Read on to learn more about the therapeutic tools that we use in our experiential, systemic, solution-focus, client-directed, holistic, and evidence-based practice.

Experiential Therapy, what is it?

As its name suggests, experiential therapy involves actions, movements, and activities in addition to traditional talk therapy. This is incorporated to help the client(s) access information that has been repressed that may contribute to the symptoms of the problem. This technique is a humanistic approach that was developed to get to the heart of the problem. Using experiential therapy gives the client a safe method of letting their guard down allowing access to these memories. By accessing this information, the client has an opportunity to experience success. This happens by identifying obstacles and working through them to better one’s self-esteem and take greater responsibility for their actions, which can lead to a better ability to reach long and short-term goals.

Experiential therapy uses techniques such as role-playing, guided imagery, props, and other activities such as art, play, and sandplay.

What is a systemic approach?

A systemic approach to therapy involves every aspect of the individual, couple, or family. It involves looking at and assessing how each system in one’s world has impacted them. It also allows the client and therapist to use skills that were developed through systemic beliefs and values to assist the client in achieving their goals. Systems can include but are not limited to, ethnicity, social class, community, religious preference, spirituality, family, job, school, etc.

Looking at and working with a variety of systems, allows for a holistic, all-inclusive approach to therapy, allowing the client to lead the way.

What is art therapy?

We’ve all heard about art being an expression on the mind. In therapy, art can be used to help the client express and explain themselves. Something said often in therapy is the statement: “I don’t know how to explain that.” Art therapy isn’t about how perfect the art form is, but what it allows the client to communicate. Art therapy can be prompted and unprompted, which allows the client the freedom to share what they want. This allows the client and the counselor to better understand what the problem is and create client-centered goals.

What is play therapy?

Play therapy is another experiential therapy form, like art therapy, that allows a client to use props, toys, or figurines to represent a story to help the client better explain what they need to. It can be particularly helpful with children, as their world is centered around playing. It also allows adults to go back to some of the core behaviors that shaped who they are today. It helps individuals and families express their emotions, improve communication, and build better problem-solving skills.

The Association for Play Therapy (APT) defines play therapy as "the systematic use of a theoretical model to establish an interpersonal process wherein trained play therapists use the therapeutic powers of play to help clients prevent or resolve psychosocial difficulties and achieve optimal growth and development."

Sandplay therapy, what’s that all about?

Sandplay therapy is hands-on psychological work. It is a powerful non-verbal therapeutic technique that allows a person the natural capacity for healing from an unconscious level. In a “free and protected” space provided by the therapist, a client creates a 3-dimensional representation of his or her inner world using sand, water, and miniature objects. This allows a person to communicate what is going on inside, especially when he or she doesn’t have the words to explain it. It can be used with people of all ages and all presenting problems, as it helps address hidden or unknown issues a person may be experiencing related to the original reason they came to therapy.

What is Exposure and Response Prevention?

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) developed specifically for Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms. It involves exposing oneself to the thoughts, images, objects, and situations that trigger distress and obsessive behavior. This is a tough process and is best when paired with safe planning and skill building with a trained therapist.

The International OCD Foundation states that “OCD affects equally men, women and children of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. It takes an average of 14-17 years from the time OCD first appears for people to receive appropriate treatment. Once connected to appropriate treatment, the majority of people with OCD (around 70%) will benefit from therapy, medicine, or a combination of the two.”

The therapeutic process starts by working on building awareness and Response Prevention before introducing exposure to troublesome thoughts, images, objects, and situations. The focus is on making a choice to confront your anxiety and making a commitment to not give in to compulsive behavior. We secure these choices and commitments before slowly and carefully introducing triggers. Small successes of increase distress tolerance turn into larger ones until, over time, you experience a natural drop in your anxiety that prevents compulsive responses. This natural drop in anxiety that happens when you stay “exposed” and “prevent” the compulsive “response” is called habituation.

ERP works better for OCD versus traditional talk therapy because OCD is a trickster that thrives on reassurance and has a difficult time using logic and insight to decrease distress patterns.

What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is also a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)  that includes mindfulness and a focus on values-based actions.

The International OCD Foundation explains ACT as, “different than ERP in that it focuses less on the reduction of inner experiences (such as obsessions), and more on altering the way they are experienced. ACT sees inner experiences, such as obsessions and anxiety, as part of our lives. Obsessions and anxiety are not inherently bad events, but they are treated that way by most of society. ACT focuses on finding a way to allow obsessions and anxiety to come and go without interfering with the way one lives his or her life. Thus, greater functioning can be achieved without a change in the severity or frequency of obsessions or anxiety. This is a position that is shared with other forms of CBT but possibly emphasized to a lesser extent.”

Over 1000 research papers and hundreds of clinical trials have been published supporting the efficacy of ACT in treating anxiety, chronic pain, stress, smoking, and promoting weight loss and performance enhancement.

Next Steps...

We know this can be a difficult process and our hope is to make it a little bit easier. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to speak with you. We offer a free phone consultation to help you determine if we are a good fit for your goals.