NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Why Experiential Psychotherapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma

I have discussed the use of experiential psychotherapy for overcoming psychological trauma in prior articles.  In this article, I'm focusing on comparing talk therapy alone to experiential therapy and discussing why experiential therapy tends to be more effective than talk therapy alone for overcoming psychological trauma (see my article: Experiential Psychotherapy Helps to Achieve Emotional Breakthroughs).

Why Experiential Psychotherapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma 

My Background as a Trauma-Informed Psychotherapist
As I have stated before in prior articles and in my biographical information for this blog, my original training from almost 20 years ago was in psychoanalysis.  Back then, after completing graduate school, I was a psychoanalytic candidate in training and I used psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis with clients from the institute's center, including clients with psychological trauma.

While I loved my training and still like applying contemporary Relational psychoanalytic concepts, especially Winnicottian concepts, over the years I discovered that psychoanalysis by itself was not as effective in helping traumatized clients to overcome their problems as compared to experiential psychotherapy or the combination of contemporary psychoanalysis and experiential therapy (see my article: Contemporary Psychoanalysis and EMDR Therapy: A Powerful Combination to Overcome Trauma).

In those early years of my training to be a psychoanalyst, it was frustrating to see that clients in developed insight into their problems, which was an important step, but it often didn't change their problems.

My experience in those early days was that many clients "felt better" and that psychoanalysis was useful, especially back then when clients came multiple times per week.  But I wasn't satisfied that most clients, who experienced trauma, made significant experiential shifts.

After my psychoanalytic training, the mental health field was changing rapidly, and I decided to find out what other types of psychotherapy were being used effectively for PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and trauma.  That's when I heard about EMDR therapy, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (see my articles: How EMDR Therapy Works: EMDR and the Brain and What is Adjunctive EMDR Therapy?).

Since being trained in EMDR in 2004, I have used it regularly and found it to be an effective therapy for helping clients to overcome trauma, including PTSD.  I was fascinated to see that clients were overcoming their traumatic symptoms faster than most clients in talk therapy alone, and the results lasted over time.

In subsequent years, I obtained training in other forms of experiential therapy, including clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing, Ego States therapy and Coherence therapy, which has been invaluable in helping traumatized clients to overcome their problems.

Using these experiential therapies over the years has been pivotal in becoming a trauma-informed psychotherapist who has been able to help many clients who have a traumatic history.

At this point, after using these experiential therapies consistently for several years, I consider myself to be an integrationist who often combines these therapies when it is most effective to do so based on the needs of each client.

Why Experiential Psychotherapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma
There are many reasons why experiential psychotherapy is more effective than talk therapy alone to overcome psychological trauma:
  • Whereas talk therapy alone tends to help clients to develop intellectual insight into their problems, experiential therapy, by definition, uses the mind-body connection so that clients experience their emotions on a physical as well as an emotional basis which allows access to the unconscious mind (see my article: Experiential Psychotherapy Offers a Window Into the Unconscious Mind).
  • With talk therapy alone, many clients remain "in their heads." If they have been in talk therapy before, they know the psychological lingo and can explain their problems well, but they might be cut off from their emotional and physical experiences.  Since experiential therapy focuses on clients' embodied experiences, there is a more integrative experience that combines intellectual insights with embodied experience.
  • Whereas clients in talk therapy alone can gloss over their emotions by intellectualizing, experiential psychotherapy helps clients to slow down to get deeper into their embodied experience.  Slowing down to experience the felt sense of their emotions allows clients to make deep psychological connections that they often don't make with talk therapy alone.
  • Whereas certain forms of talk therapy can pathologize clients' problems, experiential psychotherapy is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  Rather than making judgments about the clients' problems, experiential psychotherapy tends to have a strengths-based perspective.  It also helps clients to become aware of their internal experiences in more body-mind integrated way (see my article: A Strengths-Based Perspective in Psychotherapy).
  • Experiential psychotherapy focuses on healing clients as opposed to talk therapy alone which, as previously mentioned, tends to focus on helping  clients to develop intellectual insight.
  • Experiential psychotherapy provides clients with skills and tools that they can use on their own without the psychotherapist.  As previously mentioned, it doesn't rely solely on insight as talk therapy alone tends to do.
  • Experiential psychotherapy helps clients to go beyond their "story" about themselves.  This is especially important for clients who have had a lot of therapy before and who have developed a particular narrative about themselves which they tell each therapist that they work with.  Rather than keeping clients stuck in an old "story," experiential psychotherapy helps clients to experience their shifting sense of self on a profound level.
  • Experiential psychotherapy tends to facilitate transformational and breakthrough moments for clients in therapy in a more timely manner than talk therapy alone.
Talk therapy like psychodynamic psychotherapy, including psychoanalysis, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective types of therapy for many clients.  However, for clients who want to overcome traumatic experiences, including PTSD, experiential psychotherapy used on its own or in combination with talk therapy is more effective.

In my next article, I'll give a clinical example of how experiential psychotherapy is more effective than talk therapy alone in helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: Why Experiential Psychotherapy is More Effective to Overcome Trauma Than Talk Therapy Alone - A Clinical Vignette).

Getting Help in Therapy
If you have been struggling on your own with emotional problems, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional with the experience and skills you need to overcome your problems (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

The first step in getting help in therapy is calling a psychotherapist for a consultation.  During the consultation, you can ask the therapist about her background, training, skills and how she works with your particular type of problem (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Effective psychotherapy helps to free you from your history of problems so you can lead a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who uses integrative psychotherapy in a contemporary, dynamic, interactive and collaborative way (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.

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