art therapy

How Art Therapy Is Used in Addiction Treatment

Research suggests that art therapy can reduce pain and anxiety as well as improve one’s mood.

If you or a loved one are afraid of going to rehab because it seems sterile and clinical, you should know that art therapy is increasingly being incorporated into addiction treatment programs.

Used as a part of a holistic treatment program, art therapy can help individuals heal and build valuable skills to avoid relapse.

Let’s take a look at exactly what art therapy is and how it’s used in addiction treatment.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a therapy that integrates the creative process with psychotherapeutic techniques. It is a mental health approach that can improve physical, mental, and emotional wellness through the process of creating art.

Types of art therapy activities include:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Sculpting
  • Coloring
  • Collage
  • Making pottery
  • Carving

Creating art can be helpful for patients in that they can then analyze the art they’ve made and the feelings it evokes in them. They might see conflicts and themes arise that are impacting their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.

It isn’t necessary to have any experience or artistic ability in order to participate in and benefit from art therapy. This is a practice that can be utilized by people of all ages. There is some research that suggests that the mere presence of art can help to boost mental health.

What Is the History of Art Therapy?

Arts therapy began as a formal program in the 1940s. Edith Kramer and Margaret Naumburg first used art therapy as a way to assist their clients in tapping into their experiences, inner thoughts, and feelings. That being said, people have used the arts to heal, express themselves, and communicate for many thousands of years.

The practice of art therapy was born out of the observation that individuals with mental illness would often draw or create art to express themselves. This led to the notion that art could be used as a strategy of healing. Over the decades, art has become a vital part of the therapeutic field.

What Is Art Therapy Used For?

In addition to substance use disorders, creative arts therapy is used to treat a wide range of psychological distress and mental disorders. It is often used in combination with other psychotherapeutic techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy.

Here is a list of some of the conditions that art therapy might be used to treat:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Aging-related issues
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Stress
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD
  • Family or relationship issues
  • Medical conditions
  • Psychological symptoms that are associated with other medical conditions

In addition to specific conditions, art therapy can be useful in certain situations, such as:

  • Children who suffer from social or behavioral problems at home or school
  • Adults who are experiencing severe states of stress
  • Children who have learning disabilities
  • Adults or children who have had a traumatic experience
  • People who suffer from mental health problems
  • People who are suffering from a brain injury

As you can see, art therapy can be practiced for a number of different conditions and situations. The process of self-expression can be a vital tool in the healing process.

How Is Art Therapy Used as a Part of Addiction Therapy?

Art therapy for addiction is used as one aspect of a larger treatment plan. This means that it’s used in combination with other holistic and traditional therapies for substance use disorder.

Participating in art therapy can help an individual express things that they didn’t know they felt or were too difficult to say. Exploring one’s own emotions and experience is an important part of the healing process.

What Are the Benefits of Art Therapy For Addiction?

Art therapy is a healthy form of self-expression for just about anyone. It can help promote an individual’s ability to be in touch with their emotions, feelings, and self-expression.

How is art therapy beneficial to addiction treatment in particular?

Encourages Self-Reflection

Suffering from a substance use disorder can cause one to have a distorted view of their environment and themselves. Engaging in artistic activities can help encourage a more realistic and improved sense of one’s self and circumstance.

Can Facilitate Personal Breakthroughs

When a patient shows progress in art therapy, they will generally begin to build trust with their therapists and rediscover self-worth. Both of these are milestones that are absolutely essential to recovering from addiction.

Builds Self-Confidence

A common cause of addiction is a lack of self-esteem. If we have an unfavorable view of ourselves, it impacts the decisions we make in our lives and how we conduct ourselves. Completing creative projects can help encourage a sense of progression and accomplishment.

Encourages Visual Communication

Addiction is a very personal and painful issue. This means that it can be difficult to communicate with a staff of strangers your first day at rehab. Visual art can give you another way of communicating and can help you work through difficult emotions through a different type of voice.

Promotes Emotional Healing

An important aspect of recovering from substance use disorder is healing emotionally. Specific art therapy activities like creating affirmation cards use CBT to help transform one’s negative thoughts into positive thoughts.

Aids in Self-Discovery

The life one leads after recovering from addiction can be dramatically different than any life they led before. Practicing art therapy can help individuals unlock their untapped talents. One might even find that it’s their calling to be an art therapist themselves, to help support others who are going through difficult experiences.

Helps Prevent Relapse

Relapse prevention is an essential part of rehab. There are countless triggers in one’s day to day environment that could send them back to their crutch.

Using creative expression to work through temptations is a very beneficial skill to recovering addicts.

Art Therapy: A Valuable Tool in the Healing Process

Using art therapy as a part of the addiction recovery process is a valuable and powerful tool. The best thing about it is that it leaves individuals with skills and habits that they can carry with them long after rehab.

Is it time for you or a loved one to start walking down the road to recovery? Find a list of our treatment options here.

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