The Therapeutic Value of Creative Arts

Creative arts include many options when it comes to therapeutic resources for substance abusers. Therapy doesn’t always follow a straightforward approach, like that traditionally used in talk therapy. Oftentimes, art therapy can appeal to participants in unique ways.

In 2011, approximately 7.4 million people needed treatment for an alcohol abuse problem, and only 1.2 percent of them thought treatment would even help. Denial is very common among substance abusers, and sometimes a different therapeutic approach can be helpful in breaking through that denial.

What Is Creative Art Therapy?

The idea behind creative arts therapies is that alternative ways of communicating and expressing emotions may allow addicts to open up in a way that isn’t as threatening or scary as speaking directly to a therapist or support group peers. First and foremost, you don’t have to possess any artistic ability to be able to participate in art therapy. Many treatment facilities offer this technique in structured levels, and most all will use the opportunity as an educational program to show you how to create certain works of art.

Some of the most popular forms of creative arts therapy include:

  • Journaling
  • Drama
  • Psychodrama
  • Poetry
  • Art
  • Music
  • Storytelling
  • Songwriting


How Can Creative Arts Help with Healing?

Art therapy can be an important part of an addicts journey to recovery. This is a way to non-verbally communicate in their treatment method to enhance their healing process. It's a group therapeutic method that addresses the needs of the whole person by helping one express the thoughts and feelings that they may not be able to say with words. Sculptures, paintings, masks, pencil sketches – all of these works of art serve as creative mediums used to express feelings. You can do the same. Using art as an outlet for emotional burdens and inner feelings can allow you to open up another side of yourself that you may be reluctant to show others through traditional forms of communication, such as talk therapy.

Creative arts therapy can reduce stress levels and improve anxiety among those in treatment, and most addicts need relief from both stress and anxiety.

Around 20 percent of substance abusers also have an anxiety or mood disorder, the Anxiety and Depression Association of American reports. In addition, creative arts therapy can lift spirits and improve self-esteem when addicts see the artistic creations they are capable of producing. Since those in recovery often suffer from low self-esteem, this feeling of self-worth can go a long way in resisting relapse and feeling strong in one’s recovery.

Some in recovery find a real passion for certain creative arts, giving them a new hobby that they really enjoy. Since many recovering addicts deal with an abundance of time – the time that used to be spent pursuing and abusing drugs – a new pastime can be very important to filling and enjoying that time. This new hobby can be something that patients carry with them once they exit formal treatment.

Could the Creative Arts Help Me?

The core of creative arts therapy involves expressing yourself and how you feel – at that moment – via whatever artistic medium is used. It isn’t about a set structure or technique, like what a traditional art class might involve. Via collaging, sculpting, painting, sketching and abstract art pieces, a recovering addict can learn to stop viewing life in terms of black and white.

Participants often discover new things about themselves and how they view things via these forms of artistic expression.

Many addicts are struggling with more than just substance abuse. Substance abuse affects around 50 percent of those with severe mental illness, according to Helpguide, and these individuals can find great relief in art therapies. In one study, published in PsychCentral, 417 people with schizophrenia were assigned to therapy groups.

Almost half who were assigned to traditional therapy groups failed to attend the meetings, compared to only 39 percent who were assigned to art therapy groups. The art component resulted in greater participation from attendees, and as studies show, the longer one remains involved in therapy, the greater the chances of sustained recovery.

A Pen and Paper
Drama and Psychodrama

Journaling is a wonderful way to unleash pent-up emotions at the end of a long day, and it’s a fantastic practice to carry with you throughout recovery. The therapeutic nature of writing your feelings on a piece of paper often leads to mental resolution. Journaling can often bring similar results to talk therapy sessions. After you’ve written your thoughts out, you may feel as though you’ve just vented to a friend or therapist.

Some people will communicate more effectively with their counselors through writing at first, too. Allowing your therapist to read your journal entries or reading them aloud to peers during group meetings can be a therapeutic experience. If a more soulful expression suits you better, you can try expressing your thoughts and feelings via poems.

Storytelling can be another powerful medium of expression. Somewhat like role-playing, a recovering addict can put himself in the shoes of a character and share his story with others. Through this, the storyteller gains the confidence to talk about his life and struggles.

Combining writing with music, songwriting can be a powerful way to express deep-seated emotions. Anger and resentment are often left over from active addiction, sometimes stemming from the childhood years. Many addicts are products of unhealthy upbringings, often in homes where substance abuse was present. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 40 to 60 percent of addiction is due to genetic predisposition. Add environmental influence into the equation, and the likelihood of substance dependence increases.

You don’t have to be able to read or play music or sing well to write songs. Rhyming isn’t a necessary component either. Many find, however, that putting what they are feeling into words with a soothing rhythm can bring about healing.

Music therapy – listening to music – may even be a practical addition to detox. One study showed that music being played for a half-hour produced a 50 percent decrease in pain levels among 42 percent of hospital patients, compared to just eight percent in a control group, the Pacific Standard Magazine reports.

While drama is more about acting out a part, psychodrama involves acting out portions of your own life. This may be something as simple as replaying the events that led you to get help, or it might include going back to your childhood and role-playing scenarios between yourself and your parents with a counselor’s assistance.

Sometimes this type of acting therapy can lead to serious breakthroughs in treatment for individuals with repressed memories or negative feelings toward loved ones. In addition, drama-based therapies can allow participants to be more open about their feelings. Over time, participants may feel more comfortable talking about their feelings after expressing them via this art form.

Our Holistic Treatment Experience

Creative art therapies can help addicts get in touch with what is really bothering them, why they ended up where they are in life, and what they want to do about it. Fixing these issues isn’t as simple as painting a picture or modeling with clay. It’s going to take work on a deeper level, and we know all about that here. That’s why we offer a holistic treatment experience that is geared toward rehabilitating the whole person, not just their addiction.

Acupuncture, meditation, mindfulness practices, diet and exercise are all healthy and positive components of holistic wellness. Comparisons of these methods against traditional treatment avenues are impressive. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence notes one year post-treatment, 17 percent of recovering addicts who followed a traditional program had relapsed, 14 percent of 12-Step followers had, and only around nine percent of those who participated in a mindfulness-based treatment program had returned to substance abuse.

holistic treatment

When you walk through the doors of our facility on our stately grounds here in Tennessee, you’ll feel at home.

Only 2.5 million of the 23.1 million people who needed treatment for an addiction in 2012 received it, the NIDA reports. We are motivated to change the face of addiction treatment, and it starts with regular people like yourself who have fallen and need help getting back up.

Creative arts therapies aren’t meant to replace the structured therapies we encourage here, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, skills groups and mindfulness. Rather, the creative arts can be viewed as a wonderful supplement and inviting retreat from the traditional treatment you’ll take part in each day. This kind of comprehensive, individualized care is what we’re all about at The Oaks at La Paloma. Call us today to learn more.