We all want to express ourselves. It’s an innate desire within all of us to want to be understood by others at some level. For most of us, it’s verbal. We communicate with our words through every day, social interaction. But for some of us who may be dealing with drug or alcohol addictions, that form of expression can seem nearly impossible. That’s where art therapy comes into the spotlight. Art therapy is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the use of arts, such as painting, drawing, pottery, sculpture, writing, and other forms of media to give people a safe, creative outlet to express their innermost emotions.

Art therapy began within traditional physical therapy sessions as a way for people who had suffered through some form of physical or mental trauma to better communicate with their therapists. These therapists soon saw the healing potential of letting patients create through art, and giving them a new outlet for their thoughts and feelings. It gave patients the opportunity to look inward and examine their problems in a way they may not have been able to previously vocalize.

Traditional group therapy involves having participants sit in a circle and share their thoughts and feelings; but, increasingly, art therapy is being seen as an effective form of group therapy. Art therapy is also commonly used with families to bring-to-light issues and troubles that otherwise might not be addressed. Art therapy has also been proven to be very effective with addicts in reducing stress. No matter what stage of the recovery process a person might be in, art as a recovery tool can be used for the rest of your life.

Today art therapy is practiced in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, wellness centers, forensic institutions, schools, crisis centers, senior communities, private practice, and other clinical and community settings. Art Therapy focuses on four key points: expression, imagination, active participation, and establishing a mind-body connection. For
the therapist, monitoring their patient’s art can be a good gauge of that individual’s mood and progress. The focus for the patient isn’t about the final product, it’s about the creation of the art itself, the ability to expose their innermost self in a safe environment. Art therapy has a proven, and extensive history of success in the rehabilitation process; and when used in a safe, nurturing, professional environment, it can be that extra boost on the path to recovery and to a happier life.

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