Experiential Therapy at Lakeview Health

Addiction treatment at Lakeview Health goes well beyond counseling and group meetings. Our experiential therapy programs offer patients unique ways to understand their addiction, work on coping and recovery skills and establish healthy habits. These types of alternative treatment can provide a way to engage patients who respond slowly to conventional therapies. Currently, Lakeview Health’s gender responsive treatment offers these experiential and alternative therapies.

 Get Help Now. Call Lakeview Health 24/7.

Equine Therapy – Experiential Therapy With Horses

One of the types of experiential therapy featured at Lakeview Health is the unique practice of equine therapy. employs the EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy in working with patients struggling to let their guard down, helping them uncover their strengths, learning how to take responsibility for their choices and actions, realize their obstacles, and practice new skills. This entire experience is enhanced by the inclusion of horses, which they interact with and learn from.

Often patients get stuck in the “why” and instead need to consider the “how” of life. Through the use of horse interaction, patients can “feel” the learning and not get in their head about the old messages of their disease.

Why Horses and Not Goats?


Horses are large powerful animals who are social and have unique personalities, attitudes and moods. They often provide immediate feedback and live “in the moment”. They do not judge, shame, or blame, but do require trust. This interaction creates opportunities for metaphors between 12 –step and real life.

Working with horses requires consistency in re-earning permission to lead them. They sense when people are being real and authentic., often a difficult trait for patients in early recovery. It’s impossible to fake a connection with an animal that is intuitively designed to know who can be trusted and who cannot. Patients witness this first hand in their early interaction with the horses.

Benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy


Patients have experienced:

  • Increased confidence
  • Learning to problem solve and make better decisions
  • Identifying the “living in the moment” and being present in their life right now
  • Feeling a sense of belonging and not being judged for their past experiences
  • Increased communication by learning how to ask for help

We invite you to hear more about Equine Assisted Therapy from StarLee Heady, Clinician and Professional Horseman with PX Equine Enterprises, who works with our Lakeview Health clients. Listen to Podcast

For more information about EAGALA visit: www.eagala.org

For more information for PX Equine Enterprises: www.PXEquine.com

Surf Therapy – Experiential Therapy With The Ocean

Surf therapy is a form of experiential therapy that helps patients deal with the issues underlying addiction while connecting them with the natural world. Patients learn to surf by training with certified surf instructors. After they catch the last wave in, they gather on the beach to process the experience with a therapist. Participants learn how to manage frustration, increase tolerance, adopt perseverance, and build strength and self-confidence.

How Surf Therapy Works

Surf therapy engages patients in multiple ways.

Patients are challenged to explore surfing as a metaphor for recovery and for their life after drugs and alcohol. One of the primary metaphors is that of balance. Just as a surfer must learn to balance on a board under constantly shifting conditions, someone in recovery must learn how to balance their emotional and cognitive processes amid the changing demands of their personal and professional environments. They conquer the challenges of learning to surf while exploring ways to overcome the challenges of sober living.

Surfing can also trigger emotional responses. Emotions that patients’ brains have learned to avoid as a defense mechanism in familiar situations can come to the surface while learning a new physical activity—especially one as demanding as surfing. Some may experience the disappointment of failure or the fear of being out of control. Others may encounter the pride that comes from accomplishment or discover the joy of being in nature. It doesn’t matter whether patients become great at surfing. Both success and failure can be an opportunity to process their emotions with the help of a therapist.

Finally, surfing helps people in recovery develop mindfulness. Focus on the present is paramount when trying to maintain balance on a surfboard. Many people recovering from addiction carry guilt over past failures and wasted opportunities. They also deal with fear of financial problems or pending legal troubles, and they often feel anxiety over the future of their relationships with family and friends. But regrets about the past and fear about the future dissolve when patients are “in the moment.” They sometimes experience the joy of living in the present for the first time in many years, and some find that their cravings for drugs and alcohol are greatly diminished—or disappear entirely—while they are riding the waves. Carrying this practice of mindfulness over into the rest of their lives can assist them as they learn to live in recovery.

Surf Therapy Photos


Phenomenal experience. Took me away from my cravings and addictive behaviors. Focused on the awesome new feelings and awareness this adventure provided. I love having fun sober! It’s amazing and awesome! Thank you Lakeview for your top-level staff and care. You’ve changed my life. Forever grateful.

– Sharon B

This experience was definitely two hours of pure excitement. You are able to clear your mind of everything that you may be going through and focus on being in tune with something that is definitely a positive for one’s recovery.

– Brandon W

About Our Surf Therapy Program

Therapist Amanda Swartzlender, LCSW, is the director of the surf therapy program at Lakeview Health. She earned her M.Ed. in counseling from the University of Hawaii and is a certified yoga teacher. Certified surf instructors are provided through a partnership with Saltwater Cowgirls.

Listen to the Podcast

Call For Help: 866.704.7692  |  Request Our Brochure