Art Therapy Addiction Treatment

Overcoming illnesses such as behavioural disorders, addiction and mental health conditions usually require therapy. But you might not realise that there are many different types of therapy. Art therapy is one such therapy, becoming a popular approach in the treatment of a variety of health conditions. If you want to know art therapy in a little more depth, we can help you.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses art to help the treated person express him or herself and understand their emotions better. It is an expressive therapy that makes use of various art approaches and is ideal for those who find it difficult to verbalise the points they want to make.

Often referred to as visual art therapy, this technique involves the use of different mediums to help the individual express him/herself through a piece of art that he/she has created. The person might use chalk, paint, clay, or pencils to help them think about their feelings and to understand what these might mean.

If art therapy is being used in your therapy, it can help you to become more aware of your emotions and help to resolve negative thoughts and behaviours. It can be used in either a group setting or in a one-to-one setting with a therapist who will talk with you while you work. This helps get you to the root of your problems.

The wonderful thing about art therapy is the fact that you do not have to have a talent for drawing or sculpting. The idea is that you are using this medium to help you communicate and express yourself. You may even find a love of art that you never knew existed, which is then something that you can take with you when you return to normal everyday life after treatment.

How Does Art Therapy Work?

As touched on above, art therapy works by providing you with a way of expressing yourself without you actually having to say or try to explain what you mean. By using your art to communicate with your therapist, you can avoid talking directly about the issues that you may have difficulty verbalising.

Having something to focus on while your therapist asks questions can help you to become more open and honest. The environment is relaxed and therapeutic and, most importantly of all, non-confrontational. Many people feel uncomfortable talking with a counsellor or therapist directly, at least in the beginning. Art therapy will help you and your therapist to form a trusting relationship while you get busy creating a piece of art through which you can hopefully express yourself.

Therapists trained to use art therapy know how to draw out the hidden meanings found in your artwork. They will work with you to get to the root of your problems by looking for underlying messages in your creations. It is a very useful therapy technique for individuals of all ages and in the treatment of a range of emotional, mental health, and behavioural problems.

Whether you have one-to-one sessions or group sessions will depend on your individual requirements. However, regardless of the type of session in which you partake, you can expect it to last between one and one-and-a-half hours. Sessions tend to take place regularly. If you are in an outpatient programme, these sessions might take place every week or every couple of weeks. As part of an inpatient programme though, you may have more sessions on a weekly basis, depending on the facility in which you are receiving your treatment.

Many people worry that they are not creative enough to partake in art therapy, but the therapist will help guide you along and push you to create something. In most cases, you will have a discussion at the beginning of the session about what you might like to create and why. During the subsequent session, you and the therapist will talk while you work so that the therapist can try to uncover what your artwork might mean. Your therapist will attempt to guide the session to help you think about what you are creating and the way in which it is connected to your emotions and feelings.

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Understanding Art Therapy

Not everyone will respond in the same way to art therapy though. It works great for some individuals while it may not be so beneficial for some others. Nevertheless, the remarkable thing about art therapy is that it can be used as part of the treatment for so many different conditions. It is especially ideal for those who might have struggled with more traditional talking therapies like CBT in the past.

Since mental health issues can be buried quite deep within the brain, art therapy is often as a means of digging these underlying issues out. It is commonly utilised in treating individuals who have disorders such as schizophrenia. Nonetheless, it is also used to help those with learning difficulties who might otherwise find it hard to communicate or express themselves adequately.

Art therapy is essentially a healing tool and, as mentioned is used to help people overcome a whole range of issues. So whether you are struggling with a physical, mental, or emotional disorder, you might find art therapy to be not only helpful but rather calming as well. But as we alluded to in the above passages, this therapy type is not about your skill as an artist; it is about trying to express your views in a healthy way. Many individuals find it helps to relax them, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. As such, it is extremely helpful in improving overall wellbeing.

