What is experiential work?
The term ‘experiential’ refers to a mode of being that differs from our habitual, day-to-day mind states which, when harnessed therapeutically can bring about healing and change.
Experiential work in therapy places an emphasis on present moment embodied awareness. When we work with an experiential focus we pay attention to the experience of our body/mind as a whole system rather than getting caught up solely in habitual, reactive mind-states.
We live in fast, reactive mind-states most of the time; ruminating, worrying, judging… these habitual ways of thinking are formed by our past experience and tend to happen out of our awareness. These mind-states can filter our reality on many levels and can create familiar patterns in our lives, sometimes unhelpfully so.
Working with an experiential focus in therapy means engaging a ‘dual’ awareness of body and mind. For example we may track your here-and-now, embodied response to e.g. a thought, memory or reflection. This might mean exploring sensory awareness, tracking sensations, working with imagery, impulses, even movement – as well as the mind.
The dual awareness state can provide a bridge between our conscious and our unconscious and enables us to process difficult material from the past whilst remaining grounded and safe in the here-and-now, enabling shifts and changes to occur.
It is important in therapy to talk and reflect on issues. But when these issues become too traumatic or overwhelming or they seem to repeat over time it can be useful to add an experiential focus. This can help process issues at the root, regulate emotions, access resources and help change unhelpful, familiar patterns in our lives.