Evidence shows that treatment programs that take an integrated approach to addiction and mental health offer the best outcomes. Integrated treatment addresses a broad range of problems related to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. It is comprised of a combination of traditional psychotherapies and evidence-based experiential therapies, which include hands-on activities. This blend of treatments helps people examine a variety of issues from different angles to promote meaningful, holistic healing.
Experiential Therapy for the Treatment of Addiction
Experiential therapies are a vital component of a high-quality, comprehensive addiction treatment program. They involve activities that help people feel successful as they work through obstacles in different settings.
Experiential therapies typically operate using the basic principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy and other conventional therapies. They offer a number of benefits for those in recovery from substance abuse, including helping them do the following:
- Improve self-awareness by observing how they respond behaviorally and emotionally while engaging in a purposeful or enjoyable activity
- Make sense of emotions that are difficult to express
- Uncover buried emotions or memories in a safe, supporting environment
- Identify emotional responses that manifest during certain life situations
- Take action to initiate positive life changes
Experiential therapies are facilitated by trained therapists who help people make meaningful associations between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But these activities are also about having fun and may lead to the discovery of healthy hobbies that can be helpful to engage in during recovery.
Forms of Experiential Therapy
During an art therapy session, participants engage in a diverse variety of art-based exercises, such as the following:
- Recreating an experience visually
- Expressing emotion in colors and shapes
- Creating art to relieve stress and have fun
- Viewing/discussing the creativity/art of others
In general, art therapy can help participants express emotions in non-traditional ways and integrate past experiences with creative self-expression.
Other benefits of art therapy include the following:
- Healing of emotional wounds
- Altering unhealthy thought and behavior patterns
- Reduced denial and uncertainty
- Increased motivation regarding recovery
- Increased self-reflection and awareness
- Reduced feelings of stress and shame
Music therapy includes a variety of music-themed interventions that help people to address a variety of physical, emotional, mental, and social needs.
During music therapy, a therapist engages participants in activities, such as the following:
- Listening to music for inspiration
- Interpreting song lyrics
- Writing songs as a means of self-expression
- Creating music with instruments or singing
- Moving to music to express oneself reduce stress
Music therapy has been shown to reduce feelings of depression, anger, and anxiety, and motivate people to change and actively engage in treatment.
Other benefits of music therapy include helping participants do the following:
- Achieve and sustain a positive emotional state
- Express and tap into difficult emotions
- Relax and reduce stress
- Discovered shared experiences with others
- Foster communication
- Experience significant personal change
Overall, music therapy is intended to promote creative thinking and self-awareness, which are essential to recovery.
Adventure therapy takes place outdoors and may include activities like hiking, climbing, camping, kayaking, etc. In adventure therapy, engaging with nature itself is therapeutic, inspiring hope and encouraging individual growth, self-awareness, and self-confidence.
Activities used in adventure therapy include initiative activities that involve problem-solving and collaborating with others. They also feature cooperative activities that foster positive interactions and a sense of enjoyment, as well as support activities that teach participants to trust and count on others.
Adventure therapy is an active process that serves as a medium for change. A trained therapist helps participants relate the lessons learned during the adventures to their own experiences in recovery. The therapist observes the stress levels of participants and ensures that each person is achieving a positive momentum.
Outdoor adventures may be useful for the following:
- Reducing the risk of relapse
- Lessening drug and alcohol cravings
- Decreasing frequency of bad thoughts
- Reducing stress and mental fatigue
- Improving focus and concentration
- Fostering a positive outlook
- Engaging in realistic goal-setting
- Developing better control over impulsivity
Yoga is combines controlled breathing with movement and meditation. It’s led by a certified instructor who guides the class through a range of poses that improve physical and mental strength, endurance, and flexibility. The instructor may also integrate inspirational teachings into the class to increase spiritual benefits. A yoga session usually concludes with a few moments of meditation, which may be individually-focused and not be led by the instructor.
During yoga, participants concentrate on their breathing and poses, which keep them into the present moment where they are better able to examine their thoughts, feelings, and physical state. Mindfulness increases self-awareness and teaches the mind to exist in the present rather than fretting over the past or future.
Yoga is commonly used in addiction treatment programs for its many mental and physical health benefits to people in recovery, including the following:
- A higher level of mindfulness
- Greater awareness of body and mind
- Deeper spirituality
- Reduced symptoms of PTSD
- Decreased stress
- Reduced cravings for drugs or alcohol
- Greater physical strength
- Reduced depression and anxiety
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting in a quiet environment while focusing on the breath and allowing thoughts to pass through the mind without responding to them or placing judgment on them.
Meditation encourages awareness of thoughts, emotions, and physical responses. It helps people accept their experiences and feelings for what they are rather than repress or fight them. Meditation promotes better decision-making, relieves cravings, and lessens the need to abuse drugs or alcohol during particularly stressful or emotional events or periods.
A substantial body of research suggests that mindfulness meditation is beneficial for treating addiction in the following ways:
- Reducing blood pressure
- Alleviating pain
- Reducing depression, anxiety, and stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Improving responses to external events
- Promoting feelings of calm and peacefulness
According to research, meditation can actually change the brain’s structure by increasing its volume in regions related to emotional regulation and decision making. It also reduces the volume of the area associated with stress, anxiety, and fear.
Experiential Therapies Support Healing
Choosing a rehab program that offers a holistic approach to addiction recovery can have several long-term benefits. Experiential therapies allow people to grow and reflect and make meaningful connections to the coping skills and strategies they are learning in traditional therapy.
Experiential treatments should be enjoyable, engaging, and enlightening. By integrating them in the recovery journey, healing and well-being can be promoted during the treatment process and beyond.
Get Help Today
Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive addiction treatment programs that feature psychotherapy, counseling, and group support. We also offer several experiential treatments, including art, music, and adventure therapy, as well as medication and yoga.
If you are struggling to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us today! We are committed to helping every person we can to break free from the cycle of substance abuse so they may begin to experience the happy, healthy lives they deserve!