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Benefits of Art Therapy During Addiction Treatment

People often delay seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction because they think there is a one-size-fits-all solution. In reality, treatment can and should be individualized. In addition to behavioral therapy and counseling, treatment may involve various approaches, such as art therapy. Art therapy as part of addiction treatment uses creative expression to explore emotions, enhance self-awareness, and teach new life skills to effectively deal with substance use triggers.

Benefits of Art Therapy During Drug & Alcohol Rehab

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) defines art therapy as the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development.

In inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, art therapy is often integrated into a patient’s overall treatment plan to address the emotional and psychological aspects of addiction. In inpatient addiction treatment, patients may participate in scheduled art therapy sessions as part of their daily activities. They may work with art therapists through various creative exercises designed to promote self-expression and reflection. In outpatient addiction treatment programs, patients may attend art therapy sessions, in individual or group settings.

Over the years, through creative mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting, or writing, art therapy in drug and alcohol rehab has been proven to have several benefits. Here’s a look at seven benefits creativity offers during and after rehab.

Benefit 1: Learning Visual Communication Through Art

The first days of rehab can be a challenge. Let’s face it; communicating with a staff of professionals, all of whom are strangers, about very personal details can prove difficult. Using art therapy in addiction treatment gives individuals struggling with addiction, in a way, another voice. Exploring an alternate means of communication gives those having trouble communicating another way to work through those tough emotions.

Benefit 2: Personal Breakthroughs & Art Therapy

Embracing visual communication in art therapy in drug and alcohol rehab helps people to work through difficult experiences. Someone who shows progress in art therapy will generally begin to rediscover self-worth and build trust with therapists. Both are personal breakthroughs, or milestones, that are crucial to ongoing addiction recovery.

Benefit 3: Self ReflectionThrough Art

Addiction tends to cause a distorted reality about, not only a person’s environment or circumstances but about themselves. In art therapy, doll building is a self-reflecting exercise that is done throughout rehabilitation. As one progresses through the program, an improved sense of self will begin to appear in the doll.

Benefit 4: Building Self-Confidence Through Art

Lack of self-esteem is a common cause of addiction. How we view ourselves dictates how we conduct ourselves and live our lives. Creative projects in art therapy will, at the end of each completed assignment, provide a sense of accomplishment and progression. Also, activities such as drawing and color unlock the inner child in us all, which may lead one to distress and focus on happier times.

Benefit 5: Emotional Healing & Art

One exercise that is commonly used in art therapy during addiction treatment is making affirmation cards. Blank pieces of paper or index cards are turned into daily positive reinforcement that furthers emotional healing. Simple statements like, “I am healthy,” “I am loved,” or “I believe in myself,” are referred to as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT, through consistent exercise, positively adjusts a person’s negative emotions to positive ones.

Benefit 6: Self-Discovery Through Art

A positive life-changing experience can dramatically alter a person’s life path. For instance, some people who have lost a lot of weight may go on to become health advocates or personal trainers. Art therapy has the potential to unlock untapped talents for potential future art therapists, sobriety support, or addiction education advocates. When one experiences an event that changes their life for the better, they often want to share that experience with others.

Benefit 7: How Art Can Help With Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention is an important component of rehab. Once out of treatment, any number of triggers in social situations will appear in day-to-day scenarios. Working through these temptations via creative expression is a skill that can benefit those in recovery for the rest of their lives. The art therapy exercises that once empowered us to overcome our addictions can ultimately be used as part of a robust aftercare program to help us maintain our sobriety.

Find Addiction Treatment Facilities That Offer Art Therapy

To find rehab centers offering art therapy during addiction treatment, you can start by researching treatment facilities online and reviewing their program details. Be sure to contact them directly to verify art therapy is offered in their treatment plans. You can also schedule an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional to ask for recommendations on rehab centers that incorporate art therapy into their programs.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) has medical detox and rehab facilities across the country. Our admissions navigators are available to help you find care to suit your needs. Contact AAC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at to learn more about art therapy and other treatment options.


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