Experiential therapy and the healing of trauma, Part 2

In the previous post I say that well-done experiential therapies are good at healing trauma.  But what kind of therapies does this include?

Several types of experiential therapy come to mind.  Many of these therapies include a focus on paying attention to what is going on in your body–where you actually feel your feelings.  That alone tends to move you toward the experiential side of things.  Gestalt therapy is good at this, for example.

Paying attention to different emotional “parts” of us is also helpful, and Internal Family Systems focuses on just this.  It is experiential (and extraordinarily effective), even though most of the work is “internal” and individual, rather than directly involving others.

Other types of work can be more interpersonal in context, and this can be very important in healing from trauma.  As the field of human growth has learned in recent years, much learning is interpersonally mediated.  We often learn, grow, and develop best in the context of a relationship that matters to us.  Attachment theory is clear about this.

When trauma occurs in the context of an interpersonal setting (such as sexual  or physical abuse), some healing may also happen best in an interpersonal setting.  That’s why people get so much help from 12-step meetings, psychodrama, role-play gestalt therapy, and various forms of group work.  Of course, just being in the room with a therapist can also be interpersonal if the therapist isn’t being so impersonal that the atmosphere is sterile.  It should be noted that when the effects of the trauma are intense, initial work may need to be done individually with a therapist until the individual is ready to include a more interpersonal experience as part of their growth.

Much of my own personal growth has involved a variety of formats, some that have been primarily talking and others more experiential.  The experiential has always paid the best dividends.

Bottom line:  if you want to recover from trauma don’t try to do it just by talking about the trauma.  You may end up stuck in a cycle of insight without change.  The more experiential realm helps to heal trauma, and eventually including some work that is interpersonal in nature will get you even better results.

Good luck!


This entry was posted in Gestalt, Healing, Trauma. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Experiential therapy and the healing of trauma, Part 2

  1. Jennie Anderson says:

    Good morrow Dr D,

    With regard to healing & trauma, what role does hope have?

    Sometimes it feels like hope blinds us to insights & other times asif hope allows us to embrace insights. Does hope reside in our frontal lobes with logical & reasoning faculities or in the hindbrain with experience?

    Thank you for your quiet & gentle wisdom,

  2. Laura says:

    Sounds interesting, I hope you will write again about experiential therapy in more detail and with examples.

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