What is Experiential Psychotherapy?

© Leif Hallberg

Slow down, get in tune, become curious, have an experience, reflect, REPEAT.

The foundation of experiential psychotherapy is based on the belief that human beings learn, grow, and change naturally when they are able to engage in experiences fully and holistically. Experiencing is not necessarily a mental process, but rather a series of felt, in-the-moment responses and reactions to whatever is occurring. Experiences can be positive, negative, and everything in between.

In order to gain meaningful knowledge from experiences, a person must transform from being a passenger to whom life “happens”, to an actively engaged participant who makes intentional choices and decisions. In the words of Alvin Mahrer, author of “The Complete Guide to Experiential Psychotherapy”:

One of its [experiential therapy] unabashedly ambitious aims is to enable the person to undergo a radical, deep-seated, transformational change, into becoming the person that he or she is capable of becoming.

Experiential psychotherapy aims to help clients live more authentic and fulfilling lives through experiencing their deeper potential. This is achieved by helping the client expand awareness and increase their level of self-actualization and personal insight related to how they are both intra- and inter-personally through a unique melding of “being” and “doing” all of which takes place in the present moment.

The transition from being a “passenger” to an active participant in life is aided and supported by the unique role of the experiential therapist and the hands-on learning (or experimenting) that the client does while in therapy.

The Role of the Experiential Therapist

Experiential therapists are trained to use their own experiences, responses, and sense of intuition as therapeutic tools. This requires a great depth of self-awareness and constant self-growth on the part of the therapist. Authenticity, personal expression, and active co-experiencing are all vital components of the therapeutic relationship.

Experiential therapists employ these unique strategies which further differentiate experiential psychotherapy from other forms of therapy:

  • The therapist is anything but an observer. Considered an active participant in the therapeutic process, the therapist’s personality, behaviors, and actions are critical components to successful therapy.
  • The therapist is active, engaged and often evocative or expressive, but at the same time is typically tentative, and even at times deliberately inarticulate, as he/she tries to model and promote client self-exploration of a presently felt experience.
  • The therapist creates experiences or activities that provide opportunities for decision making, choice, and exploration.
  • The therapist empowers the client by teaching skills and provides help and support to aid their decision making capabilities.

What Does Experiential Psychotherapy with Leif Look Like?

Leif’s unique approach to experiential psychotherapy begins with an integrative intake and assessment which addresses your health (and health goals) across all spheres of your life. As an outcome of the assessment process, you and Leif will discuss your goals and she will guide you through the creation of your Healthy Living Plan. This is an experiential process of taking CHARGE and making CHANGE in your daily life. For Leif, life is all about balance, and this plan is designed to help you identify and establish your own unique sense of balance.

The following are some of the activities that may happen during sessions or may be a part of your Healthy Living Plan (to do at home and in your daily life).

  • Meditation, grounding, centering, and other mindfulness practices
  • Art, journaling, and other creative processes
  • Nature and animal activities
  • Gardening
  • Walking, hiking, or other outdoor pursuits
  • Menu planning
  • Movement and physical exercise
  • Spiritual inquiry
  • Social and relational activities

Different than conventional “talk” therapy where you go into an office and spend your time talking about your challenges, struggles, and successes, experiential psychotherapy is all about DOING. Leif’s approach adds a focus on making this “doing” a mindful process, and one that supports slowing down, getting curious, and reflecting upon how you operate in the world. Through this process you will be better able to see your own patterns, responses, and reactions, and learn the critical skills to bring about the change you want in your life.

Experiential psychotherapy is all about self-empowerment. This is YOUR journey, but know that you will be given clear action steps and the on-going support and encouragement to MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN.

Let’s journey together!