If you are seeking liberation from addiction, there is a wide variety of resources at your disposal. Although the struggle may sometimes feel overwhelming, there are seemingly limitless possibilities to allow you to explore and get a hold of your thoughts, memories, and feelings and live a fulfilling sober life. One of these resources that can be tremendously helpful in the recovery process is art therapy.
What is art therapy?
Art therapy involves using creativity, imagination, and self-expression as a way of working through your experiences and finding ways to communicate your thoughts. Both art therapy and conventional forms of “talk therapy” rely on guided communication to learn introspection and coping as ways of learning to live without addiction. Art therapy expands the ways to communicate, for important internal things that verbal communication leaves out.
For many people, there are many things inside of them that are too painful, too raw, or too intense to be expressed with words alone. In these times, painting, sculpting, drawing, dancing, acting, singing, or playing a musical instrument can be magnificent tools to convey ideas and emotions. These interactive and creative activities provide a safe space to explore, understand, and seek healing for issues in your life.
An art therapy session is led by a licensed therapist trained in both art techniques and psychology, who will guide the creative process. He or she will then encourage you to share and talk about what you’ve made, the insights and connections it reveals about your inner world.
Writer and psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky highlights three common techniques and approaches art therapists to use. Active imagination consists of providing space for a client to create art and then freely associate about its meaning, using the art as part of a broader agenda to gain a deeper understanding of your struggles and growth.
Gestalt methods use an image to focus on your holistic mental state in the here and now, by doing quick drawings that express your immediate emotions. Finally, in a “third hand” approach the therapist uses his or her artistic expertise in working with the client to convey the intended image as best they can. The client and therapist interact with each other through the creation of the work.
In a recovery setting, art therapy is often considered part of a larger treatment plan, alongside other therapies and support group meetings. Alongside other approaches, it can be a very powerful tool in helping you think deeper about the issues surrounding your recovery.
Using art therapy in your recovery
Many rehab centers and recovery programs offer resources in art and art therapy, recognizing how such programs can be incredibly helpful. You can also make the decision to meet with an art therapist yourself, by contacting someone in your area affiliated with the American Art Therapy Association.
However, even without meeting with a trained art therapist, you can gain a lot by incorporating creativity, art, and self-expression into your recovery. Developing skills in painting, drama, writing, or music can help your life develop a sense of purpose, and fill your days with activities that bring joy and excitement. You can simply find creative ways of expressing your recovery journey, like the people behind the website Creative 12 Steps, who use crafts to express their recovery journey.
Doing art with other people further benefits you by giving you a community of caring and supportive friends that can help support your sobriety. By creating something, you are able to express your feelings and experiences in a powerful way that can both help you resolve those feelings within yourself, and inspire others that change is possible for them too.