When a person decides to get professional help for an addiction, he has several options for what kind of treatment he can receive. Many addiction treatment centers offer their patients different kinds of therapy, such as individual, group, skills-focused, relapse prevention, and art therapy. These forms of therapy are often used in combination to provide the person with multiple venues of expression and healing.

Types of Art Therapy

In art therapy, a person uses his creativity and imagination to make art that expresses himself in a healthy and productive way. The goal of art therapy is for the person to expand his forms of communication in order to better convey his experiences. The kinds of art normally used in art therapy include:

  • painting
  • sculpting
  • dancing
  • drawing
  • acting
  • music
  • poetry

SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy guide describes art therapy as a type of expressive group therapy that can help people express their thoughts and feelings that they may not be able to say with words. This therapy is especially helpful for people who have underlying psychological issues related to their addiction, such as a history of abuse. Since creating art is often a nonverbal process, and expands the ways a person can convey ideas and emotions, art therapy provides an opportunity to explore, understand, and resolve issues in a person’s life that he may not feel comfortable talking about in a regular conversation.

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.

As Margarita Tartakovsky explains, art therapy uses various art forms to get patients “to talk about their images in therapy because this helps in discovering insight and meaning.” Tartakovsky also lists the three techniques that art therapy commonly uses. These include:

  • Gestalt methods: in this technique, the therapist helps the person work out his current feelings and experiences. The artwork might be used as an introduction into a deeper conversation, or as a tool for the person to explain his thoughts by having him describe the artwork from the artwork’s point of view.
  • Active imagination: using the artwork as a starting point, the person lets his mind roam in spontaneous free associations, which open the door to introspection and discussion about his feelings.
  • “Third-hand” approach: this technique incorporates help from the therapist. The person is still in control of the overall artistic vision, but the therapist assists with the production of the art.

Art therapy is useful to people undergoing addiction treatment because it provides them with ways to understand and cope with their addiction. Both art therapy and traditional therapy focus on helping a person practice introspection and healthy coping skills, but art therapy can be a great way for a person to explore aspects of his life that he might not be able to explain in a conversational way. When done in a group setting, art therapy can also help people going through addiction treatment grow closer and better understand each other’s experiences and feelings.

Where to Find More Information about Art Therapy and Addiction Treatment

Art therapy can be a great way for a person to work through the experiences, emotions, and issues that have led to and worsened his addiction. It offers him a safe place to communicate ideas and feelings without using standard conversational methods, and it can therefore be a refreshing change for someone who is looking for something different than standard talk-focused therapy. If you or a loved one has been considering art therapy as part of an addiction treatment plan, call us right now. Our toll-free helpline is open 24 hours a day, and our admissions coordinators are available to answer your questions about how art therapy can complement addiction treatment. Addiction recovery comes in many forms, and art therapy might be the one that works best for you. Call us today to find out more.