Growing up, we were taught to create art as a means of self-expression. For many people, taking an art class was a requirement to graduate and start the next chapter of their lives.
What happens to the idea of art when school is over? Does it fade into a category comprised of activities deemed only worthy within the parameters of a classroom? Understanding that art is so much more than a class you take in school can be crucial to one’s recovery.
The practice of art therapy has been in use for over 70 years. This form of therapy has been recognized by the American Art Therapy Association as an essential tool for those in various types of recovery. Art therapy allows people to express themselves through creative and imaginative outlets that verbal therapy may not offer.
Talking about emotions is one way to cope, but drawing or painting the intensity of those emotions can take healing to another level. Just as everyone does not learn the same way, not all people express themselves the same way. Art therapy is an avenue of exploring emotions that may be especially beneficial for those who struggle with conveying their feelings through words.
Types of Art Therapy
Professionally guided art therapy can take on many forms. These include the following:
- Drawing/painting emotions: At times, it can be difficult to express with words how intense an emotion is, especially during a traumatic time in one’s life. Drawing or painting these emotions can provide great depth and clarity to how someone is feeling.
- Incident drawing: Talking about incidents that occurred during substance use can not only be difficult emotionally, but they can also be difficult logistically to explain. Incident drawing helps facilitate that by having the client simply draw situations that they have been through, and they can work through the emotions via sketchbook.
- Art journal: Keeping an art journal is a personal way to help maintain mental health. Art journals can be a mix of paints, drawings, written words, magazine clippings, glitter, etc. The point of an art journal is to keep an active art expression of feelings and emotions.
Who Can Benefit From Art Therapy?
Art therapy is an extremely effective treatment for women struggling with addiction, especially women who have experienced sexual assault. Art therapy can unlock the communication between the therapist and patient to address the trauma that has transpired from the assault.
In many societies, women have often been conditioned to not speak up for themselves. This learned behavior may contribute to women having a difficult time explaining how they feel. Art therapy can assist with closing this gap and enable women to tell their stories.
Many men were also taught to not disclose their feelings verbally, but for different reasons. In some cultures, men are taught they must appear to be tough even when they are hurting. Bottling up these emotions is unhealthy and can lead to things like using substances, lashing out in violence, or hurting themselves and others. Art therapy is a way for men to explore how they feel even if they struggle to put their experiences in words. It can feel easier to paint a picture of the pain one is experiencing rather than physically saying the words “I am in pain.”
Art therapy is effective for people struggling with substance use because it requires them to create something from within. Some people in recovery may feel as though their worth has diminished and their opinions are not as valid. By creating art, they are drawing on their unique perspectives and skills to contribute to society in a way they may have never experienced. This can be therapeutic and remind them of their worth, talents, and ability to shape their own stories.
Benefits of Art Therapy
Art therapy has been connected to numerous studies showing that art has a substantial positive effect on mood and mental health. Art is a common interest among humankind no matter one’s background; it is versatile and adaptable. Everyone can find or create art that they relate to, evoking powerful emotions that can lead to healing.
Observing or creating art has been proven to calm tempers in moments of anxiety, validate those who don’t feel seen, and establish an important psychological framework. Art therapy enables people to express themselves freely without rigid rules or constraints.
The theory that creative outward expression can lead to healing in recovery has been accepted by many cultures across the world. It comes as no surprise that art can help people in times of struggle and motivate them to achieve personal triumph.
Traditional therapy is an incredible start, but maybe what someone is lacking to truly start healing is art therapy.
Art therapy can be a wonderful complement to traditional therapy sessions. A different approach to healing can be crucial and make all the difference for some people. Through the guidance of a professional, art therapy can give people a chance to express how they feel without the pressure of verbally stating their emotions. You can keep an art journal or draw the emotions you are feeling that day. Art therapy can be very beneficial to many people. No matter what background you come from, you should be able to use art to understand and shape your story. Learning how to utilize this form of therapy can help you on your path or a loved one’s path to recovery from substance use. Call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449 today to learn more about your options with art therapy. Healing and recovery are possible, especially with help from art therapy.