Substance Abuse Recovery and Experiential Therapy

substance abuse recovery

Imagine doing a hobby you love, or loved, as a means to recover from your substance habit–it can be a twofold benefit. While a 12-step program is beneficial to many, it is not for everyone. Some people may need alternative long-term solutions. Experiential therapy is a diverse modality that can assist people of different personalities, and with varying interests, along their substance abuse recovery.substance abuse recovery


What is substance use disorder?

Addiction is a disease that triggers the brain to compulsively engage in using drugs or alcohol, without control, despite the harm it causes. When someone is addicted to a substance, they are dependent on it to feel a certain way and may not be able to function without it. It is estimated that there are about 19.7 million Americans, over the age of 12, that suffer from the disorder. Additionally, it is believed that 8.5 million Americans suffer from a co-occurring substance disorder and mental health disorder. While only a small percent of those suffering from the disorder get help through a treatment center or program, the relapse rate is around 40%-60%. Often, those dealing with addiction show signs of emotional avoidance, triggered by trauma, which influences the substance use cycle. Experiential therapy, which helps break toxic patterns, may lead to a more successful recovery and may limit relapse.

What is experiential therapy?

This therapy may appear as solely a hobby, however, it must be conducted under a therapist’s supervision. Experiential therapy is an umbrella term for different types of integrative therapeutic practices that help subconscious beliefs surface into awareness. It is used in conjunction with other therapies, like talk therapy or group therapy. And it a form of distraction. Because the therapy is involves physical participation, it keeps a person (that is engaged) in the present, making it a distraction from using a substance. 

Types of experiential therapies

There are several experiential therapies that have become popular amongst mental health professionals–and more are sure to emerge. 

  • Music therapy: the use of singing or using instruments to improve well-being
  • Art therapy: the use of painting, drawing, sculpture, and other mediums to express experiences
  • Animal-assisted therapy: the use of animals (such as dogs, birds, horses, cats, pigs) to intervene in other forms of treatment
  • Psychodrama: the use of theater techniques to act out trauma (solo or with a group)
  • Yoga therapy: the use of yogic tools and principles to address every aspect of life
  • Wilderness therapy: the use of different types of experiential therapies in a wilderness setting
  • Dance therapy: the use of dance and movement to integrate intellectual, emotional, and motor functions of the body

Why it helps with recovery

Experiential therapy can serve as a new coping mechanism for those struggling with addiction because the methods do not require a person to immediately tackle their issue head-on. The therapy allows for people to feel less confronted with the disorder and allows for the body to explore, possibly uncovering memories related to a trauma. In other words, expressive therapy can help pull people out of denial so that they can then gain insight into the why behind their addiction. Experiential therapy can be a fun and enlightening way to recover from substance use disorder. For more information call Iris Healing Retreat at (844) 663-4747.


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