Individual and Social Level Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Addiction to drugs and alcohol doesn’t just happen because a person really wanted that particular addictive substance. Often the substance is one way to cover up one or more psychological problems or past trauma.

Therefore, substance abuse recovery involves so much more than just the clearance of alcohol or drugs from the system.

Successfully overcoming the condition of addiction needs an understanding of how the addiction started, what are the motivating factors for recovery, and any potential reasons to hinder the healing process.

Art therapy can play a role here. Human minds have a tendency to imagine and wander with free associations when we start to create, and often we can even decipher the symbolism in each creation until we come back to it.

Art therapy serves as a vehicle for the psychological component of recovery by providing an emotional outlet and a means of self-expression. Feelings or experiences that are too shameful or painful to talk about can be expressed through paint, clay, ink or other media.

When combined with other recovery services, such as detox, individual therapy, support groups, and family counseling, art therapy can be a powerful way to promote the healing process.

According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), art therapy is a mental health modality that can help the individual in a variety of important ways:

  • By resolving emotional conflicts
  • By building self-esteem
  • By encouraging self-awareness
  • By reducing anxiety
  • By developing social skills

A key objective for art therapy is to facilitate he patient to return to healthy functioning. This could be at different levels: emotional, cognitive or social, emotional.

The therapy may be especially beneficial in situation where the individuals going through the treatment had experienced a traumatic episode, such as childhood abuse, sexual assault, violence, or a natural disaster.

The visual media of art gives an opportunity to explore and release the tensions and fears around memories and experiences that are too powerful to confront directly. Creative activity makes room for the individual to regain a sense of control. In this sense, art can play the part of a coping mechanism to handle the challenges that come with the rehabilitation process.

At a personal level, art therapy can be a process that introduces the pleasures of creative activity and accomplishment.

On a social level, art sessions can act as a type of group therapy by forming bonds among the participants. As a group of individuals collaborate on guided projects, they can learn and appreciate new ways of coping, share their experiences with therapy, and practice the skills of teamwork.

How Art Therapy Is Used As An Effective Addiction Treatment Method

What is Art Therapy?

 Art therapy combines the creative methods and psychotherapy. Through a guided process, it facilitates self-exploration and understanding. Art therapy uses color, imagery and shape as part of this imaginative therapeutic process to express feelings and thoughts that might be difficult to articulate.

How is Art Therapy Used in Addiction Treatment?

Art therapy has been shown to be a very effective method in the addiction and substance abuse recovery process.

A number of drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation facilities now offer individual and group therapy sessions by using this creative method. With the help of trained mental health professionals and addiction specialists, a range of therapies can be deployed to help residents in their healing journey.

How Art Therapy Helps Residents in Rehab Centres

Art therapy plays an important part in treating drug and alcohol addiction treatment in many rehab facilities.

Extensive research validates its capacity to teach patients calming techniques, improve regulation of moods, increase positive self-image through self-expression, and promote healthy self-reflection.

By participating in art therapy, residents are centered and able to function more easily. It’s a healthy and uplifting way to stay focused on recovery, as well as feel some peace of mind.

Combining the practice of art with an intervention with a qualified art therapist or art psychotherapist is much more effective in reaching the desired objectives and outcomes.

One focuses on the psychological aspects, the relationship, and the art object and the other may have more focus on the art outcomes. Experienced therapists play a significant role by not only knowing the technique but also just what to say and do to help someone feel the real benefits that the therapy can provide.

How Rehab Patients Can Continue With Art Therapy Post-Rehab

The key function of art therapy is to replace negative coping techniques with positive ones.

After a resident of a rehab centre is discharged and goes home, they should be encouraged to continue practicing the art techniques and integrate them into their daily routine and aftercare plan.

This is a supportive alternate option for those who were consuming alcohol or using drugs at a certain time of day, such as after work or on the weekends. They can also schedule time at night to create art as a way to calm themselves down or take an art class during the weekends.



Drawing and painting are very good practices for many reasons. The materials which are utilized in creating this art projects can be easily gotten. The vision of the artist is under the full control of the artist, and this mode of artistic process, is very beneficial for the mental health of the individual. For those who need a new hobby, drawing and painting is a beneficial one to take on.

Getting the materials which you need to commence painting and drawing are very easy to access. One of the pleasant things about painting and drawing as a hobby is, there is total liberty and control when it comes to what the artist wants to take on. Most artists describe the process of drawing and painting as one which is fully free because they have a say over how the project would run.

Mental health experts and counsellors have advised that in order for an individual to remain balanced, taking on an artistic hobby could come in handy. Due to the fact that the artist is in full control of what their artistic thought pattern can process, they have the freedom of expressing themselves how they desire, and also determine the length of the project.

Such practices are beneficial for having a sound cognitive behavioural thought and analytic mind. There is also a calm effect which it has on the artist as well. When you look about how easy you can access materials which you would use for drawing and painting, you would come to terms with the fact that there are amazing mental health benefits which comes with this act.

There is a large amount of benefits when it comes to drawing and painting, as regards the creative process. Mental health professionals have researched and stated that, the creative pattern for any form of art, has a healing and expanding effect on the brain.

Due to the freedom and the control which this exerts, the creative pattern allows the brain pathways to remain unlocked, thereby giving room for enhanced creativity. Hence, this creative process gives the individual a sound thought pattern which gives them a renewed perspective about life.


For an addict in search of a treatment plan and therapy, drawing and painting is known to be a reliable addiction therapy. Drawing and painting involves an expression of ideas and it is a way of communicating thoughts and information without the use of words.

It is a useful therapy tool particularly when the addicts find it difficult to express themselves their feelings and problems verbally to their therapist.

In a way, it helps them convey their burdens even better than words.

Drawing and painting helps the therapist to get a visual representation of the addict’s mental issues and better help them in their task of providing treatment. Over time, this form of therapy have been used along with other normal addiction treatment in the treatment of many mental disorders. It has also been found effective in the treatment of substance abuse disorder and addiction.
In the process of drawing and painting as a therapy, addicts may be asked to reproduce paintings of famous people their artwork and also graphically express their current state of emotion. Also, they may be asked to use drawing instrument and materials they are not normally used to draw and by doing so, it helps them give in to some of the behaviors that comes with addiction.
Another way this form of therapy is used is by asking addicts to use their non-dominant hand to draw and this helps them to change their view about life and not to stick to the one the act of addiction has brought their way.

Also, when addicts express their feelings through drawing and painting, they are able to overcome fear and the negative cravings that plagues them. They learn to channel this fears into something positive capable of facilitating their recovery from addiction.
An art therapist that is trained and experienced has the ability to interpret and analyze the withdrawn feelings and emotions that is shown through the addict’s artwork. This helps to direct the therapist on the right addiction treatment to give to the addict.
It is important to note that using drawing and painting as a therapy does not require addicts to be talented or gifted. Even if they do not have a knack for art, they are still able to benefit from the therapy.

They are not assessed on how excellent their artwork is, but the main aim is to apply the knowledge gotten from this form of art in their addiction treatment.