Art Therapy: A Creative Way to Recover from Substance Abuse

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If you are recovering from substance abuse, the most important type of therapy you will receive will be in the context of traditional recovery programs. You may think this involves only meetings and sessions where you talk with a therapist or with peers in a support group. However, treatment for substance abuse also incorporates a number of other therapies, including art therapy.

How Long Has Art Therapy Been Around?

In the early 20th century, psychologists began to realize that what you draw can say more about you than what you say. They began to analyze pictures created by children in different developmental stages and started to catalog certain traits. By the middle of last century, art therapy was used in one-on-one therapy sessions, and by the end of the century, art therapy was being used in everything from group therapy to professional trainings.
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How Does Art Therapy Work?

Much like other methods of therapy, art therapy can help you to examine your feelings and behaviors. Unlike other methods of therapy, however, you will use techniques such as drawing, painting, and sculpting to gain insight into your substance abuse.

When treating substance abuse, an art therapist may ask you to draw with your non-dominant hand or with your eyes closed. Or, he or she may require that you use watercolor or another medium which is hard to control. This can be frustrating, but the reason for this is to make you give up some of the control that you have over your behaviors. If you are less certain about how your art will turn out, you may just express something that escapes language. Some of your innermost feelings, while they may be hard to put into words, are easier put in visual representations.

Do I Need to be Artistic to Use Art Therapy?

You do not need any artistic ability to participate in art therapy. Whatever you create — from the colors you select to the shape of your lines — says something about what you are thinking, even if you are not completely aware of it. A therapist trained in art therapy can help you interpret your artwork so that you can learn more about yourself and what stage you are at in the therapy process.

In the midst of art therapy, you may discover something about yourself that you didn’t know, see your progress over time, and find a healthy outlet for your emotions.

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