• Art Therapy: What It Is and How It Can be Used in Addiction Treatment
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    Art Therapy: What It Is and How It Can be Used in Addiction Treatment

    Art has been used for creative expression, scripting of events, and templates of religion. Another facet of art is its use in healing illnesses due to its curative effect on the brain. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a lesser known form of therapy that is “facilitated by the art therapist, uses art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”

    How to Use Art Therapy

    Art therapy is best implemented as an addition to formal clinical treatment. It cannot be used as the primary form of treatment. It is also more expensive than more traditional options due to the costs of supplies. However, art therapy does have several benefits that make the cost worth spending.

    Art therapy specifically utilizes an individual’s creativity to process emotions in a positive way. A typical session can be in a group or within an individual setting. Sometimes patients may draw a picture of what they are feeling; other times patients draw a picture of a situation that causes them stress.

    Art therapy isn’t limited to paper, though. A patient may physically construct an object associated with his or her feeling out of clay. Sewing or crocheting is used to keep the hands and mind occupied and create a utile object. The artistic pieces created are limited only to the creativity of the individual.

    Art therapy may be particularly helpful to those who have difficulty discussing their emotions with others. Art therapy provides these people with a tacit form of expression.

    Art Therapy to Treat Addiction

    Art therapy specifically helps individuals who suffer from addiction. Addictions exist in several forms such as substance abuse or maladaptive behaviors, and art therapy is used throughout mental health care centers today as a method of treatment.

    Another benefit is addressed by a researching comparing individuals exposed to different types of non-traditional therapies. One study states art therapy “motivates patients to change by moving them away from reflection and into a state of action.”

    According to the study, art therapy was specifically beneficial to patients in treatment centers where the 12-step program was utilized.

    Art therapy has several benefits to assist a traditional therapeutic approach, but it should not be used as the sole source of treatment. In combination with other a more traditional therapeutic system, art therapy can help patients recognize their addictions, facilitate communication, and actively engaging the brain to kickstart recovery and suppress ruminations of maladaptive thoughts.


    Leia Rivera is currently a sophomore student at Georgia State University. Formerly a dancer, she has struggled with eating disorders, depression, and anxiety since the age of nine. She is currently recovered, and looks forward to finishing her degree and achieving a future.


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