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A Brush With Life: Art Therapy and Addiction Recovery

Below is an article by Michelle Peterson regarding recovery and Art therapy. Finding multiple paths to sustain recovery is as important as getting to recovery in the first place.  

When it comes to recovering from drug addiction, a person in treatment is usually expected to do quite a bit of talking. Stories are told. Emotions are sorted. And the therapist and person in recovery attempt to sort out the problems that lie behind the addiction in order to help the recover last for an extended period of time. After all, if you don’t solve the underlying problems behind the addiction, it is likely to come back later. However, sometimes this emotional process can be difficult, especially if the stories are painful.


Art therapy allows these emotions to be translated and expressed in a creative and often easier manner than simply telling the story. In fact, there are a number of benefits of art therapy in addiction recovery.


Benefits of Art Therapy


Art therapy is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Art has been shown to improve your overall mood, which can be very helpful for improving the length of your recovery and preventing a relapse. Addictions are tied to mood, which is evident through addictions linked to mood disorders. In other words, if you’re feeling down, you are at a higher risk of relapsing. Art therapy prevents this by raising your mood. And if you’re feeling stressed out about work (maybe you’re dealing with a problematic coworker of an abusive boss) or feeling anxiety regarding your personal life, art can help ease that tension without the need for drugs or alcohol.


Art therapy also works to make the recovering patient more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little. We often don’t know what is going on deep down, and by having a creative outlet to get these hidden emotions out in the open, it provides us with the ability to tackle them.


Another key benefit of art therapy is its ability to provide us with a healthy coping strategy. Some addictions start because substances are being used in order to self-medicate. According to Psychiatric Times, there are usually critical feelings and issues that make a person predisposed to using addictive drugs. Finding another way to cope with these feelings, such as through art, can help treat the underlying problem that originally led to the addiction.


How to Implement Art Therapy


Now that we’ve seen the benefits of art therapy let’s explore how to implement it into your recovery program. According to Verywell Mind, art therapy can be implemented in a number of ways, including drawing, painting, sculpting and music. Basically, anything that includes creative expression can be used as a form of art therapy. While you might be tempted to use a form of art that you are already experienced with, it might be better to start with something new yet easy. If you use a form of art that you are extensively experienced in, you might get bogged down by “rules” and the “correct” way to do things instead of simply expressing your emotions.


Art therapy takes place alongside a trained therapist. Psychology Today explains that the therapist will sometimes simply observe your work, but might ask questions regarding your artwork at other times. The therapist might ask you about your experiences and then provide you with observations. Then, based on your artwork, you can tackle the emotions and experiences brought up together.


Art therapy can be a wonderful supplement to your usual therapy sessions. It provides you with the ability to express thoughts and emotions that you might not be able to put into words while also allowing you to work through them simultaneously. Of course, art therapy is only one part of addiction treatment and really should not be your only treatment. However, when coupled with other appropriate treatments, it can provide a wonderful outlet and supplement to your usual therapy.


Photo Credit: Pexels

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Addiction, Families and Butterflies

Dealing with a loved one struggling with addiction can be a tiring and demanding process. Logic seems to have no place in trying to make sense of your situation and the behaviors of your loved one. What is more mind boggling are professionals, which you seek for assistance, are quick to point out your own motives and behaviors are just as harmful to creating the chaotic situation you have found yourself in.

Wait! What?

Oh, yes. If it’s one thing we in the helping professions know how to do is make people crazy with self-doubt. That is of course you don’t take a swing at us first!

Without tossing around perplexing, clinical terms and their convoluted definitions, I though a better way would be through an allegory. The story below was introduced to me when I first began working with families in an inpatient setting.

Its message is still as relevant today and gives an option to reflect on our own behavior and how it influences others in our lives.

U Recover


A Butterfly Story

Once walking along a path a man found a cocoon which held a butterfly. One morning on his walk a small hole appeared in the cocoon.  He sat and watched the butterfly struggle to force its way through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would unfold and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its short life crawling around with its swollen body and shriveled wings in the dirt. It was never able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through that tiny hole was nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Obstacles make us stronger.

You ask for strength and you often get difficulties to make you strong

You ask for wisdom and get problems to solve

You ask for courage and get danger to overcome

You ask for love and you get troubled people to help

You ask for nothing and get everything you need


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Recvovery Walk: 3rd Annual Break the Cycle. Univ. of Akron. Akron OH

Join U Recover    at The University of Akron Stile Athletics Field House on Friday, September 7th at 5:30pm for the 3rd annual Break The Cycle Recovery Walk. Program begins at 6:30pm. Walk starts at 7:30pm

There will be Live music • Pictures with Zippy • Community vendor outreach Children’s activities • Walk route includes musical and dance acts.  For more information and to register for walk click here:


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National Night Out: New Brighton Pennsylvania Tuesday, August 7th

Join U Recover at the National Night Out in New Brighton PA at Townsend Park on August 7th, 2018: 6pm – 9pm.

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.


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