What are the Benefits of Art Therapy in Addiction Recovery?

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Going through the recovery process is often tricky – you partake in various therapies and group sessions, being vulnerable to yourself and in front of others. Having an outlet to let this vulnerability out without using words can be a powerful method of expressing yourself. This is why many treatment facilities, such as Everlast Recovery Centers, utilize art therapy as a complementary therapy to traditional treatment methods. Art therapy helps individuals in recovery express themselves in a different medium, helping them heal and convey what they feel to others without using words. Through art therapy, people can find healing in ways they never imagined. 

What is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of experiential therapy that helps those struggling with addiction express themselves through art. This can include sculpture, painting, drawing, and other forms of art mediums. Many people find art therapy relaxing and a great way to release the stress and anxiety associated with recovery. You don’t have to have a background in the arts to make art therapy, just an open mind and a willingness to use it as a means of healing. Once rehab ends and you transition back into your daily life, you can still use art therapy as a means of expressing yourself and reducing stress in your recovery.  

What are the Benefits of Art Therapy?

Art therapy might seem like just painting or drawing, but it helps your mental health in various ways. Mental health professionals systematically use art therapy to heal patients on cognitive, mental, and emotional levels. It is also great in treating trauma because it can help individuals express an experience or memory that may be otherwise difficult to convey with only words. There are other benefits too, though, that help with mental health and addiction recovery. These benefits include:

  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety
  • Improved social skills
  • Boosted self-awareness
  • Raised self-esteem
  • Better emotional resolution and regulation

How Does Art Therapy Work?

Art therapy can be done individually or with a group, depending on your circumstances. If you are in a treatment facility, the practice will most likely take place in group form. However, you can still participate in art therapy one-on-one if you think it would help your healing process. The first session will typically begin like any other therapy session; the therapist asks you what you want to work on to develop a treatment plan together. From there, you can start working on your various artworks. As you do, the therapist will occasionally come and observe you, watching the way you work, what mediums you are using, and what the art is depicting. During the process or after you have finished a piece, you may be asked some questions covering how you felt during the creation period, what was easy and what did you find challenging, and what memories came into mind as you were creating. This way, the therapist can observe your progress and change your treatment plan as needed to ensure you are getting the experience you need for healing. 

The First Step Series

Standard art therapy approaches typically involve “The First Step Series,” a series of five different art pieces that help those participating in art therapy reap its benefits. These specific pieces were created to direct a person’s healing as they convey other thoughts and experiences. This series includes:

  1. Crisis Directive: A drawing that depicts where the individual is personally or what drove them to recover in the first place.
  2. Recovery Bridge Drawing: This drawing depicts where the individual has been, where they are now, and where they want to be, at the end of the bridge, once they are sober and in recovery.
  3. Cost-Benefits Collage: A collage created by the individual that shows the benefits of being sober.
  4. Future Depiction: A piece that has the individual show themselves in the future as a sober person and themselves if they did not maintain their sobriety.
  5. Barriers Imagery: This has a person draw or paint the stressors, obstacles, and other factors that may interfere with their sobriety.

Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery has been utilizing art therapy and its benefits since the 1950s to help individuals overcome various addiction obstacles. It is often used alongside other treatment forms, such as twelve-step programs, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and different treatment programs.  It helps its participants open their minds and provide a safe space for conveying painful memories or experiences. Over time, a person can learn to release and regulate their emotions, manage their stress, adjust to recovery, and express themselves.  As far as addiction recovery goes, art therapy can help clients move away from the denial of their addiction, decrease the shame associated with addiction, have a safe place to express their memories, and encourage them to recover. 

Art therapy is an alternative therapy used to treat trauma, addiction, and mental health issues. It can be extremely beneficial for those looking to find healing and recovery when used alongside other forms of traditional and experiential therapies. Art therapy benefits include stress relief, improved social skills, reduced anxiety, better self-awareness, higher self-esteem, and increased emotional regulation skills. Over time, a person can utilize their art therapy skills after recovery to help them cope with stressors and other potential relapse risks. Art therapists can approach therapy in various ways, but a popular traditional method is the First Step Series. This includes five different art pieces made to depict multiple parts of the individual’s life, including before recovery, during, and after. This form of therapy has been used since the 1950s because it has proven successful, so facilities such as Everlast Recovery Centers include it in their treatment programs. To learn more about art therapy at Everlast, give us a call at 866-DETOX-25.

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