At Abide Counseling, we are passionate about using experiential therapies to help individuals and couples abide more deeply with their Selves, the Divine, and others.

This sounds pretty great! But what exactly is experiential therapy, you might ask? And why does it help?

What it is

While there are many ways to practice experiential therapy, experiential approaches to care all operate from the core belief that people change by having a different experience. Unlike other modalities that believe that change comes from primarily changing thoughts or behaviors, experiential therapies emphasize the role of experiences in the change process.

To help explain this, let’s pretend that you want to become a pianist. You can think about playing the piano all day and have all the knowledge about pianos, but at the end of the day, you simply cannot learn how to play the piano by thinking or talking about it. Without the experience of playing the piano, of practicing regularly, you cannot become the piano player that you desire to be. Humans grow and change through experiential learning. This same idea applies to counseling.

Experiential therapies also emphasize the role of perception in human suffering. Perceptions are viewed as the drivers behind emotions and behaviors. By re-visiting and experiencing emotions in the present within a compassionate and supportive environment, an individual’s faulty perception of themself, the Divine, and others can change. As their perception of themselves and their story changes, emotions such as forgiveness, peace, and love can come forth.  

What it looks like

Let’s say that you are feeling depressed and that your goal is to feel happiness and contentment. Because research has shown that radical acceptance and self-compassion can help to decrease depression symptoms and increase feelings of happiness and contentedness, experiential therapy could focus on practicing radical acceptance and self-compassion. In other words, the therapy could focus on consistently fostering a new experience of love, acceptance, and self-compassion for the individual. These kinds of repeated positive experiences cause perceptions to change by physically changing the brain. As neural pathways are created and rewired, perceptions change, and the individual notices transformation in their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

What to expect

You can expect experiential therapists to be curious and active in the counseling process by reflecting and bringing awareness to what they are witnessing in the moment. They can help you get out of your head, into your body, and to access your body’s innate healing abilities. 

People who participate in experiential therapies may notice an increase in their ability to process emotions and in their awareness of their inner thoughts, fears, and motivations. They may learn how to integrate their different thoughts, impulses, and emotions into their whole self, and make decisions that are in alignment with their values. Through learning how to experience and process emotions and memories, individuals may notice greater calm, clarity, and compassion.

These types of therapies are often longer-term therapies, and individuals often work with a therapist for months or years.

Who can benefit from experiential therapy?

Can be helpful for people who want to:

  • Heal from previous trauma
  • Dive deeper into their past to bring healing to the present
  • Establish a healthy relationship with their emotions  
  • Process grief and loss
  • Cope with chronic pain
  • Reduce stress
  • Find freedom from shame and guilt
  • understand themselves more  
  • alleviate depression or anxiety
  • make sense of their story
  • Find their voice and make decisions

Main types of experiential approaches at ABIDE

Internal Family Systems Therapy

IFS uses parts language and imagery to help individuals resolve internal conflicts. It helps individuals live more fully from their Core Self, or true self, which is compassionate, curious, clear, creative, calm, confident, courageous, and connected.

Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing

EMDR uses the experience of bilateral eye-movement to help process and transform traumatic memories and replace the negative beliefs that were learned from the trauma.

Emotionally-Focused Therapy

EFT is based on attachment theory and focuses on creating secure and flourishing connections to oneself and others through developing emotional awareness, expression, and healthy communication.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy explores how past experiences have shaped the story that an individual tells themself and uses a new experience in the counseling space to re-write faulty narratives. This approach helps individuals find their voice and live in accordance with their values.

Start your journey

In summary, experiential therapies can help people change their perceptions and, therefore, change their lives. Deep, transformative change can occur when we allow ourselves to show up, slow down, and repeatedly witness a corrective, healing experience in a safe therapeutic space.

If you are wanting to pursue transformational healing and desire to take the next step in your healing journey, we encourage you to reach out to an experiential therapist at Abide.

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