• Staff Writer

The Impact of Art Therapy on Recovery

Updated: Jan 4



Substance abuse recovery is not just detox and rehab. There is so much more to it. Managing stress, learning how to cope with negative emotions, and finding healthy methods for handling difficulties are integral to a successful recovery. A large part of learning these methods is participating in art therapy.


Art therapy has been a valuable aid for substance abuse treatment and recovery for years. This method of self-expression is a beautiful, emotional outlet even for those without any prior interest in art.


What is Art Therapy?


Art is both a creative and physical activity. Using this as a means to work through emotional stress is a positive form of therapy. Many parts of rehab and addiction treatment can be draining and complicated, while art therapy can be relaxing.


The American Art Therapy Association describes art therapy as follows, "Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. Art therapy also provides an opportunity to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of art-making."


Art therapy is not like an art class. There is no need for a specific skill or practice. It is about expression both emotionally and physically. It doesn't need to be well-rated or graded. It is about what the activity offers, not precisely what you create.


Art therapy is also a method that transfers easily to life outside of rehab. It is a technique anyone can use to help adapt to recovery and continue to work through incoming emotions.


How is Art Therapy Used in Recovery?


Many aspects of addiction can feel impossible to tackle head-on. Art therapy provides a creative outlet that allows you to work through trauma without directly facing a painful memory. Art therapy helps you to express emotions and explore challenging experiences through abstract means.


If discussing a traumatic memory or facing your addiction with words seems too painful or intense, art therapy is a gentler way to work through such experiences.


In fact, art therapy can help to resolve emotional struggles, increase self-esteem, boost self-awareness, and reduce anxiety. Incorporating art therapy into addiction treatment can help encourage long-term recovery and prevent relapse.


Many of those who are hesitant to commit to rehab or recovery fully find art therapy to be a great break to that barrier. The Journal of the American Art Therapy Association published an article titled, "Moving Towards Gray: Art Therapy and Ambivalence in Substance Abuse Treatment." This article heavily focuses on how "creative arts therapists can be especially effective in helping clients overcome denial and shame, allowing them to admit their life is out of control."


There can be a lot of resistance to more traditional types of therapy and treatment regarding addiction treatment and recovery. However, art therapy tends to be successful at encouraging full commitment to recovery.


Art therapy is an effective method of working through difficult emotions without so much intensity. This lends itself to helping those struggling to come to terms with a lot of what may have led to their addiction.


Art therapy is also usually a practice experienced within a group setting. This serves as a means of healthy social interaction. Sharing feedback, working with others, and even just being around others while creating helps redevelop useful and even necessary social skills for the future.


Art therapy is very motivating for clients as a safe outlet for expression. There is less fear of stigma and guilt when using art as a form of communication over words. Therapists can even see a client's progress through the changes in their works. Rather than expressing negative or shameful emotions, a client might show more joy or hope in their pieces later in treatment.


Having a visual example of what someone has gone through isn't just beautiful but also encouraging. Being able to see the progress can be eye-opening and inspire hope for the future.


Examples of Art Therapy


Art therapy comes in many forms. Painting and pottery may be the most commonly seen forms of art therapy through media, but there are a number of other methods.


The art therapy offered in specific treatment centers can vary. Most treatment centers do offer a variety of options to fit each client's preference.


Some of the most common forms of art therapy include painting, sculpting, drawing, dancing, acting, music, and poetry. Although these are all very different, and not everyone will be comfortable with every version of art therapy, the goal is always to encourage expression.


Art therapy is not an easy way to feel like you're accomplishing something in recovery. Art therapy is a proven treatment method for mental health and addiction. Working through trauma, shame, and other emotions without the confrontation of verbalizing emotions is incredibly helpful when easing into treatment. Expressing stress, fear, or guilt through art offers a visual representation of feelings that wouldn't otherwise be so clear. Progress can be seen and appreciated throughout ongoing art therapy, making this a useful method of encouraging further growth. At California Care Detox & Treatment, we put a strong focus on art therapy due to its hopeful and positive nature. We want our clients to feel excited for their future in recovery. Seeing their work change and develop through the rest of their work in recovery is vital to their success. Start your recovery by reaching out to us at (949) 281-0632. Learn more about our art therapy methods today.

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