At the core of our therapeutic approach is the modality of experiential therapy. Experiential therapy differs from traditional office-based therapy in that an activity is the primary context for therapeutic work. By activity we mean doing almost anything, whether it be taking a walk, surfing, chopping wood, working in the garden, or driving to the beach. In our clinical work we have found that our residents respond best when the office based tension of the querying doctor has been set aside for the novel role of the therapist and patient working and participating side by side.
Experiential therapy was originally developed in the 1970s and was a humanistic branch of psychotherapy. Our contemporary take on experiential therapy utilizes an integrationist model that works with our residents to see how they re-enact patterns of cognition, behavior, self-other representations, attachment, and emotion in their everyday life. By immersing the therapeutic work in an activity, this facilitates the lowering of entrenched defenses and enables us to accomplish deeper work. Traditional psychotherapy also typically relies upon addressing issues long after a precipitating issue has arisen. Though this type of intervention is effective and more appropriate for some individuals, it lacks the powerful natural elements present in the here and now. The present facilitates opportunities such as is the teachable moment, which capitalizes on an issue of struggle as it presents itself.