Active Therapy

When talk therapy and/or drugs aren't enough

Posted Apr 09, 2014

Einstein, my canine co-counselor

Perhaps an active therapy might be worth considering. These are, in some ways the opposite of most talk therapy: the focus is outside yourself. With these therapies, you might or might not end up knowing yourself better but may find sufficient pleasure, contentment, even spiritual growth that at least partly compensates and may provide a foundation for you to function better in the world.

Horticultural therapy.  Seeing yourself responsible for facilitating the miracle of growth can be inspiring. For example, growing and then eating fruits vegetables from the seeds or seedlings you planted can distract you from your issues. put you in touch with one of life’s great miracles and,connect you with something larger: the inexorable cycle of birth, growth, harvest, decline, and death. For information: The American Horticultural Therapy Association.

Music therapy.  Music significantly affects my mood. That's more than I could say for some psychotherapy sessions that cost me the equivalent of 175 mp3 downloads. If I play a sad song I like such as “No One Knows Who I Am” from the musical Jekyll and Hyde, it puts me into a pleasant melancholy. If I play Defying Gravity from Wicked or some upbeat gospel song, it functions like an anti-depressant without side effects. Might listening to and/or creating music be therapeutic for you? For information: The American Music Therapy Association.

Drama therapy.  Playing a role other than yourself is not just an opportunity to escape from yourself and your troubles. It allows you, in a safe place, to try on other personas. It's also a place where societal norms of inhibition are suspended: You’re expected to be free with your body and your emotions. For information: North American Drama Therapy Association.

Also, many plays explore how people deal with compelling external and internal conflicts, for example: love, fear, sadness, war, and jealousy. When you’re in a play or on its crew, you get, to experience again and again, how characters deal with such issues. Sometimes, we change simply by repeated exposure to how others behave.

Animal-assisted therapy. Most people like to and benefit from be listened to. It’s core to many talk therapies. Well, you can talk to an animal or even a plant without worry that you're sounding stupid or being judged. And unless your doggie refuses to come or pees on your sofa, household animals tend to be stress-busters. For example, studies find that petting your dog lowers your blood pressure. So-called "pet therapy" is often used with elders but should be considered by people of all ages.

I love my doggie Einstein, not just because he serves all of the above for me, but because he’s my wonderful receptionist: welcoming my clients with a waggy tail and, if they wish, a kiss. Also, unless a client objects, during the session, Einstein lies next to them. When they’re feeling stressed, they’ll often pet Einstein the stress-buster.

For Information: Wikipedia entry.

Art therapy. Some people can well express their needs, hopes, wants, and fears through color, texture, and visual image. If they don’t have the talent to do that with hand drawing, they may do so with photography and post-shooting Photoshop magic. For information: American Art Therapy Association.

Dance Therapy.  Some kinesthetic types are most self-expressive, exploratory, and cathartized by using their bodies. For example, a person might find it helpful to improvise a dance routine that reflects his or her unhappy self and then a routine representing their healed self. For information: American Dance Therapy Association.

Marty Nemko was named “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and he enjoys a 96 percent client-satisfaction rate. In addition to the articles here on, many more of Marty Nemko's writings are archived on Of his seven books, the most relevant to readers of this blog is How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School. Marty Nemko's  bio is on Wikipedia.