Art Therapy Can Enhance Addiction Recovery


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The path towards long-term sobriety is often one of personal discovery, healing and inner reflection. In/outpatient care facilities, group therapy and personal counselling are valuable for individuals recovering from addiction.

In recent years, addiction treatment specialists have increasingly noted the positive role supplemental therapies play in long-term sobriety. Hobbies can help people heal, find purpose and develop healthy coping mechanisms. While the majority of healthy hobbies will have a positive impact on recovery, art and musical therapy in particular have been shown to help facilitate long-term sobriety. According to the National Institutes of Health, music and art-based hobbies can help individuals develop an outlet for communication, increase self-confidence and decrease stress.


The recovery process can be filled with a number of intense feelings such as guilt, shame, sadness and even loss. It can be difficult to effectively communicate all these emotions to another person. Unlike talk-based therapy, art and music therapy encourages self-expression without having to form words to describe feelings. As a result, communicating through music and art can provide a healthy outlet for a person’s emotions when words would otherwise be impossible.

Art-based therapy can also help people who are feeling overwhelmed by the recovery process, work, or family. If art and music therapy is taking place in a class setting, it can be a way for individuals to communicate with others and even develop friendships. Specific art/music therapy classes focus first and foremost on inner reflection and self-expression. While some artistic techniques will be taught, skills development is not the primary focus. This is good news for people who do not consider themselves an artist or musician.


A common trait among individuals who experience addiction is low self-esteem and self-confidence. Generally, those who suffer from addiction have a below-average perception of their value and self-worth. When a person does not believe they have value, they may be more likely to participate in negative behaviours. He/she may believe they do not have the necessary skills to cope with difficult situations or meet societal expectations for success.

Building up self-esteem is a cornerstone of addiction recovery. Art and musical therapy can show individuals that they can master a task and become successful. The Poughkeepsie Journal notes that this sense of accomplishment can lead people to make positive life decisions.

Taking part in these therapies can also help people feel productive and can even replace the void left by addictive behaviours. Finding a purpose has long been considered a precursor for sustained happiness. Art and musical therapy can help individuals discover their purpose in life and develop the self-confidence necessary to see this purpose fulfilled.

Stress Reduction

Chronic stress has been associated with both addiction formation, as well as addiction relapse. Not only can stress be a relapse trigger in and of itself, stress can also make people more susceptible to other addiction triggers and has thus been deemed a “stage setter” for relapse.

Learning to reduce and cope with even acute stress is important for long-term sobriety. That means finding helpful ways to deal with aspects of your life where you’re struggling. For example, if work is causing you distress, you might try changing up your routine and improving your diet to get you through the day, and then, use art and music therapy to facilitate relaxation in the evenings.

In addition, art and music can increase dopamine production, which makes people feel happier. The happier a person feels, the less susceptible they are to the adverse effects of stress. When stress is reduced and managed effectively, the more likely a person will be able to find new happiness in their addiction-free lifestyle.

One way to intensify art therapy’s positive effects is by setting aside a home office or art studio where you can work, free of distractions, with as much natural light as possible. If your home requires some renovations to get you the space you need, good news: such renovations also boost your home’s sale value, so it’s a win-win!

Art and music therapy can be an immensely positive addition to a person’s overall treatment plan. The communication skills, self-confidence and stress management techniques gained during therapy can set you on the path of healing and sobriety.

by: Carrie Spencer of TheSpencersAdventures.net

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