Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and addictive behaviors are almost always traumatic in themselves, but are also often times the result of previous traumas. For example, a person who experiences the trauma of unexpectedly losing a loved one may seek relief through drinking – which can lead to the further trauma of alcohol addiction. Among the many therapies available to addicts, Art Therapy is one of the most novel and interesting. In Art Therapy the addict engages in producing various forms of art as an essential method of self-expression during the recovery process.
ART THERAPY AND ITS BENEFITS
Art Therapy was originally conceived by independent therapists in the 1940s. In the early days therapists encouraged addicts to use artistic mediums to express their feelings and emotions, but did not have a set structure under which they operated. Today, addicts who engage in Art Therapy during their recovery from addictive substances or activities often use such mediums as painting, sculpting, drawing, and even collage work as an integral part of the healing process. Art Therapy is promoted by the American Art Therapy Association, among other organizations, and is said to “use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”
THE UNIQUENESS OF ART AS A THERAPEUTIC MEDIUM
Art is a unique medium of communication and expression. Often times addicts can find language extremely restrictive when looking for ways to express their most profound feelings. The ultimate expression of these feelings can often have a valuable therapeutic effect, which makes finding an appropriate mode of expression exceedingly important. Art allows the addict to break the rigid bounds which would be imposed by written or spoken language, and explore novel methods of self-expression. Art therapy has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in recovering addicts. This is important because stress and anxiety can be triggers which result in an addict’s returning addictive behaviors. Hence, any significant reduction in these harmful emotions can help the recovering addict stay the course.
ART THERAPY AS A PART OF TREATMENT
Art Therapy is often combined with other kinds of therapy in order to form a complete therapeutic program. While it is often combined with group therapy and talk therapy, Art Therapy can easily be integrated into any program designed to help an addict recover from their addiction. In fact, Art Therapy itself has many facets, any of which may appeal to a wide variety of recovering addicts. According to this article, some of the more popular implementations of art therapy include:
- Doll Repair/Building – The process of building or repairing a doll can help the patient look within. The doll’s repair can serve as a metaphor for the life repairs that patient is undergoing.
- Book Altering – The process of refreshing an old book with new passages and images serves as a metaphor for the renewal that the therapeutic process offers to the recovering addict.
- Road Drawing – The practice of drawing or painting a road serves as a metaphor for the addict’s own road to recovery.