Art therapy is one of the alternative treatment models used in addiction recovery that helps patients express thoughts and feelings. Sometimes the addict has difficulty articulating and expressing difficult emotional issues that they struggle with. Art therapy in addiction recovery has been shown to be especially helpful in addressing underlying psychological problems related to addiction. It is an aid used to understand hidden issues of physical or sexual abuse, PTSD and other traumatic events in a person’s life that have been suppressed. Creating art is a non-verbal process of expressing ideas and emotions. It provides an outlet to discover, confront and resolve issues in a person’s life that they do not feel comfortable talking about.
Art therapy gives a recovering individual the opportunity to use his or her imagination, talent and creativity to express ideas and feelings in a healthy, productive way. The therapy acts as another form of communication in expressing life experiences. Some of the art forms used in therapy include sculpting, painting, collage, drawing, pastels, music, acting, dancing and poetry. The addict is asked to talk about what they have created and what it means to them. This type of therapy helps to give the therapist insight and meaning of unresolved issues that the patient has suppressed. The artwork is used to introduce deeper dialogue about thoughts and feelings. The person is encouraged to engage their imagination by using the artwork as a gateway toward introspection and discussion of deeper feelings. Another approach called “third hand” involves help from the therapist who assists on the production of the artwork; although the addict still controls the artistic vision.
Another strategy is called “road drawing.” The addict is told to draw or paint a road. The road is a visual representation of the addict’s life path. The picture is studied to identify roadside objects and specific features of the road itself. Where the road leads to and if there are twists and turns are also explored. The picture of the road is discussed and interpreted with the help of the therapist. Many insights are discovered by utilizing art as a form of therapy, while also giving the addict a better understanding of what they are struggling with. Once internal issues are identified, they can be treated.
Group therapy that incorporates art helps recovering addicts understand each other’s feelings, experiences and struggles. Interacting in this way opens up new venues for discussion of ideas and solutions, and helps to build closer bonds between the patients.
The Benefits of Art Therapy
Art therapy is useful in helping an addict understand and cope with his or her addiction. It focuses on leading the person toward introspection. Art therapy is an effective tool that helps them work through their experiences, feelings and unresolved issues that have led to and exacerbated their addiction. It provides a safe way for them to express themselves without feeling threatened in any way. They are free to explore their creativity, while addressing deep issues at the same time. Art therapy helps the addict develop self-expression rather than artistic skills.
Creating art has always been known to be a healing, meditative process. It reduces anxiety and stress, and also decreases cortisol levels in the body. The person begins to feel better physically and psychologically. Art therapy enhances feelings of trust and provides a change in perception about the pain and anxiety associated with the withdrawal process. The creation of visual art involves utilizing multiple areas of the brain while accessing the creative right hemisphere of the brain. This allows the addict to tap into areas of fear, trauma and other internal struggles and transform them into more concrete forms. The therapist and the patient can now study and analyze these forms.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.