There are a variety of therapies available for teens who struggle with drugs, alcohol, and mental health issues. Traditional talk therapy is one of the most well-known forms of therapy available. However, it is not always the most effective. A new type of therapy is emerging as an effective treatment for troubled teens and their parents. Experiential therapy is not one specific therapy. It is a term that describes different types of therapy and therapeutic techniques that requires teens to engage in treatment. The theory behind experiential therapy is when a trouble teen is actively participating in the therapeutic process using actions such as role playing, art, or outdoor activities.
What does experiential therapy do?
Every teen’s needs are different. Some may suffer from addiction while others may have severe mental health problems that cannot be handled at home. Typically, teens are reluctant to talk to a stranger about their problems. They can be guarded and not share everything they need to share. This can hinder their healing process. Experiential therapy gives troubled teens the opportunity to express their feelings in a real-world scenario. Teens are focused on the task that has been assigned to them and they are more likely to behave genuinely.
Experiences are designed to mirror real life scenarios that allow feelings, attitudes, and beliefs that are generally withheld from the outside world. Teens dive deep into their past experiences and process their suppressed emotions under the care of a licensed therapist. They will learn to reflect on experiences to make better decisions. Also, teens will walk away from this type of therapy with a sense of voice. They will feel more able to handle challenges in everyday life.
Who does experiential therapy help?
Experiential therapy can be in the form of equine therapy, art therapy, role-playing, adventure therapy, and wilderness therapy. These different techniques can open a world of positive choices and ways to cope. Research suggests there are several diagnoses that can benefit from experiential therapy. It has been successfully added into treatment programs for teens who have experienced abuse, addiction, behavior, mood disorders, and even eating disorders.
Experiential therapy is best for people who are committed to health and are willing to work on issues that are hard to discuss openly. This therapy is suggested to teens who have experienced trauma, mental health issues, abuse, or addiction. Troubled teens have the opportunity to confront their painful emotions and self-esteem issues that contribute to their problems.
Wilderness therapy as experiential therapy
Wilderness therapy, also known as adventure therapy, is a fast-rising form of experiential therapy. Wilderness therapy allows parents to send their ailing teens into a program that is rooted in nature. Teens experience hiking, ropes courses, and camping while working through their trauma and learning coping skills. Therapists are able to help teens work through their feelings as they are experiencing them rather than just hearing them. Many therapeutic activities in wilderness therapy involve trust-building and cooperative games. This allows troubled teens to interact appropriately with their peers and adults without acting out.
Studies show that removing a troubled teen from a toxic environment and placing them in a program with a direct connection to nature will result in lasting healing results. Trouble teens can benefit from a variety of improvement when they attend a wilderness therapy program, such as:
- Ability to manage stress
- Ability to focus on the present
- Improved focus
- Increased self-esteem
- Ability to trust others
- Better coping skills
- Improvements in moods
- Ability to work through conflicts
Wilderness therapy as an experiential therapy option has a multitude of advantages for troubled teens and their families. It can strength the family dynamic and give the teen an ability to cope with hard situations. Teens are given the chance to change their outlook and attitude toward life and become stronger.
To learn more about wilderness therapy, click here.