3 Benefits of Art Therapy in Treatment

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art therapy

I’ve worked in the treatment industry for some time now, and one thing that I have noticed is how much raw talent there is among young adults that struggle with addiction. Throughout talent shows, notebook doodles, and the instruments that they can play, the general storyline is that these people used to love their craft, but lost their passion over time throughout their addiction. Art Therapy in treatment is a vessel to help reopen that love for creation and inspiration.

 

What is Art Therapy?

This modality is defined as:

“Art therapy is a specialized area of mental health that uses art materials and the creative process to explore emotions, reduce anxiety, increase self-esteem, and resolve other psychological conflicts.”

I’ve taken art therapy classes in college, and I, who am definitely not talented on paper, found that even the act of sitting and focusing on the color, the lines, the idea, helped center me during the rest of my hectic schedule.

Art Therapy in treatments is a tool that licensed and trained therapists use to help explore the inner workings and state of the participant. According to the Georgia Art Therapy Association, the process of making art can be healing, enriching, and pleasurable.

“One does not have to be an artist to benefit from art therapy (in treatment). The process of making art and exploring the art visually, as well as talking about it with an art therapist, can promote personal growth,” they explain.

If opening up the creative process is not reason enough to get your wheels spinning on trying out art therapy in treatment, here are a few more benefits that have been proven to be essential for people in early recovery.

When Words Just Don’t Cut It

It is extremely common for people who are coming into treatment for substance abuse to also struggle with other disorders. This is called a dual diagnosis, and it is rapidly proving itself to be more likely than unlikely that a person with a substance abuse disorder also struggles with a mental disorder. The most prevalent mental disorders that occur simultaneously with drug addiction are:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety and Panic Disorders
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorders

Of those, trauma for PTSD is a big one. For many, the memories and emotions wrapped around their previous trauma is often a reason they continued to use. A lot of individuals never receive proper therapeutic healing around the event, and for this reason, many people block off or enhance the event in their mind, which leads to serious complications in their day to day life.

When words just don’t cut it, or if they still don’t feel comfortable to vocalize their emotions around the event, art therapy in treatment can really help to gently encourage some sort of conversation about it, even if that conversation is about an abstract work of art.

One major theme in art therapy is identifying and analyzing the underlying messages that a person consciously or subconsciously create through their art. For example, a trained art therapist can analyze the use of color, shading, spacing, and mood to help build a frame of reference for where the person is emotionally at the time. This allows for a client to express themselves without the need to sit in a chair for an hour in a one on one therapy session, which many people who are in early recovery find difficult to do, or feel trusting in.

art therapy

Unlocking The Secrets of The Self Through Art Therapy

Psychologists and Intellectuals throughout time have pointed to the importance of the deeper workings of the mind. For many of us, we never find the time or the opportunity to really do an in-depth exploration of who we are to the core. This is especially true for addicts and alcoholics, and people with mental disorders, because for us, the solution was never to look inside for healing, we hated being inside of ourselves. Our solution was to self-medicate, to manipulate the external to try and soothe the internal. We found that it never worked, and we never became closer to understanding who we really are.

Art therapy in treatment aims to help unravel those inner workings of the mind, and help the participant start to investigate, for themselves, in a healthy manner, what sets their heart on fire, and what fears hold them back. Again, many people in early recovery find some difficulty in traditional cognitive behavior therapy, as many of those with trauma or strained relationships find that they have a hard time trusting a therapist at first.

Art Therapy provides a relaxed, free formed, a lighthearted environment for a person to be able to express themselves, sometimes without even realizing how deep they could be going into their own mind!

You Do Not Need To Be an Artist To Love Art Therapy

Again, like myself, not everyone is talented with drawing or painting. However, art therapy in treatment does not require Van Gogh quality work or for the participant to have attended an arts college. It simply asks that each individual brings forward a little willingness to participate and an open mind to explore.

Art therapy in treatment will provide all of the tools needed for the session that day. The therapist will come prepared with a topic of discussion or creation for the day, and the participants can choose to create the idea in any free form method that they choose.

For example, the art therapist can simply say, draw a field. The individuals can choose however they want to draw it. For a very simple example of how it works, the therapist can identify a person’s mood through the way in which that person draws their own version of the field. In other words, if a person draws a field on a sunny day, but uses sharp, harsh, drastic lines, they may be affecting as positive and happy on the outside, but can be experiencing some anger subconsciously.

Art Therapy in treatment is an amazingly comforting modality for individuals of any artistic background level. It has also been proven to help ease anxiety, promote relaxation, and provide an early look into forms of meditation which has been proven to be extremely beneficial for those who struggle with addiction and mental disorders.

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