Experiential therapy activities can help adults to confront negative emotions and upsetting past experiences through various forms of creative expression.

Experiential therapy is a type of mental health treatment where individuals have an opportunity to confront and process painful emotions from the past. Experiential therapy helps individuals who have trouble expressing themselves or talking about difficult times in their lives. Experiential therapy usually involves participation in creative arts or movement activities.

Experiential therapy activities for adults are usually used in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy. Through this process, people experience and explore hurtful emotions and learn how to resolve conflicts that may be rooted in the past. Experiential therapy activities can include:

  • Role-playing
  • Drama
  • Puppets
  • Adventure
  • Play therapy
  • Other activities such as sand play, art, music or animal therapy

Experiential Therapy Activities

Experiential therapy uses expressive techniques and activities to help adults re-experience and process situations from the past. As adults participate in the activities, they begin to identify and experience emotions linked with past experiences that may be negatively impacting them in the present day. As repressed emotions are released, individuals can experience positive feelings in the present.

Experiential therapy is client-centered and interventions should be linked to a person’s preferences. There are a variety of experiential therapy activities that can be used such as animal-assisted therapy, acting and role-playing, arts and crafts, music and dance and guided imagery techniques.

Art Therapy

Art therapy activities can include drawing, painting, sculpting and coloring. Art therapy helps to create a calming environment where individuals can work through difficult emotions through art instead of through verbal expression.

Some art therapy ideas can include:

  • Painting or using color to identify emotions
  • Create an art journal to express feelings
  • Make a postcard that will never get sent
  • Sculpt family members with clay
  • Make a collage of how you would like your life to be

Related Topic: Learn more about art therapy

Music Therapy

Music therapy activities help individuals actively engage with music by singing, creating or listening to it. Music therapy helps to empower, strengthen communication and provides an outlet for difficult or hard to express emotions.

Music therapy ideas can include:

  • Listening to melodies to promote relaxation
  • Discussing thoughts and feelings prompted by music
  • Improvising a musical performance
  • Playing an instrument
  • Drumming
  • Combining music and imagery
  • Writing songs for emotional expression

Related Topic: Learn more about music therapy

Experiential Family Therapy

Experiential family therapy is a group therapy technique where family members interact with each other during an activity. Experiential family therapy helps to examine the patterns of interaction amongst family members. Creative therapy modalities help to enhance motivation, engagement and participation in family therapy.

Experiential family therapy activities can include:

  • Family members share memories and experiences of meaningful events
  • Family members write down hurtful feelings and “throw them away” in a garbage can
  • Storytelling with play-doh figures to communicate feelings and interactions
  • Family members write their fears and anxieties on worry stones
  • Anonymously writing compliments and positive messages to family members

Play Therapy

Play therapy is a type of therapeutic modality that is commonly conducted with children. Play therapy allows children to express themselves, to release powerful emotions and to act out challenging life experiences. Mental health clinicians use a client’s play for assessment purposes and to help them diagnose and understand problematic behaviors.

Experiential play therapy for adults usually involves some type of game play, which adults perceive as fun.

Play therapy activities can include:

  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Billiards
  • Bowling
  • Hiking
  • Camping

Additional Types of Experiential Therapy

Additional examples of experiential therapy can include adventure therapy, wilderness therapy or psychodrama. Adventure therapy activities can include rock climbing, biking, camping or hiking and help individuals to problem-solve and manage situations that trigger real-life stressors.

Wilderness therapy allows individuals in recovery to interact with the environment that promotes self-reflection and builds confidence. Psychodrama helps people to role-play in order to relive past trauma or negative experiences. Psychodrama allows individuals in recovery to analyze past situations and learn healthy ways to manage difficult relationships and situations.

How Experiential Therapy Activities Contribute to Recovery from Addiction

Experiential therapy can help people to find resolutions for the underlying issues that lead to their alcohol and drug use and can increase the effectiveness of addiction recovery programs. Experiential therapy uses non-traditional settings to help individuals to confront past trauma and painful emotions without using alcohol and drugs to cope. Experiential therapy should always be used in conjunction with traditional alcohol and drug treatment programs and not be the only form of treatment.

Experiential therapy activities for adults can help individuals to confront and challenge repressed emotions. Hurtful memories, past trauma and repressed feelings are triggered and processed using healthy coping mechanisms so that they no longer trigger addictive behaviors. Experiential therapy can help a person to reduce denial, increase trust and cooperation with treatment providers, gain insight and develop empathy.

If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse disorder, call The Recovery Village today to explore the various treatment options available to you. Help is here; call today.

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Editor – Rob Alston
Rob Alston has traveled around Australia, Japan, Europe, and America as a writer and editor for industries including personal wellness and recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more

American Music Therapy Association. “What is Music Therapy.” 2019. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Hoy, T. “Is Play Therapy A Real Thing, And Does It Really Work?” December 10, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Klammer, S. “Expressive Art Inspirations.” 2019. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Regain. “Music Therapy Techniques, Exercises And Outcomes.” July 12, 2019. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Thomas, J. “Exploring Experience Through Experiential Therapy.” September 4, 2019. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Thompson, S; Bender, K; Cardoso, J; Flynn, P. “Experiential Activities in Family Therap[…]Caregivers and Youth.” October 5, 2010. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.