The use of art therapy is sometimes overlooked as an option in addiction treatment. There has long been anecdotal evidence relating creativity to substance abuse and mental illness. What if art can be used then to help resolve substance abuse and other mental health issues? The evidence shows that art therapy can do just that.
Neuroimaging studies using magnetic-resonance-imaging, or MRI, and positron-emission tomography, or PET, have advanced scientific knowledge of an association between creativity and addiction treatment, but the relationship is not well understood and remains elusive for now.
Yet art therapy has shown demonstrable benefit to addicts. The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is a national organization of professionals who specialize in using art forms to help people heal, sets standards and works to promote awareness of art therapy as an integral component of addiction recovery treatment.
The therapy has proven highly effective in treating younger adults who are seeking to overcome substance abuse issues. Therapists claim that art helps patients discover and face their personal problems, aids in developing social skills, lowers stress levels and can be used to teach self-management techniques. In other settings, art therapy has shown benefit in helping people of every age to work through relational conflicts, recover from abuse, confront emotional problems, work through pain associated with grief and trauma and more.
During art therapy individuals use self-expression in artwork to discover unspoken personal issues, which gives them an opportunity to release feelings that they may not even know are present. Trained therapists can make observations and give suggestions about nonverbal metaphors and symbols in artwork to help the patient recognize intense emotions, which may be difficult to verbalize.
Art Therapy can be a great tool in treating mental illness and substance abuse or addiction. It can teach individuals to change their focus by opening channels to experience and see the world in different ways that are not restrictive or punitive.