Experiential Therapy – Part 2

written by a New Haven Residential Treatment Center Student

I have been at New Haven for over 5 months now.  My journey here has taught me so much about myself and my family.  A lot of my family’s progress has happened through Experiential Therapy.  My family and I began our treatment with challenging family dynamics that were getting in the way of our relationships with each other.  A few months ago, we found out that there was an extreme lack of trust in many aspects of our relationships.  So, during one of our family weekends, we completed two Experiential Therapy tasks that were based on trust.

The first task we completed was rock climbing together, blindfolded.  I climbed first, with my dad belaying me, and my mom directing me on where to go.  It tested me to trust that my mom would lead me “safely “to the top and that my dad would catch me if I fell or needed to rest.  We successfully completed the task, twice, once more with my mom belaying me and my dad directing me where to go.  The hardest part for me was letting go of the wall at the top and having my mom or dad lower me to the ground.  I didn’t trust that they were capable of holding me or that they wouldn’t drop me.  After we completed the task twice, I felt safer with my parents and confident that they would be there for me.  I then belayed both my parents to ensure them that I would always be there to do the same for them.

Our second task was the “Triangle of Trust”.  It was on a ropes course, high up off of the ground that required equal energy from both people in order for you to stay suspended in the air.  This was even harder for me and my parents because we are all afraid of heights.  After practicing first on the ground, my dad and I went up on to the ropes course.  I’m not exactly sure how high up we were, but it was high enough to make me grip on to anything I could so hard that my knuckles turned white.  My dad followed me up until we were facing each other, on two separate wires.  We grabbed each other’s hands, and leaned into each other as we began to walk. We were wobbly and unstable because my dad was putting more into it than I was.  We got a little less than half way, when the difference in the effort being put in took effect, and we fell.  Once we were lowered to the ground, I got to go back up with my mom.  I had the advantage of already doing the task once, but it was my mom’s first time and the height scared her.  She kept looking down.  When we held our hands above our heads and leaned into each other, I told her to just look at me.  We started moving slowly, talking to each other and taking deep breaths.  We got about half way until we were so stretched out that we fell.  My parents and I processed our experiences after, and learned quite a bit.

I realized that my turn with my dad portrayed our relationship in these past few years perfectly.  Dad would always be putting so much into our relationship, while I resented him for the past and neglected our relationship.  The “Triangle” shows exactly how a relationship works.  For it to thrive, both people must be equally invested and put the same amount of energy into it.  However, if one person is putting more into it than the other person, the relationship will “fall”.  For my mom and I, it showed us that we support each other well and that we should trust in each other more.

I am so grateful for the Experiential Therapy that we experienced, because I have learned so much.  I am excited to have more enlightening experiences in therapy like these tasks.

By, A New Haven Student