What Experiential Means in Psychotherapy:
Experiential psychotherapy or an experiential focus means to bring the focus, goal, or edge of growth into the here and now. Into the room where the client and therapist can directly lead to change by embodying the conflict or struggle (struggle to grow and expand).
What is called “talk therapy” is like describing a map of a foreign land but not venturing there to truly explore it. The problem, goal or growth edge remains abstract. It’s talked about but not embodied.
Experiential can mean emotion focused therapy but in my opinion it is much more than that. It’s a holistic and practical means of change, bringing together all aspects of a client’s and therapist’s experience. A true mind-body-action approach.
Some clients come into the session ready to fully dive into their embodied and emotional experience. And some require more time slowly, in a safe and graded or titrated fashion, being led into themselves and bringing their inner life to the there and now.
I work to read each client. Where they are in general about going inwards (or into the experience of the client-therapist relationship), what types of experiential techniques or focus they resonate more than others and when it’s the right time and place to deepen into one’s felt-experiencing, expression or deep imagery.
In many cases of trauma, early addiction recovery, and severe anxiety and depression it is more appropriate to take it slow and build a safe holding environment for change to take place. Thus I am sensitive to these cases and only offer suggestions and nothing a client ever has to do against their will and sense of safety.
That said, the main techniques that make up this experiential psychotherapeutic work are:
-Inner Somatic-Focusing on the body (see “Focusing Technique”)
-Regulation, calming, breathing and grounding techniques
-Imagined dialogues with important others or memories from the past or present
-Expressive emotional work with the body through actions
-Experiential (non-interpretive) Dream-work
-Work with parts, sides of self, or schemas (also called ego-state techniques)
-Empty chair exercises
-Re-Entering a memory in the present to redo the past (rather than relive it)
-Pictures that represent inner emotional life (also called picture gazing)
Upon request, these techniques can be used with clients of whom are looking for a more coaching orientation and less of a psychotherapeutic approach.
This stance of being an experiential coach rather than a formal psychotherapist is appropriate for clients of whom are willing to pay out of pocket and are not looking for help with a formal diagnosis (depression, PTSD, and so on) and for those of whom wish to look inside themselves deeply for emotional and personality growth.
Also be aware that this approach is much more than being a technician of inner growth through techniques. Any form of person to person growth or therapy work is fundamentally a dynamic relationship over a set of steps or strategies.
If interested in experiential coaching, please email me at “firstname.lastname@example.org” for more information.