The main benefit of art therapy for most of those partaking is that it can be used when emotions and feelings become overwhelming. The use of art materials helps you to relax and explore the painful memories that may have contributed to your current situation. Without having to use words, you can express the pain and emotional trauma you are dealing with. It can also give you a greater insight into your own internal conflicts.

What Abuse/Addictions Is Art Therapy Used to Treat?

  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Shopping Addiction
  • Food Addiction
  • Prescription Drug Addiction

How Does Art Therapy Help in Addiction Recovery?

The causes of addiction are often buried deep within the subconscious mind. Some people have spent many years suppressing their feelings and emotions and have tried to block out painful memories by self-medicating with harmful substances. Others deal with these issues by engaging in repetitive behaviours that are having a negative impact on their ability to go about their daily lives.

Talking about these issues can be extremely painful for some while others find the idea of counselling and other talking therapies uncomfortable. In these circumstances, art therapy is a great alternative.

Individuals of any age can be helped with this type of therapy. It provides relief from overwhelming emotions and, as a therapeutic exercise, can help induce relaxation and a sense of wellbeing. In a non-judgemental and supportive environment, it is easier to explore your feelings and say what you want to say through the medium of art.

In many rehab clinics, art therapy is used in conjunction with traditional talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and individual counselling. Art therapy provides a medium through which you can focus on your thoughts and beliefs. You may find it easier to understand and cope with your negative thought processes using art as an outlet.

When used within an addiction treatment programme, art therapy can help to increase your motivation to change. It may also help to reduce any denial you may be practising. Furthermore, because it can be used in a residential programme as a way to give you a break from direct and more intensive counselling, it is a therapeutic exercise that you are likely to enjoy.

Art Therapy Techniques

Art therapy can take countless forms. There are just so many ways that you can use the various art mediums to explore your feelings and emotions and to express yourself. Below are just a few examples:

  • Phototherapy – Some people find the use of photography to be a therapeutic way of exploring internal issues. Personal photographs are often used to create a storybook of your life and to help you bring long-buried memories to the surface.
  • Active Imagination – With an active imagination, you will use your artwork as a beginning point from which you can allow your mind to roam. These free associations can help to uncover hidden emotions and memories that may be at the heart of your problems.
  • Gestalt Methods – Gestalt methods are used to help lead you into a deeper conversation with your therapist via the artwork you have created. You may use your artwork to explain what you are thinking or use it to lead to a more in-depth conversation.
  • Collage – Collage techniques can be useful for those who find it difficult to verbalise what they want to say but who also do not like the idea of creating a piece of work in case they are judged on it. With collage, various photographs, magazines, and digital images can be gathered and then cut and pasted to create a piece of work.
  • Sculpting – Sculpting with a piece of clay or another material that can be plied into the desired shape may help you to bring your thoughts and emotions to life.
  • Painting – The use of paints to express yourself allows a huge sense of freedom to just draw whatever comes to mind. With prompts from your therapist, you will be able to get started and, if relaxed, you should be able to let your workflow from your mind.

How Art Therapy Differs from Other Psychotherapies?

With art therapy, you will have a means of expressing yourself without actually using words. Unlike traditional talking therapies, the use of art therapy allows you to concentrate on another task while your therapist asks questions about what you are doing.

It is your therapist’s job to decipher your meanings and he or she will have been fully trained in doing this. As the environment is relaxing and stimulating, you might find it easier to talk about the issues that are bothering you.

Art therapy is a fantastic tool that promotes self-expression. It allows those who find it difficult to express themselves verbally to get their points across. It is also an ideal tool for use in those who do not have the vocabulary to say what they want to say, such as young children or those with learning difficulties.

Co-Occurring Mental Disorders Art Therapy Treats Include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Unresolved Trauma
  • Social Anxiety

Other Supplemental Therapies

  • Cognitive Behavioural Disorder
  • Dialectical Behaviour Disorder
  • Music Therapy
  • Fitness Therapy
  • Meditation
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Psychotherapy
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