Goals of young adults in mental health therapy often include establishing healthy coping skills and adjusting to everyday life. Throughout the transition to adulthood, experiential therapies act as an outlet for young adults to process deep feelings, to find meaning, and to build the skills and resilience it takes to carry on a productive routine.
Less talking, more doing
What is experiential therapy? Well, in comparison, if psychotherapy is referred to as “talk” therapy, then experiential therapy could be called “act-it-out” therapy. A way to process emotions and self-reflect while experiencing an activity, experiential therapies are set in action and involve participation. Experiential therapy does not necessarily occur in a traditional therapeutic setting; it may take place in a community center, a residential facility, a studio, a gym, or in nature.
Forms of experiential therapy include:
- Group therapy
- Art or music therapy
- Mindfulness practices, like yoga or meditation
- Recreation or exercise groups
- Life skills groups
Benefits of experiential therapy
- Stimulate brain connections: Taking part in new activities gives the brain an opportunity to grow new connections and repair damaged areas. When the brain is strong, so are social and emotional functions like memory, mood, and the ability to learn new information.
- Release emotion: Talking through dark emotions and repressed feelings can be overwhelming and can make a person mentally shut down. Experiential therapies can be emotionally liberating for young adults. Without having to verbalize their innermost pains, fears, or regrets, young adults can let go of complex emotions.
- Discover and express strengths and interests: The transition to adulthood includes forming an adult identity. Experiential therapies provide an opportunity for young adults to figure out what they are good at and what they like. As young adults explore their strengths and interests, they may gain self-confidence and increase self-awareness.
Forming a routine
Setting a daily routine may be a new experience for someone transitioning to adulthood. It may be the first time they are truly in charge of choosing their actions, their responsibilities, and their behaviors. They do not have someone telling them when to wake up and get going, how to prioritize tasks, or what to do when they are stressed out. Young adults sometimes need help in structuring their time and focusing their energy.
By participating in experiential therapy, young adults learn how to establish and adjust to a productive routine. For example, by participating in a life skills group, a young adult may figure out how to accomplish adult tasks like shopping for and preparing meals, taking on expenses, or planning how to use time efficiently. In addition, taking a yoga or meditation class assists young adults in processing and releasing stress in a healthy manner. By incorporating experiential therapies that relieve stress into a daily routine, young adults are able to build emotional resilience to stress and adhere to healthy coping skills. Experiential therapies can provide the discipline needed for self-regulation and emotional growth. Young adults who are struggling to find structure and meaning in their life should consider adding experiential therapies into their daily routine.