Experiential therapy includes multiple expressive approaches such as role-playing, art therapy, music, animal care, yoga, or various forms of recreation. Unlike talk therapy, experiential therapy encourages individuals to address hidden issues through activities and interactions. Our clients will often begin to identify emotions associated with success, disappointment, responsibility, and self-esteem related to their eating disordered behaviors. The certified therapists at Magnolia Creek work with clients to release and explore the negative feelings of anger, hurt, or shame as they relate to their past experiences.
In addition to traditional and group therapy, Magnolia Creek offers experiential therapies such as art, yoga, cooking group, and equine therapy; each helping clients overcome obstacles that have led to their eating disorder, develop a greater sense of self-awareness, and find new ways to express and nurture themselves.
Mindful Movement, Gentle Movement, Yoga
Our yoga therapy is designed for those with little to no experience with basic yoga practice. Jennifer Howell, our certified Yoga Therapist, meets with clients three days a week to help them positively reconnect with their bodies. Since some clients have different levels of experience, she uses simple movements to stretch and warm-up the body and tailors the pace to each person. Jennifer uses yoga therapy as an opportunity to teach the clients how to be gentle with themselves, gain confidence, and to try something they may have never tried before.
“I have found that using yoga therapy in eating disorder treatment helps clients deal with their fear. They find their strength as they are given a space to reflect and discover how they relate to themselves and the world around them,” says Jennifer.
While some may find yoga to be challenging or boring, Jennifer teaches that performing the various movements gives the body new freedom to increase flexibility, develop balance, breath awareness, and strength. As the women are placed into challenging positions that stretch the body, they can relate it to the negative self-talk and body image that often accompanies eating disorders. Overcoming personal challenges related to their bodies, behaviors, and negative thinking reveals valuable insights about themselves that aid in their recovery.
Art therapy is used to help clients explore their feelings using the creative process. Unlike talk therapy, art therapy allows the women to examine difficult places in their lives and reconcile emotional conflicts without having to talk about it. Nicole Barton, Magnolia Creek Art Therapist, says, “I become very aware of people and the conflicts in their life. You can tell a lot about a person and where they are in their journey by the colors and materials they choose and how they express themselves in their art. This process gives them a way to find healing through creativity, and a way to learn trust as they work through the creation process. Art is perfectly imperfect, and there are no expectations, no bar to reach.” The creative journey is part of the foundation of recovery and encourages clients to foster self-awareness, learn skills to manage their behaviors and addictions, reduce their anxiety and depression, and increase their self-esteem and self-worth.
In the cooking group, clients learn and implement cooking skills, and how to cook food in ways that sustain nutrients. Clients are also encouraged to learn how to not only prepare meals for themselves but how to multitask in the kitchen to cook for others. As with other experiential therapies, clients are invited to be creative and choose dishes outside of their comfort zone. This group also helps clients learn to utilize a team environment to create their final dishes. We utilize the cooking group to empower clients in taking the lead to meet their nutritional requirements through meal planning and preparation.
Like us, horses are very social. Unlike us, they are very accepting and nonjudgmental. Horses can sense our emotions and communicate with us through their reactions. For example, if you are anxious around a horse, they may react by shying away or acting skittish. A horse’s response can help us to see how we act and think consciously and unconsciously which in turn can help us identify our feelings and begin to cope with our emotions. As clients become more comfortable with the horse, it helps them process their negative emotions surrounding their eating disorder and develop behavioral changes they can apply to their recovery journey, and relationships with others.
At Magnolia Creek, our experiential therapies are designed to use these encounters and insights as a tool to promote healing and growth as the clients build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and develop effective coping skills. We have seen great success as these therapies are contributing factors in helping clients transition back to life outside of treatment.