Creative Art Therapy

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Creative Art Therapy Addiction Treatment

Creative art therapy is a kind of experiential therapy that involves non-verbal, imaginative, and creative exercises.

It includes a range of activities, such as drawing emotions, creating an art journal, and creating sculptures. Art therapy can help you express yourself, motivate you to change, and increase your self-confidence.

Research has found art therapy to be an effective treatment for many different mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, low mood, distress, inability to cope, and low self-esteem. It can be a powerful tool for overcoming a substance use disorder and any co-occurring disorders that may underlie it.

Creative Art Therapy Overview

Types of Art Therapy

Creative art therapy can involve a range of materials, tasks, and activities.

It can consist of:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Collaging
  • Coloring
  • Sculpture

Tasks can be directive or nondirective. A directive task is when the creative art therapist provides a specific goal or outcome for a task. This could be drawing a specific emotion or painting something they associate with a particular word.

A nondirective task involves giving an individual certain materials and allowing them total creative freedom in using them. They may produce an outcome or explore the processes of making and creating.

Both activities develop self-expression, honest communication, and a sense of mastery and self-worth – skills that are the foundation of recovery from drug use and addiction.

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Creative Art Therapy and Overcoming Denial

Early recovery can be an emotionally confusing time.

In the early stages of treatment, it can be hard or even impossible to discuss addiction verbally. You may not be consciously aware of your disorder and its damaging effects.

Art provides an alternative way of communicating experiences of addiction and the destruction and fear that may surround it.

Art therapy may involve ‘incident drawings’ where substance users draw pictures to express feelings and experiences. Themes associated with addiction may be present in the artwork even when a person cannot communicate them verbally.

Creative art therapists can use incident drawings later in the treatment process to explore other feelings that chemical dependence may have masked.

Art-Making and Feelings of Shame

Accepting your alcohol or drug addiction is a fundamental part of the recovery process.

It is part of the first step in the 12-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous and integral to many other treatment approaches.

Healing involves realizing that your addiction is neither your fault nor your choice. Addiction is out of your control and not something to be ashamed of, and by letting go of guilt and shame, you can develop self-worth, self-care, and self-love.

Shame is a complex emotion and can be hard to identify, especially early in treatment. However, if it is not adequately addressed, it can disrupt the entire treatment process. It can reappear as anger, confusion, denial, and silence as you try to work through issues surrounding your addiction.

Creative art therapy helps identify and reduce feelings of shame in several ways. These include:

Developing a Language for Your Inner Self

Art can be a language for your thoughts and feelings. You can often express yourself through art when you are not able to with words. You may not be able to communicate a feeling of shame verbally, but you might convey it through your artwork.

Expressing Feelings Safely

When you first start addiction treatment, feelings that you have avoided or denied for many years may come to the surface. These are often feelings of extreme shame, anguish, or rage.

Substance users typically deal with aggressive and violent emotions through compulsive behaviors like drug abuse. Creative art-making provides an alternative channel of release. It can transform raw and unprocessed feelings into pieces of artwork or creative processes which you can discuss and work through with a therapist.

Exploring Freedom and Choice

Addiction takes away your ability to choose and imposes actions and behaviors on you which are out of your control.

Art-making gives you a choice. You have control over how to use your materials and what the outcome will be. It provides a sense of mastery and creative freedom that is opposite to the experience of addiction.

Exploring freedom and control through art can emphasize the compulsive nature of addiction. It can help you understand that addiction is not something you have chosen or should be ashamed of. This understanding is fundamental to developing a sense of self-worth.

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Creative Art Therapy and the 12-Step Method

Treatment programs often use creative art therapy in combination with the 12-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The 12-step method is a world-renowned program of spiritual development for overcoming addiction and maintaining abstinence.

The 12-steps involve recognizing that you are powerless over your addiction, making amends for your mistakes, and learning to live in the world without being burdened by your past.

Creative art therapy can be a powerful tool in facilitating the first step – accepting addiction as a disease that you do not control. Creative expression can help us recognize and communicate aspects of our addiction that we may find hard to express verbally.

Art therapy can also be a source of inspiration for recovery and a life without substance abuse. Creating art is a joyful experience that instills pride and self-esteem. It can produce a positive image of recovery that motivates you to continue working through the 12-steps.

A Different Kind of Treatment

Recovery from addiction is not an easy process.

The causes of addiction are often deep-rooted and complicated and require energy and focus to overcome them.

Individual and group focus groups require concentration and emotional vulnerability. While deeply healing, they can be exhausting, and a full day’s verbal therapy can sometimes be too much to handle. Art therapy is a break from the normal treatment. It can be a time to relax, have fun, and release stress while helping you to heal.

Treatment programs may use art therapy in the afternoon or evening to process the ideas and events of the day. Research suggests that experiential therapies, such as creative art therapy, music therapy, and equine therapy, result in greater satisfaction with addiction treatment programs.

A Combination of Treatment Approaches

Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that the most effective treatment programs offer a combination of treatment approaches to cater to an individual’s multiple needs.

Programs should offer creative therapies alongside other treatment options to provide a holistic healing experience.

At Cirque Lodge, we offer a range of evidence-based behavioral therapies, experiential therapies, and support groups to provide the best treatment for you. The 12-steps are the foundation of our program and part of all our therapeutic approaches. We identify and treat co-occurring disorders alongside your addiction and include your family in the treatment experience.

Cirque Lodge offers an enriching rehabilitation experience where you can grow as a person, develop spiritually, and discover new passions in life.

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Cirque Lodge offers a combination of experiential, behavioral, and group therapies to provide a holistic and enriching treatment experience.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, please contact us today. We can help.