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Art and music therapy has healing effect in addiction recovery

Substance addiction is a merciless foe, one which robs its victims of their dignity, their potential, and, in many ways, their sense of identity. Reconnecting with this lost sense of self is one of the primary goals of art and music therapy.

In this post, we’ll explore how fostering one’s creative talents can make all the difference in the world to how a recovery program turns out. Please consult a healthcare professional or licensed substance abuse counselor before beginning any treatment program.

 

Art Saved His Life

Twenty-seven-year-old Brian Menish was still a teenager on the night of the crash. The Virginia youth had just left a party, where he had been drinking heavily. He lost control of his motorcycle going around a curve and hit the guardrail, flying off his bike and striking an obstacle headfirst.

After several surgeries, Brian started his long, slow journey to recovery. His mother suggested that he revisit his interest in art, a subject he pursued in high school. For Brian, this began a period of sobriety that has lasted more than three years. He recently  completed a grueling athletic event in which he bicycled for 26 miles then ran a 10K race, despite limited use of his right hand.

As for his artwork, two of his paintings caught the eyes of a group of professional artists. They now hang in public galleries. In an interview with CNN, Brian credits art with saving his life.

Brian’s inspirational story puts a human face on the research showing that art and music therapy can play a valuable role in helping attics to enjoy long-term recovery. The studies conducted thus far reveal these promising insights:

  • Simply listening to music can help defuse the stress reaction that, for many people, is a trigger to use drugs or alcohol.
  • The multisensory approach used by art therapists engages patients more completely than treatments, which rely on verbal communication alone, according to the American Art Therapy Association.
  • Many cognitive behavioral therapists are incorporating various forms of art therapy into their treatment programs.

 

Art therapy provides a positive alternative to maladaptive forms of expression such as arguing or fighting. Whether it’s watercolour, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.

Examples from history tout the benefits of art therapy. For instance, Winston Churchill, who led Great Britain during World War II, was an avid painter who used his brush and canvas to drive away his depression. His example reinforces the claim that artistic expression promotes calm insight and mental clarity.

Here’s how to make art part of your own efforts to achieve lasting sobriety:

  •  Begin by choosing your medium, which is art speak for the type of materials you prefer to use. Your choices include pencils, charcoal, pen and ink, and, of course, paints. You can also combine two or more of these forms to create mixed-media presentations.
  • Develop your techniques by attending art classes, watching online videos, or simply reading instruction materials and following the directions.
  • Acquaint yourself with your community’s art scene by visiting galleries, attending exhibits, or joining a local group.

 

The benefits of exploring your creative potential go far beyond the ability to create works of beauty. They include the potential to remake yourself into a stronger, wiser, more capable person. So choose your medium and give it all you’ve got.