helping boys through recovery

Experiential Therapy: The Best Way to Help Boys in Recovery

Helping boys through the recovery process can be challenging. Although helping kids of all genders can be difficult, boys tend to be less expressive about their issues. They might not open up during talk therapy or feel uncomfortable talking about their emotions during a group session. Boys can often be responsive to “hands-on” activities, like wilderness or adventure therapy. When boys are engaged in an activity, they might feel more comfortable opening up about their inner emotional lives.

What Is “Experiential Therapy”?

Experiential therapy is a form of treatment that often involves an activity to serve as a “prop” to deal with emotions and self-esteem issues. Experiential therapy can include things like:

  • Psychodrama
    • Incorporates elements of theater to reenact past events or practice new coping skills.
    • This form of therapy has been used for over a hundred years to help people learn better ways of expressing themselves, learn from mistakes, and process the past.
  • Art and music therapy 
    • Art and music therapy are similar in approach and style.
    • For kids struggling to express themselves with words, they can use art or music to understand emotions.
    • An art or music therapist might ask, “what do you think of this song or painting?”
    • Kids will also be encouraged to create their works during sessions.
  • Pet and animal therapy
    • Pet and animal therapy can be tremendously beneficial to help kids develop empathy and feel comfort.
    • Humans and pets have unique therapeutic bonds that can be mutually beneficial.
    • At Fire Mountain, kids can volunteer at Song of the Wolf Healing Center to help neglect or abused wolf-dog hybrids living at the sanctuary.
  • Wilderness or adventure therapy
    • The outdoors can be therapeutic for all kids struggling with addictions and other behaviors.
    • Kids can challenge themselves during hikes, kayaking, or other activities.
    • These types of therapies often involve learning to cooperate with others to achieve a common goal.
    • Fire Mountain emphasizes the value of nature in healing and is located within the Rocky Mountains.
  • Exercise and Physical Activities
    • Physical activities can help kids experience challenging negative emotions, like self-doubt, that can be holding them back.
    • Martial arts, weight training, running, or sports can be appealing to young boys as a healthy way of coping with emotions.

Experiential therapies help kids learn to challenge themselves with different activities to build confidence and promote camaraderie in recovery. 

Helping Boys “Open Up”

Boys tend to process their emotional experiences differently than girls. Many parents can struggle to “draw out” their boys’ emotional states and feelings. Boys might bury themselves in distracting activities, like video games, drinking, porn addiction, or other issues, to deal with emotions. As parents, we can look at what this behavior is communicating. If boys are diving into some of these unhealthy experiential activities to cope with emotional distress, we can help them find healthy activities that will not lead to harmful behaviors.

Find Out What They Like

Parents might shy away from discussing some of the maladaptive strategies that boys utilize to cope with their issues. However, we can look to the need that they are fulfilling to connect them to a healthy form of therapy. We can ask questions about how they cope with their issues to find solutions to replace their maladaptive strategies. Always look for the need that they are fulfilling.

For example, if your son is escaping into video games as a way of coping, investigate the interest non-judgmentally. You might discover new things about them or learn about their interests. If your son enjoys fighting games, they might be interested in martial arts therapy. If they like games to create new worlds, then art therapy and outdoors skills might appeal to them. Perhaps, your child enjoys playing online games with friends to complete “missions.” They might enjoy wilderness and adventure therapies.

Using “Props” to Open Up and Bond

Experiential therapies can help to take the pressure off of boys, who might feel uncomfortable displaying vulnerable emotions to others. By connecting to their interests, we can find common bonds with boys to build trust and open up with them. While this can apply to kids of all genders, boys tend to offer less information about their inner worlds without prompting to “draw them out.” By using experiential therapy, boys can learn to feel comfortable in their own skin and express themselves more fully.

If you have a teenage boy struggling to open up during traditional talk-therapies, then they might benefit from integrating some form of experiential therapy into their treatment.

Experiential therapies can help young boys open up about their emotions and connect with others. Boys especially seem difficult to “draw out” when dealing with problematic issues. By having a “hands-on” experience or a real-life problem to solve, boys can learn to overcome low self-esteem and build resiliency to deal with life’s stressors. Many experiential therapies exist, such as psychodrama, art therapy, music therapy, outdoor adventures, animal-assisted therapies, and others. These activities can provide a “prop” for boys to learn how to deal with emotions. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center believes that the outdoors and nature can play a significant role in the recovery of all kids. Located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Fire Mountain offers kids a chance to get outside and experience life in the Rocky Mountain National Park or at Song of the Wolf Healing Center. For more information on how we can help your child, call us today at (303) 443-3343.

Leave a Reply