When it comes to addiction treatment, most people probably only think of things like detox and talk therapy sessions. But are there ways to help people who cannot voice what they are going through? Recovering individuals often find it hard to express their emotions. Some suppress emotions due to shame or fear. This is where non-verbal, creative therapy can come in.
What Is Creative Therapy?
The broad category of creative therapy includes art, music, play, and dance as forms of creative self-expression. While engaging in these activities, a therapist may guide people to explore, express, and release their emotions intentionally.
Studies show that creative therapy can improve self-esteem because recovering individuals gain a sense of accomplishment through hands-on activities. They also help relieve stress, as these fun activities soothe the brain’s central nervous system.
How Can Creative Treatment Methods Help?
Creative treatment methods (or creative therapy) use non-verbal communication techniques to help people recovering from the negative impacts of drugs and alcohol engage with their inner world. Rooted in the idea that creative expression can foster healing and wholeness, these therapeutic techniques are widely adopted in most addiction treatment centers. Creative therapy also offers a wide range of health benefits. These include:
- Building self-confidence and self-esteem
- Aiding adjustment during residential treatment
- Increasing motivation for positive change
- Reducing shame and guilt around addiction
- Providing a break from intensive talk therapy sessions
- Connecting with a peer group through non-verbal means
What Do Creative Therapy Sessions Look Like?
When an individual joins a creative therapy group, they can expect to be guided by a trained therapist throughout the process. Though there is plenty of room for free expression, following the given instructions is an integral part of the process.
Often, creative therapy sessions are group meetings. By engaging in the same activity together, individuals may form new connections with peers in the recovery community.
Take art therapy, for example. This is a guided therapy session where a counselor encourages participants to use art-making as a point of discussion. For example, they may be guided to paint an image that captures a feeling or memory. The facilitator may then ask participants to explain their art or share how creating the image made them feel.
Music-making can be used as a similar avenue for expressing emotions. Individuals using music therapy may be guided to compose music that reflects their state of mind. They can then share about their process or what the song means. A therapist often tries to validate this form of emotional expression.
How Can Creative Therapy Heal Trauma?
Recovering individuals whose addiction is rooted in trauma may consider joining creative therapy sessions. Because trauma is complex and painful to talk about directly, creative therapy is a good alternative. It allows non-verbal communication to help people process traumatic experiences and their implications.
Because trauma is often stored in the body, dance or movement therapy can help channel and release that energy. Other art-related creative therapy can also help recovering individuals visualize the situation. Seeing expressions of peers’ similar traumatic experiences can also be affirming and liberating.
Can Creative Treatment Replace Other Treatment Methods?
When health professionals design treatment plans for clients, they typically include traditional treatment methods such as detox, therapy, 12-Step group, and other holistic methods. Creative therapy is one of the most common holistic methods used to care for the whole person.
While creative therapy offers multiple benefits for treating people with traumatic experiences and substance addiction, it is still only a complementary practice. On its own, creative therapy has limited benefits. It works better in conjunction with traditional methods for those who find it challenging to externalize painful thoughts or feelings. Additionally, it works well for maintaining long-term wellness.
A lesser-known benefit of creative therapy is its ability to track a recovering individual’s progress. For example, a person with PTSD and addiction may create art that represents anger in the beginning. However, as they progress, they may find a change in their artistic style that reflects more calm and peace. An integrated approach allows the flexible use of creative therapy alongside other methods.
How to Find a Quality Treatment Center With Trauma-Informed Creative Therapy
Individuals seeking treatment should pay attention to the program offerings of a given treatment center. For example, do they have a full menu of traditional treatment methods and holistic options, such as creative therapy? Have their staff undergone any trauma-informed training? Individuals could bring these questions to the intake staff to better understand the facility’s values.
For those supporting a loved one recovering from trauma and addiction, prioritize the quality of creative therapy and trauma-informed care even more. The principles of nonverbal communication and trauma-informed care are not pertinent just for achieving sobriety. They can mean the difference between relapse and recovery in the long run.
Families can engage in creative activities such as art-making or music-making together. These sober hobbies can be built into a recovery-supportive family environment. Creative expression is a life skill that can benefit everyone, whether they are recovering or just supporting.
People undergoing addiction treatment may struggle to express painful and deep-seated emotions. However, emotional expression is an integral part of the recovery process. There are various non-verbal ways of healing. Creative therapy is one example. It helps recovering individuals heal from PTSD and other traumatic experiences. At Laguna Shores Recovery Center, we understand the value of creative expression and its importance in recovery. We embrace a holistic and integrated approach to addiction recovery. Our team of mental health professionals and recovery experts provide quality treatment in a place where you can unwind and focus on healing. For more information, call us today at (866) 774-1532. Healing begins here and now.