Art Therapy and Alcohol Addiction: How Does It Work?

November 25, 2022

Undoubtedly, addiction can cloud an individual’s identity. During treatment and throughout recovery, individuals working to heal from the effects of substance use must have knowledge of activities that aid in self-expression. 

Art therapy is more than doodling or painting pictures. Through art therapy, you or your loved one can learn to express themselves in ways they never thought they could. With endless forms of art to be discovered, this unique form of therapy can be of interest to everyone. 

What Is Art Therapy?

With the assistance of a trained professional art therapist, art therapy sessions can help individuals communicate their feelings, struggles, and past experiences in a healthy way. Art therapy is a valuable therapeutic technique that is known to aid in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, schizophrenia, and more.

When recovering from mental illness, many people can find it uncomfortable, or even near impossible, to verbalize their distressing thoughts and emotions. Art therapy is a creative outlet that lets your art do the talking for you. After creating a piece of art, an art therapist may ask you to:

  • Identify your emotions and feelings that were represented during the process
  • Use the art piece to strengthen your self-confidence
  • Acknowledge the creative process as a reliable and healthy coping skill

Art Therapy for Alcohol Addiction Treatment

For the treatment of alcohol addiction, art therapy can explore the underlying causes and related mental health issues that may also be affecting you. Overall, this form of therapy is meant for you and your therapist to identify the root causes of your addiction and how to overcome them.

In art therapy, you may be asked to use art to convey your current emotions and even past experiences. By creating a piece of art about a certain event or situation, known as “incident drawing,” you can identify the experience’s impact on your mental health and assess how the experience contributes to your past substance use. 

Understanding your past and present emotions are critical in art therapy. By doing so, you can learn how to properly identify and communicate your inner feelings. Art therapy ultimately aims to help motivate change and acceptance in those who are hesitant toward therapy and/or recovery. Not only can art therapy benefit those in recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs), but it can also help many individuals who are struggling with co-occurring mental health conditions that coincide with substance use.

How Art Affects Mental Health

Studies have proven that art can help alleviate the symptoms of troubling mental illnesses. Art therapy utilizes various art forms to help create healthy coping skills for patients. Creative art therapy is considered a low-risk and high-benefit intervention for those with severe mental illnesses, including severe depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

When incorporating art therapy into the treatment of those with severe mental illness, patients can see minimized symptoms and higher functioning in their daily lives. However, art therapy comes in many forms. Not every art therapist or session is identical, and treatment should be uniquely tailored to a client’s needs and recovery goals.

It has been proven that mental illness and substance abuse can damage the brain. However, art therapy can help reignite positive brain activity and function. Creativity, such as art therapy, can positively target the hippocampus, which is responsible for cognitive functions such as memory and learning. Functions that may have been damaged due to untreated substance abuse or mental illness may significantly benefit from art therapy’s neurological effect.

What to Expect During Art Therapy

As we detailed earlier, art therapy can be different for everyone, as art can be practiced in many areas of interest. From guided art sessions to independent creative time, art therapy can alter for each individual’s exact needs. Some art practices that may be utilized in art therapy include: 

  • Pastel and oil painting
  • Sketching or drawing
  • Collage making
  • Guided imagery
  • Music
  • Dancing and choreography
  • Poetry
  • Journaling
  • Photography
  • Sculpting
  • Art appreciation

After creating or viewing an artwork, the art therapist may use several techniques to help you express your emotions. Not only is art therapy beneficial for creating verbal communication of emotions, but it is also good for stress relief and as a coping mechanism when you are feeling anxious, stressed, and/or depressed. By training yourself to use healthy coping skills, you can avoid unhealthy ones such as alcohol abuse, negative thinking, or destructive behaviors.

With endless options, anyone can find their passion for helping them express themselves. Due to its effectiveness, art therapy can be found at most addiction rehabilitation centers. By channeling positive emotions through art, this form of therapy is considered a low-risk treatment and a practical introduction to treatment for those who are hesitant to recover.

Find the help you or your loved one needs at Buena Vista Recovery to overcome alcohol addiction. Through art therapy and many other therapeutic treatments, patients can begin their journey to recovery and wellness. From inpatient treatments to outpatient services, Buena Vista has the right recovery program for anyone. At Buena Vista, you can count on professional staff with the best credentials needed to bring high-quality care. 

Taking the first step is always the most challenging regarding addiction recovery. Knowing that you have taken that step with a highly rated, medically managed detox facility ensures that the first step is taken with complete confidence. With programs including group therapy, individual counseling, and more, Buena Vista can assure you that your recovery is in the right hands. Discover how Buena Vista Recovery can help you or your loved one by calling (480) 741-9414.