Does Art therapy in recovery really help? The short answer is YES, but why and how does it help? The creative process, which involves using our imagination, first and foremost will engage the addict in recovery to stay in the moment. Art and creativity allow humans to express our feelings, manifest an idea, and connect with others.
What exactly is Art Therapy in Recovery?
Art therapy in recovery falls into a group of therapies called "experiential" or "expressive." Experiential and expressive therapies are a different mode of treatment than talk therapy and may be beneficial to those individuals who can use a "break" from talking about their feelings to expressing them in a creative form.
Art therapy sessions were created to provide healthy alternatives to educational groups. Art Therapy groups should not be confused with taking an art class, as the participant does not have to be artistic or even like art. Instead, it can be seen as a tool for healing, connection to others, learning, using a different area of the brain, relaxation, enjoyment, meditation, personal growth, gaining confidence and introspection.
There are several different art and expressive therapies that someone may find at a treatment facility. These include:
- creative writing
Within each of these categories, they can be used towards specific treatment goals to create the desired outcome. The art therapist may also use a combination of any of the above to provide insight into a particular issue for recovery.
The Benefits of Art Therapy in Recovery
Using art therapy in recovery, participants are in an analytical “down time” which can activate the imaginative and creative process and help reduce anxiety. People taking part in art therapy sessions can acquire new skills and explore different avenues- which help develop neural pathways in the brain. Creating new neural pathways is essential for a person getting sober. These pathways will aid in directly developing a healthier reactionary process, and in turn, a person can acquire coping skills when they have cravings.
Relaxation with art therapy in recovery helps the conscious and subconscious mind. It can be one of the several interventions that lead to long term sobriety. Art therapy can lead to replacement hobbies and a way to connect with others instead of using substances.
Often while in treatment, clients will save, reflect, and hold a special feeling on creative projects that they have made or have been given by their peers in treatment. Another benefit of Art Therapy sessions can be a way to resolve or deflect potential conflict between people on treatment as they create a project together.
While there may be one-on-one art therapy sessions in treatment, as a mental health therapist may incorporate some artistic elements while you meet, most art therapy sessions in a recovery setting are held in groups. By having an art group, it can be a way where it is safe to communicate ideas and feelings without having to engage in typical conversation. Art and expressive therapy can bring a refreshing change for people in rehab and treatment for drug and alcohol by being able to activate their sometimes dormant creative expression.
What if you have no artistic abilities?
Art therapy in recovery was not designed only for naturally creative people. If you're in rehab and will be attending an art therapy group and feel that you have little to no abilities, don't despair. Art therapy was developed to meet each person where they are in ability, and a certified therapist will be able to design each session where anyone will be able to do the creative project. The purpose of using art therapy is that it is an environment of creative expression without judgment or comparison, but rather a place to process feelings without having to speak about them.
Some art therapists facilitate groups where the recovering addicts are able to utilize in their daily lives. Such as, creating a box which holds positive sayings, painting a picture frame for a photo of a support person in their lives, creating a magazine collage that envisions the future without substances, or "drawing the disease" to be able not to want to return to using.
Some recovery centers offer art therapy in recovery and understand the value for experiential treatment for the overall recovery of their loved ones. Here at Carus Recovery, we are no exception to facilitating imaginative art therapy sessions. If you are curious to learn more about the specific types of art therapy interventions we use or to talk about yourself or a loved one who needs help, contact us online at 818-477-1502.