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The Benefits of Art Therapy for Recovery

Did you know that emotional healing is a big part of recovery from addiction? Medical professionals have sought out many ways to facilitate the restoration of healthy emotional expression. One of these approaches is art therapy. The use of art therapy as a supplementary intervention strategy has been used effectively in the treatments of cancer, mental health, and trauma patients, as well as for people who are recovering from addiction. Some attribute its effects to the level of dopamine released during the art-making process. Others think that by allowing participants to concentrate on a creative process, art therapy heals the emotional numbness and inability to focus that might result from substance use.

The Healing Power of Art-Making

Using art in therapy and art therapy are two different things. The latter is a creative and therapeutic process facilitated by a professional art therapist for the goal of releasing addiction-related stress and anxiety, which promotes all-around healthy functioning. Because art-making is a form of nonverbal communication, it can help you express and manage complicated emotions such as shame, guilt, and anger. Below are a few examples of art-making projects that help a licensed therapist gain insight into your needs:

  • Draw a picture of how you came to seek treatment
  • Draw a life timeline with significant people and events
  • Draw a series of self-portraits: one after a negative event, one at present, one in a hopeful future
  • Paint emotions in an unstructured way

There are many forms of art therapy, including visual arts, music, poetry, or drama. The goal is for an art-maker to freely express themselves. Because addiction tends to cause emotional flatness and inability to concentrate on the here and now, art therapy may help you engage with the present. It is a mindful activity at its core. Art and creativity can also repattern your lifestyle as they become a new hobby which brings you joy and fills your time with something positive. After you overcome your initial fear or discomfort, you are likely to want more, especially if you have never made art before. 

The multi-fold healing power of art therapy is shown in the following ways: first, guided art-making helps patients externalize their emotions and outlook on life in a constructive way; second, therapists can gain insight into the patient’s emotional world, including one’s suppressed or unconscious feelings; lastly, by active participation in art-making, patients are empowered to accomplish a task. This brings satisfaction and boosts self-esteem. 

Art Therapy as Part of a Holistic Treatment Plan

Many treatment centers use art therapy to supplement mental health and relational health treatment plans. Sometimes a licensed art therapist helps you integrate it into a 12-step program. If you have just entered a treatment center and find it difficult to talk with counselors, art therapy can be used as visual communication. 

If you are going through cognitive behavioral therapy and that triggers past trauma, you can also resort to art therapy to “talk” about these sudden and intense emotions. Many times, doing art therapy at these critical moments of tension can lead to important breakthroughs. You can connect with and make discoveries about your true self through guided art therapy sessions. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy may have the following benefits:

  • Healing from past trauma
  • Improving cognitive and sensorimotor functions
  • Boosting self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Building up emotional honesty and resilience
  • Promoting self-reflection and insight
  • Enhancing social and relational skills
  • Releasing stress, anxiety, and distress
  • Reducing the risk of relapse

A holistic treatment plan may include medication, nutritional therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and various forms of art therapy. It is important to know that each piece is important because addiction affects your mind, body, and spirit. 

The Role of Art Therapy in Preventing Relapse

In residential detox treatment, you get to learn many skills and tools to cope with triggers. Art therapy is an important tool that can help your long-term recovery by relieving stress and coping with triggers. Even after your detox treatment is over, consider working one-on-one with an art therapist or making therapeutic art-making your new hobby or passion. 

You might also consider joining group art therapy where people share their art pieces and recovery stories. In addition to or instead of a 12-step group, this support system can help you maintain sobriety and sustain recovery in the long run. Even after you have achieved long-term sobriety, art therapy can greatly enhance your quality of life because it encourages a positive outlook on life and freedom of expression.

Have you tried art therapy during your recovery journey? Art therapy can assist you to recover from the numbing and overstimulation caused by addiction. Guided by a professional art therapist, it allows patients to learn about themselves and understand their own emotional needs. Many recovery centers also have added the support of an art therapist, including other treatment plans such as detox, medication, 12-steps groups, and relationship skills coaching. They can all greatly enhance your experience on the road to long-term, sustainable recovery. Schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional or therapist at Laguna Shores Recovery. We believe in holistic recovery, and we are here to listen, coach, and walk alongside you. We are a complete medical and residential facility offering a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us at (866) 229-9923, and we will be happy to walk alongside you in channeling and expressing your emotions for holistic healing.