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Art Therapy: The Benefits of Being Creative in Rehab

The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.”

Art therapy in rehabilitation centers is practiced in combination with other therapies that focus on the patient’s development of self-expression. This type of approach involves uncovering the cause of addiction and teaches new life skills. It is an alternative program that’s widely used to supplement traditional counseling.

By attending art therapy, individuals have the opportunity to examine new connections, relationships, and meaning in a non-judgmental atmosphere. It works on all aspects: cognitive, emotional, social, physical, perceptual, and spiritual. Most rehabilitation centers employ art therapists who have at least one previous knowledge in medicine, psychology, visual arts, or education.

History of Art Therapy

Art has been used since the beginning of human history as a means of projecting ideas, emotions, and thoughts. Humans first started practicing art 40,000 years ago, long before writing was developed. The oldest cave paintings were discovered in the El Castillo cave in Spain. Before the invention of writing, art was the main form of long-term communication.

It wasn’t until the 1940’s that art evolved as a therapeutic discipline. The therapeutic use of art first appeared in Europe and America. The two forerunners of art therapy in the United States were Edith Kramer and Margaret Naumburg whose work proclaimed that art can release the unconscious. In England, the pioneers of art therapy were Adrian Hill and Edward Adamson who introduced this type of therapy to patients in mental hospitals.

Today, art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can be found in a broad range of clinical settings, such as mental health centers, addiction rehab centers, grief counseling, and prenatal classes.

Types of Art Therapy

People in recovery can express themselves creatively in multiple ways. These are some of the best:

  1. Painting: whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a beautiful way for those battling with addiction to cope.
  2. Dancing: dancing is a highly expressive art form that involves the entire body and requires focus and concentration.
  3. Sculpting: sculpting it is a quiet, introspective activity that people find beneficial when struggling with various issues.
  4. Drawing: many individuals use drawing to soothe anxiety and channel their emotions instead of abusing a substance.
  5. Singing: singing helps individuals cope and find positive emotions, reduces their stress levels and lowers their blood pressure.
  6. Playing an instrument: whether it is a guitar, drums, violin, or ukulele, playing an instrument can be highly beneficial in coping with addiction.
  7. Cooking: learning to cook not only helps a patient learn basic cooking skills, but it also promotes self-esteem, creativity, confidence, and patience.
  8. Jewelry making: jewelry making is highly recommended for patients struggling with a wide range of illnesses and addictions. It allows patients to come to terms with their emotions, focus and rebuild their self-esteem.
  9. Creative writing: writing allows patients to get in touch with their emotions they were keeping suppressed, which can be an obstacle to treatment.
  10. Acting: acting can promote expressing feelings and making positive connections with others.

Art Therapy Supports Addiction Treatment

Art therapy can be helpful to individuals battling addiction because it provides them with ways to understand and cope with their addiction. It helps practice introspection and healthy coping skills, but also explores aspects of their life that they might not be able to explain in a conversational way.

Individuals battling with trauma, abuse, and grief also use the self-expression of art to deal with unspoken personal issues. All art therapists have professional training to notice forms of nonverbal metaphors and symbols in their patients’ artwork.

Moreover, art therapy is proven to be highly effective in treating young adults to overcome their substance abuse problems. By using art as a medium, rehabbers develop better social skills, lower their stress levels, and practice self-management.

Once the patient discovers their emotions and thought processes, they move on to learning new methods for coping with them. These methods may include counseling sessions and other types of psychotherapy. 

There are three techniques that art therapy generally uses:

  • Active imagination: this is the process in Jungian psychology that bridges the gap between the conscious and unconscious minds. Patients make an effort to understand the workings of their unconscious mind and discuss about their feelings.
  • “Third-hand” approach: the “third-hand” approach is the art therapist’s ability to facilitate a person’s artistic process without being intrusive.
  • Gestalt methods: these methods focus on insight into gestalts in patients and their relations to the world. The art therapist encourages clients to interpret and express their feelings and emotions from art works.

Benefits of Art Therapy in Rehab Centers

Art therapy is a wonderful tool for anyone – especially those in recovery – that works differently for each person. Those who find it difficult to express themselves verbally, will find art therapy to be a great tool for empowerment and expression.

Art therapy, through various mediums like drawing, painting, acting, and dancing, has proved to have numerous life-changing benefits during rehab.

  1. Form of communication: although most therapies found in treatment centers are verbal, art therapy helps patients express themselves using a visual medium. It is a different form of communication that assists individuals in uncovering and addressing deep-seated unconscious feelings.
  2. Proven stress relief: research into art therapies has delivered strong results. According to experts, art therapy is an excellent source of stress relief that boosts the production of dopamine, a natural antidepressant. In addition, studies also show that art can reduce anxiety by lowering cortisol levels.
  3. Track progress: art therapy also helps therapists keep a track of patient’s progress. As individuals become more confident in themselves and comfortable in their sobriety, their artwork tends to be happier.
  4. Self-confidence: most recovering addicts suffer from lack of self-esteem. What art therapy can do is provide a sense of accomplishment and progress. These feelings can lead to happier mental states.
  5. Self-discovery: art therapy helps individuals rediscover their self-worth and achieve personal breakthroughs that are essential to long-term sobriety. Art also has the potential to unlock secret talents and motivate patients to become future art therapists or addiction education advocates.
  6. Relapse prevention: relapse prevention is crucial part of rehab. Making progress through art therapy can greatly benefit those in recovery for the rest of their lives. It can help individuals overcome their addictions and maintain their sobriety.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

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