Substance abuse and addiction is a complex disorder that typically involves underlying psychosocial issues. In order to overcome addiction, a person needs to learn how to address these issues and learn healthy coping skills. One beneficial treatment method is art therapy. This provides a non-verbal outlet for expressing a person’s emotions and feelings, which supports the other components of the holistic treatment program we offer at Pax House. We use art therapy as part of our comprehensive substance abuse treatment program that also includes individual and group therapy, music therapy, fitness programs, fun sober activity opportunities, and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
Art therapy is a method that uses creative and visual arts for facilitating the expression of feelings and emotions. A client does not have to be an artist or have any artistic talent in order to benefit from art therapy. It is about the journey, not the final product. Art therapy can involve any medium of art, including oil painting, watercolors, clay, woodwork, painting prefabricated items, collages, drawing, etc. Art therapy is led by a certified counselor, and it can be done as a guided practice or free expression. During a guided practice, the counselor will guide the clients to create a certain object or express certain emotions. Free expression is when the clients can create whatever they want. Many counselors combine the two by having a theme and providing guidance when needed, but allowing the clients to create the artwork based upon their particular feelings.
Art therapy is typically a quiet and relaxing experience. There might be meditative music playing to facilitate the meditative state required for expressing hidden or repressed thoughts and feelings. However, if a client feels the need to share, he or she can, but any disruptive behavior is discouraged. The focus of the session is on accessing and expressing inner thoughts and feelings.
Art therapy is a beneficial complementary alternative therapeutic method. Many addicts struggle with feelings and emotions that they cannot verbalize for a variety of reasons. Art allows them a way to express these internal states without having to accurately identify them or put words to them. Often, art therapy will pinpoint an issue of which a client was unaware, which then can be addressed in a future individual or group therapy session.
In addition to self-expression, art therapy can increase self-confidence and self-control. It also can offer different perspectives on a situation or a new way to look at one’s life. Additionally, it provides an active way for an addict to take back control over his or her life, emotions, and mental health.
Pax House offers art therapy for our clients as a beneficial supplemental activity to the other therapies we offer. The art therapy sessions are led by an experienced, certified counselor. They guide the clients in expressing their emotions, both repressed and those on the surface. Clients also learn ways to be able to use art therapy or aspects of it on their own, independently in situations as they arise. This provides them with a healthy coping mechanism to help them manage their addition.
Clients can take the artwork and what they learn from the therapy session and talk with their counselor about it during their individual counseling session. Art therapy is one component of an overall, holistic and comprehensive treatment program for substance abuse in which all the components fit together and support the overall goal: recovery from substance abuse with a reduced risk of relapse.