5 Ways Experiential Therapy Teaches Boys Mindfulness
While many people associate mindfulness with sitting in silence, awareness comes in many different forms. There are two primary forms of mindfulness: moving mindfulness and contemplative mindfulness. Experiential therapy may be considered a form of moving mindfulness that helps individuals become more aware of their internal experience as they participate in an interactive activity. While teen boys are often resistant to the idea of contemplative mindfulness, they subconsciously engage in moving mindfulness throughout their day as they engage in workouts, adventure activities, and interactions with others.
Types of Experiential Therapy
Experiential therapy is an interactive way for therapists to see strengths and areas of growth within students and their families. For example, a student afraid of heights may overcome their fear during a rock climbing trip and build trust in others. Another student may be shy and quiet on campus but come out of their shell and take on a leadership role if they find they excel in a recreational activity. Recreational activities provide a chance for students to work through their challenges in a real, tangible setting.
Experiential therapy is not limited to adventure activities, there are many ways to add an experiential element into therapeutic lessons. Experiential learning and therapy can happen almost anywhere–it’s all in the frame of mind about a situation. Equine therapy, art activities, group team-building, and even bringing a therapy session outside or on a nature trail are considered forms of experiential therapy. Often, teens find it easier to practice mindfulness when surrounded by nature. These activities encourage teens to be more intentional about what they do and say and to recognize how their thoughts and feelings affect their interactions with others in group activities.
- Setting intentions. Before activities, students often set intentions-either silently or out loud- to guide what they want to get out of the experience or what they want to remember throughout the activity. This requires teens to tune into their intuition to determine what might be helpful for them.
- Paying attention to surroundings. Particularly during recreation activities, it is essential for teens to be aware of what’s going on outside themselves. Taking inventory of their sensory environment can help them feel more grounded in the present moment and anticipate what they may need to do next, during activities like hiking up a steep mountain peak or white water rafting.
- Noticing thoughts. Students are encouraged to name what is going on in their head as they engage in these activities. Noticing when moments of self-doubt or fear arise during the process helps teens identify triggers and common themes that they experience in other activities.
- Considering multiple perspectives. Teens process things differently in the heat of the moment than they might sitting in a therapist’s office. Often, teens are unaware of their thoughts during activities where they are more tuned into their emotional instincts. During group activities, students are given immediate feedback about what might be going on in the moment. Gaining a new perspective in one activity may cause something to click in their understanding of their inner issues.
- Reflecting on experience. Following experiential activities, staff often host a group check-in for every student to talk about what stood out to them about the experience and to ask for feedback. This may include sharing both challenges and successes or acknowledging someone else’s strengths.
Equinox RTC Can Help
Equinox is a residential treatment center that helps boys ages 14-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and addictive behaviors. Equinox offers a unique treatment program designed to fit each individual’s specific needs. This treatment center has a supportive environment that helps students heal from the inside-out. Students develop a healthy sense of social and emotional awareness and learn how to incorporate good habits into their daily lives. Equinox enforces a positive change in the lives of young men and offers them a fresh start at a happy and healthy future.
Contact us at 877-279-8925 to learn more about our experiential therapy programming.