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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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