Whether you’ve decided to go to addiction treatment or are still debating, just know that it is possible to overcome addiction — but you can’t do it alone. It’s imperative that you find a treatment center that utilizes modern approaches that have been proven successful in treating substance abuse. At Acqua Recovery, we are constantly updating our methods to learn from the past and give the best possible programming for our patients today. (To find more information about the success of addiction treatment programs, read “Does Rehab Really Work? Understanding The Recursive Model.”) One such beneficial modality is experiential activities.
There are numerous theories and practices used to treat substance abuse: from the psychological and biosocial, to cognitive, and physiological. At Acqua Recovery, we understand that there is more than one path to recovery, so we utilize a combination of practices to individualize each patient’s journey. One of the practices we found that best aids in early recovery is experiential activities.
What Are Experiential Activities?
Experiential activities are a technique using expressive tools or activities to explore and release negative memories — whether you’re aware of them, or they’re repressed. Addiction is a tricky disease that is almost always fueled by underlying factors that are most often related to trauma. Experiential activities act as an outlet for past traumas. At the same time, they introduce the addict or alcoholic to the joys of a life in recovery. Experiential activities may include water activities, exercise, outdoor activities, sports, art, animal therapy, equine therapy, yoga and much more. Here are just a few of the many benefits of experiential activities in treating addiction.
What Are The Benefits of Experiential Activities?
Experiential Activities Assist Talk Therapy:
It is well known that residential treatment centers often use talk therapy with clinical psychologists and substance abuse counselors to help a patient begin to understand their triggers for addiction. Experiential activities act as a supplement to talk therapy, making the combination a proven success to deal with substance abuse and trauma. While group and individual therapy sessions are immensely beneficial in addiction treatment, it can be emotionally exhausting to experience a program that only utilizes talk therapy. We have found that adding experiential activities to an individual’s addiction treatment program provides them with activities in which they can explore their emotions in a fun way. By opening an outlet for positive emotional exploration, experiential activities can make the individual more aware of repressed emotions, initiating willingness to discuss them more in-depth during talk therapy. Our Masters-level clinicians can take the lead from there.
Experiential Activities Change an Addict or Alcoholic’s Perspective:
Addicts with a history of traumatic events often push down negative emotions, using substances to numb their feelings. Trauma-fueled addiction can skew an individual’s perception of people, relationships, and the world, causing a visceral reaction to normal life events. Experiential activities — whether that be art, kayaking, hiking, swimming, or even fly fishing — help provide a different perspective on life without drugs or alcohol. Experiential activities aim to replace those negatively skewed perceptions with positive ones, encouraging the individual to see the beauty of life in recovery. You can learn first-hand that fun in recovery is possible.
Experiential Activities Improve Social Skills:
Experiential activities are also a great tool for working on social skills. Trauma-related incidents and skewed perspectives can have a residual effect on an individual’s social skills. Addicts may use socialization as an excuse to drink or use, in order to lower their inhibitions. Using experiential therapy puts an individual’s focus on the physical task at hand, releasing tensions and anxiety associated with socializing. Experiencing activities with a group encourages one to socialize with others, create relationships, and — most importantly — replace negative feelings about socializing with positive ones. It’s possible to take baby steps out of the isolation of addiction through experiential activities.
Experiential Activities Improve Coping Skills:
By the time they get to addiction treatment, most addicts and alcoholics have used alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for years. When an addict’s life revolves around the substance keeping them numb, it causes built up negative emotions and repressed memories. In early recovery, you begin to learn what a sober life has the potential to be, with the help of alternative methods of regulating emotions.
Finding new coping skills in early recovery is important to reduce the chances of relapse. Experiential activities can provide individuals with new ways to cope with life events. They may find new activities they’ve never experienced before, and that they would like to enjoy consistently moving forward. A residential facility that provides diverse experiential activities can help an individual to better plan their coping mechanisms in reaction to life moving forward.
Acqua Recovery has seen firsthand the benefits of experiential activities for those struggling with substance abuse. Trauma-fueled addiction is extremely difficult to deal with, but it is possible to overcome with the help of the right treatment center. Our Masters level clinicians and caring staff truly understand how overwhelming early recovery can be — because many of them have been there too. By adding experiential activities to the program, the individual can better plan for an enjoyable sober life outside of residential treatment. To find out more about experiential activities and Acqua Recovery’s other treatment modalities, click here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, we can help you rediscover a life free from addiction. Reach out to us to learn more about our program.