The forms of therapy used to help clients in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction are varied. Most people can appreciate how counseling, or “talk therapy,” can help someone look at past events and come to terms with them to effect healing. Creative therapies, such as art therapy, work in a similar way to help clients heal from their chemical addictions.
Examples of Creative Therapies
The following are examples of the types of creative therapy options that English Mountain Recovery may offer to its clients as part of a drug and alcohol recovery program. The specifics of each program vary, depending on the needs of each individual client.
- Making collages
- Rock sculpturing
Advantages of Creative Therapies
Creative therapies offer clients in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction a number of advantages:
- Words aren’t necessary for communication.
Clients who are in treatment may not have the specific language available to express their own emotional pain and hurt. An addict has been living with pain for a long time and has become very good at quashing it. Art therapy gives clients the chance to show what they are feeling without words.
- The creative process reduces stress.
Since clients are focused on creating art that expresses their emotions, the work involved helps them to cope with current feelings of stress stemming from being in treatment and longer-held anxieties that may have led them to seek out chemicals.
- Art helps clients process past events.
By sharing the art with a therapist and talking about the images it contains, a client can use it as a tool to open up about past events. The images may help a client to recall thoughts or feelings that would be beneficial to explore in the safety of therapy sessions. Once they have been processed, the client may be able to heal in a way that makes sense to him or her.
- Working in art mediums helps clients find ways to better express themselves.
The art therapy process serves to help participants find effective ways to share their thoughts and feelings with others. When clients get to know themselves better through creative therapies, they may experience an increase in their self-esteem.
Women Are Particularly Responsive to Creative Therapies
Research has shown that men and women have different needs in addiction treatment. Traditional approaches to treatment, which include 12-step programs and meeting with a therapist individually or as part of a group, may not always be the best option for addressing female clients’ needs in drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
For a woman who has experienced one or more traumatic events and has been using drugs and/or alcohol in an effort to avoid dealing with the feelings around them, talk therapy is not likely to work very well. Placing someone with that profile into a room with others and asking her to start talking about something that she has been burying for years is going to be a struggle. Even the most empathetic, supportive therapist will have difficulty breaking through the emotional walls that client has put up.
How Art Therapy Helps Clients in Recovery
Art therapy is one of the tools used to help clients in recovery. It helps clients who come to a residential treatment program as follows:
- Helps to Create a Positive View of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Client attitude and willingness to participate in the treatment process is an important element in whether a particular person will be successful in his or her drug and alcohol treatment program. When art therapy is used, it appeals to a new client’s creativity.
Art therapy can be used as a tool to promote positive thoughts and feelings about recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Clients must feel that they are not simply giving up their drug of choice, but that they are getting something better in exchange. The increased self-esteem and freedom from carrying the weight of emotional baggage are positive elements that help clients in recovery.
- Art Therapy Particularly Effective in Dealing with Strong Emotions
A client in treatment for substance abuse can use art therapy as a way to deal with strong emotions that he or she has been holding onto, possibly for many years. Through drawing, painting or another medium, the client can express these feelings and “get them out.” The strong emotions can be examined with the help of a therapist. The client and the therapist may even agree that it’s time to literally let go of the emotions by destroying the artwork in some fashion.
Creative therapy has a place in learning to heal from addiction. When used in tandem with other treatment methods, it increases the likelihood that a client will be successful in reaching the goal of long-term sobriety.
By Jodee Redmond