed to help individuals with a variety of issues. Basically, any therapy with an emphasis on “doing” can be considered experiential. As long as the actions involved include the expertise of a knowledgeable therapist who observes and guides the behaviors, they are considered therapeutic.


Here are some of the more popular therapy activities:

    • Role Playing: By acting out a scenario, the therapist and individual have the opportunity to discover what thought processes and behaviors arise during the situation. In addition, the individual may have a chance to explore other people’s perspectives that they have never before considered. For instance, an individual may take on the role of his or her significant other to gain insight into why they responded a particular way. A therapist can use role playing during individual sessions or during therapy groups.


    • Art Therapy: When led by a trained therapist, art therapy provides an individual the chance to explore or define their feelings and struggles using different art media. This is especially helpful for those who may be reluctant to talk to a therapist or people who have difficulties expressing themselves. Art therapy uses painting, drawing, sculpting, and other creative activities usually based on an individual’s interests. You don’t have to be good at art to participate in these therapy techniques. The focus isn’t the end product, but the process and insights that you might discover while completing a project.


    • Music Therapy: Like art therapy, music therapy is led by a specially trained therapist with knowledge about how to use music during the therapeutic process. Again, like art therapy, you do not need to be a musician or have skills on a particular musical instrument. One music therapy activity could involve having the client listen to different songs and writing a few words about what each meant to him. Drum circles are a popular group activity where everyone receives a percussion instrument and the therapist guides the group in an activity where they work together to complete a goal using music.


    • Play Therapy: This type of therapy is common with children, but adolescents, adults, and even families have found benefits using it as well. Trained counselors use the “therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development.” By using play, people may have an easier time connecting with the therapist since the focus isn’t solely on conversations. In addition, the social interactions and personal habits exhibited during a play session give the therapist insight into an individual’s personal struggles.


    • Recreation Therapy: Similar to play therapy, recreation therapy uses leisure activities to address an individual’s needs and promote optimal health. Because leisure is such a broad term, a recreation therapist can use several techniques during therapy sessions. For example, if someone has trouble making decisions, the therapist may use a team building activity to challenge the individual to be more assertive. Recreation therapy also teaches skills and strategies for living a positive lifestyle. This can be especially important for those battling addiction because they are able to find new healthy pursuits to replace the time they spent using drugs or alcohol.


    • Adventure Therapy: By using activities like rock climbing, ropes courses, hiking, and camping, adventure therapy can get an individual out of their comfort zone to explore personal issues. You or your loved one can develop important life skills and learn crucial life lessons during these activities. The therapist guiding the excursions ensures each person is safe and participates in a supportive, therapeutic environment.  


    • Family Therapy: This psychotherapeutic approach uses the framework of the family to facilitate healing and growth. Developed by Virginia Satir, activities can include role playing, guided fantasy, and play sessions. The goal is to use these activities to raise an individual’s awareness and create better family cohesiveness. When family members realize their role in the family’s communication patterns, new strategies can be created to improve everyday interactions and heal strained bonds.


  • Animal Assisted Therapy: Animals can have a profound effect on someone struggling with physical or mental issues, including substance use disorders. Visiting with a trained therapy animal can provide stress relief and a better psychological state. During animal assisted sessions, you may learn new skills, build empathy, or develop additional responsibility.


What Sets Experiential Therapy Apart from Other Therapies?

To answer this question, consider this quote:


“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”


Though the origin of this quote is debatable, it speaks volumes about how effective this therapy can be. While talking has its benefits, the actions of a person during therapy activities give the therapist crucial insights into a person’s behaviors, thought processes, and ways of dealing with situations.


For example, think of an individual who struggles with acting aggressively when others aren’t doing what he or she perceives as correct. During a team building activity where everyone has to work together to reach a common goal, the person gets frustrated and starts acting out toward others in the group. At this point, the therapist may call a “time out” and process what is going on with the group. The therapist allows the group to troubleshoot more effective ways for dealing with frustration. The aggressive individual may be encouraged to use some of the coping mechanisms discussed in previous groups.  


This real-life experience can provide valuable insights on how to transfer important life skills to everyday challenges. As an individual works together with a therapist during these types of activities, he or she learns to normalize positive behaviors leading to the extinction of less adaptive behaviors.  


Another major benefit of using these therapies is developing a better therapeutic alliance. Treatment is more effective when the therapist and individual share a supportive relationship with open, honest communication. For some people, this isn’t always easy. Opening up to a stranger may be the last thing they want to do.


These therapies help reduce any pressure if you are initially reluctant to share in sessions by shifting therapy’s focus. When you are engaged in an enjoyable activity, your defenses may become relaxed. Sharing becomes easier. Once you are able to learn that the therapist is an ally who cares for you and your progress, true healing can begin.


Who Does it Help?

Experiential therapy techniques are very diverse, so they can help with a variety of physical and mental conditions in addition to substance use disorders. A recent literature review determined this type of therapy was very effective in treating those with depression. In addition, it also helped those with relationship and other interpersonal issues. Therapists have also used these types of interventions to help with eating disorders, grief, behavior problems, anger management, and other issues.


Almost anyone willing to participate in the guided activities by a trained therapist can benefit. Children and adolescents are great candidates for this form of treatment because it usually involves something they enjoy doing. Adults and families also find benefits from experiential therapy activities.


Experiential therapy can be particularly effective for people who struggle with alcohol or drug abuse because it can teach you about new activities, skills, perspectives, and can feel less intimidating than traditional counseling.


Are There Experiential Therapy Rehab Services Near Me in Denver, Colorado?

If you’re living near Denver, Colorado, you have easy access to a top-rated addiction rehab program that utilizes experiential therapy. Denver Recovery Center, located in nearby Broomfield, Colorado, offers holistic and evidence-based treatment for individuals and their families to get the support and guidance they need to fight the complex disease of addiction. If you aren’t from here but feel a change of scenery can be the inspiration for your recovery, don’t worry – we frequently welcome individuals from all across the country.


Treating addiction doesn’t have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Denver Recovery Center offers personal and individualized care with our comprehensive therapy services. We know each person entering our program comes to us with a unique story and specific challenges which require a customized rehabilitation approach.


Our program offers you or your loved one a comfortable, supportive environment away from the triggers and stressors of your everyday life. As our expert staff get to know more about you, they will develop a plan to treat your specific needs and struggles. From individual therapy to engaging activities that take you out of your comfort zone to nurture personal growth, we believe in your potential for positive change.


If you’re ready to embrace life with a new perspective, we can help. We offer you a chance to reconnect with nature during our outdoor therapy programs. You’ll enjoy activities like hiking and water sports while learning valuable skills you can transfer into your recovery process.


Let Denver Recovery Center Start Helping You Today

Spending another day deciding whether or not to enter treatment is another day wasted. You know you or your loved one has likely already struggled for too long. Getting help is as simple as making a phone call.


Speaking with a caring admissions specialist at Denver Recovery Center may be the life changing call you need to make today. If you’re simply looking for more information or need treatment, 844-307-2955 is the number that can change your life.