Experiential activities play an essential role in experiential therapy, which is an established form of psychotherapy that dates back to the 1940s, when psychoanalysis methods were continuing to branch out into the new and more modern treatment structures that we refer to today as “talk therapies” – such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Experiential therapies sought to combine what the psychiatric community had learned about effective talk therapy methods with humanistic and phenomenological ideas – that is, the importance of experiencing or observing something, rather than having it be described.

Experiential activities were born as a result of continued research into the effects of doing things on the mental health of people with various conditions. This led to the formal development of a number of experiential activities that are still used commonly in mental health clinics and community centers throughout the world – such as art therapy, music therapy, and animal-assisted therapies.

The Verve utilizes these therapies as well, offering experiential activities to clients as a means to provide a breath of fresh air from other face-to-face talk therapies, and to help those who might not respond well to just words.

What is Experiential Therapy?

Experiential therapies are manifold in nature and designed to take advantage of the benefits of a positive experience. Think of a calming walk through the woods, a chance encounter with a friendly animal, or the profound satisfaction that comes from completing an artwork of your own design.

All experiential activities center on a client’s perceptions, and their agency as the experiencer. While a therapist guides the experience, it is ultimately up to the client to make of it what they will – and the goal is for it to be a learning experience, one through which the client may better learn themselves, and one through which they may become more confident in their actions and choices.

Take music therapy, for example. In addition to helping clients develop and hone an old or a new skill, music therapy allows those who feel inclined towards music to use it to communicate emotions and feelings that they might not be able to adequately put into words during therapy. A music therapy session allows a client to channel their frustrations, as well as their creativity and individuality through a medium of expression that has fascinated humans for thousands of years, even before civilization.

More than just jamming out, however, it is the therapist’s duty to use each session as a means to introduce and work through ideas and themes that are within the client’s subconscious – to discuss their traumas, their fears, their hopes, their thoughts, and to allow them to safely and productively process the parts of themselves that they struggle with the most while being motorically and consciously preoccupied with the task at hand.



At the core of any experiential activity is the idea that we can gain some satisfaction from doing certain things, such as experiencing something beautiful, or creating something. Next to that core is the idea that, when we are preoccupied with something that soothes and calms, it allows us to address something that might be disconcerting or uncomfortable and do so in a way that allows us to productively move past it.

Experiential activities have helped people cope with post-traumatic stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, deal with the symptoms of personality disorders, and help with cravings and other symptoms of substance use disorder.

Furthermore, experiential activities provide clients with new and healthier outlets for stress and frustration, which can prove invaluable in the long-term recovery process.


We place great value in experiential activities at The Verve in Washington DC and offer a variety of different therapies for our clients. Explore the different experiential activities we offer and discover how each of these experiential activities can help you during your journey toward mental health or addiction recovery.

Animal-Assisted Therapy
Interacting with and caring for animals is documented as being immensely therapeutic. There is something about being in the presence of a calming animal – one that requires our attention and care – that can help soothe the mind and the soul.

Music Therapy
Not everyone has an ear or talent for music, but in people who resonate particularly well with sound, music therapy can be a powerful tool for relieving stress, reducing anxiety, and creating a calming environment to explore past traumas or discuss recent stressors.

Art Therapy
Art therapy is the visual and physical equivalent to the music therapy experience. Art can take many shapes and forms – some art therapy sessions center on pottery or sculpting, while others are about the traditional visual painting arts, like oil, watercolor, or acrylic. Different tools allow an artist to create in different ways, keeping the experience new.

Drama Therapy
Psychodrama is an established form of experiential treatment that focuses on roleplaying and active dissociation as a means to explore emotions, events, and topics. People who feel uncomfortable recounting the past or talking about certain issues may feel more open to it when they can pretend to be someone else, or reinterpret the experience in their own way. This creates a safe setting for exploring the darker memories of one’s past and moving forward.

Outdoor Therapy
It’s no secret that spending more time outdoors is generally good for you. Different outdoor therapies include wilderness therapy and adventure therapy, bringing clients onto fun excursions and adventures (such as geocaching), and using these opportunities as moments for therapy.

We Value Peer-to-Peer Activities at The Verve
One of our core tenets at The Verve is the importance of peer-to-peer treatment. Individual clients are paired with peer professionals throughout their treatment process, to ensure that their treatment continuously adapts to match their needs, as these needs evolve and change.

In addition to our individual treatment programs, we place great emphasis on group therapy and family therapy settings, as well as helping clients improve their interpersonal relationships through our treatment plans.

Experiential therapies are an exciting and effective way to help clients combine the benefits of therapy with peer-to-peer bonding, facilitating new connections for the recovery journey. At The Verve, we understand that support plays a key role in managing and improving mental health.


When you get started at The Verve, you can expect a welcoming and support-centric environment that utilizes individualized evidence-based treatments to help you find your new path towards recovery.

Get started with us today by calling (202) 816-6006 or sending us a message via our contact form. Ask us about our different experiential activities, and our other therapeutic modalities.

Recovery from addiction, mental health needs, or whatever life may throw our way, takes more than just a fresh start.

It takes a dedicated support team, a robust recovery community, and a tailored therapeutic program to help you realize your potential. The Verve Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is here to help you, your family, and your entire recovery support team navigate the road ahead, together.

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