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Experts describe addiction as a complex brain disorder and a relapsing disease. Since it impacts all aspects of a person’s life, treatment usually involves a variety of approaches. Detox, medication, behavioral therapy, and group counseling are traditionally used in drug and alcohol recovery.

Treatment specialists have expanded recovery programs to include alternative therapy. Art psychotherapy is a form of holistic therapy and is used as a recovery tool to help people struggling with various kinds of addictions.

What Is Art Therapy?

Also known as creative arts therapy or expressive arts therapy, art therapy can be an effective way to treat alcohol and drug addiction as well as co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is an alternative and positive way to deal with negative emotions. Think of it as a way to heal by using art instead of words.

Art is a form of healing that has a long history, although it’s a newer approach to helping individuals create substance-free lives. For millennia, people have used art to tell stories and express their feelings. These expressions include cave paintings and graffiti. They are symbolic ways to communicate, send messages, and express emotions.

The principles are essentially the same when it comes to using art as a recovery tool in rehab. Rehab residents have an opportunity to unlock their artistic skills and use them to self-soothe when they feel the urge to use alcohol or drugs. They can sketch, draw, doodle, paint, and color to express their emotions or release guilt, anger, or shame. They can reach deep within and empower themselves, reshape their self-images, and harness positive thoughts and feelings about the world.

Types of Art Therapy

Creating an art journal, sculpting or painting emotions, stress painting, and traumatic event drawing are all examples of expressive arts. But there is more to art therapy than putting a pencil to paper or a paintbrush to canvas. The art therapist facilitating treatment may use expressive methods such as:

  • Music therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Visual art

Important focus points of art therapy include imagination, expression, and establishing a connection between the mind and body. Therapists may ask clients to respond by using pictures, sounds, movements, and experiences. The therapists carefully observe the colors, shapes, actions, tone of voice, and facial expressions their clients use to convey their feelings.

These serve as clues to the clients’ thoughts and belief systems and help therapists learn what triggers their clients’ addictive behaviors. The therapists later explain their findings to their clients to help them understand why they turn to addictive substances and activities to cope.

Art Therapy vs. Traditional Therapies

Many people struggling to kick addiction are also burdened with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or some other co-occurring disorder. As such, treatment needs to help them address both the substance abuse problem and the underlying mental health issue.

Cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies provide important tools to help change thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that encourage addiction. Clients learn positive coping skills to manage cravings and other types of substance use triggers.

While these traditional techniques play a key role in recovery, treatment specialists agree that art-based treatment can have a profound impact on psychological healing from substance abuse. It provides an opportunity for healthy self-reflection, self-awareness, and self-acceptance in a nonverbal way it helps people deal with their cravings.

How Art-Based Therapy Can Help You Become Sober

Immersing yourself in various forms of art can enhance your emotional well-being and communication skills. It evokes authenticity, unlocks pent-up emotions, reduces stress, helps you resolve conflicts better, increases positive emotions, and builds self-esteem. If you’re not careful, you may feel as if you’re developing a new type of addiction — an addiction to the joys of artistic healing.

Above all, art therapy at an inpatient or outpatient alcohol and drug rehab centers can help promote long-term sobriety. Other programs and therapies that may be beneficial include:

  • Medical-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • 12-step and non 12-step programs
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Experiential therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Individual and group counseling

Keep in mind that the use of therapy is not limited to drug and alcohol abuse treatment. In fact, it may also be beneficial for gambling, gaming, sex, pornography, and other types of addictive behaviors.

Finding an Arts Therapy Program for Addiction

Dedicated medical and mental health professionals at local addiction treatment centers can provide structured and supportive environments to beat addiction. They can help you determine which treatment programs suit you and may recommend expressive therapy.

Art therapy is a powerful way to write, draw, paint, dance, or sing your way to recovery. While it can be an effective stand-alone therapy, experts say it may also be useful as part of an extensive treatment program that includes medication and behavioral therapies.

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 

Sources – The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs – Evidence-Based Practices for Substance Use Disorder – The First Steps Series: Art Therapy for Early Substance Abuse Treatment

Experts describe addiction as a complex brain

Approaching 7 months of sobriety.

By the Grace of God.

This song makes me think of my addictions – and how they impacted my friends and family.

It’s entitled, “The Last Lost Continent” by La Dispute.

When I hear its lyrics, I think of my family members as they were trying to break me from the bonds of addiction.

Sometimes I think of myself as a sober person – looking to help my sponsees through the 12 steps.

At the end of the day though, God is in charge.

Only my Higher Power can save me and my sponsees.

I let Him fight my battles for me.

For He can destroy my demons as easily as the narrator in this song destroys his.

We are not the heroes in our recovery stories. Our Higher Power is.

We are the rescued. Saved from our addiction. Survivors of the same shipwreck.

Gaining power by the day.

Approaching 7 months of sobriety. By the Grace

You never would’ve believed it!
Just yesterday I was getting high.
Now I’m in this church dressed in white.
Flowers everywhere…it’s blowing my mind.
Funny how things can change in one night.
I used to be the Fentanyl Queen,
the pill chaser….a heroin fiend.
I admit my addiction had me down.
But I knew eventually , I’d come around.
Who would’ve believed it?
Looks like I’m about to tie the knot.
I swear last night was my last damn shot.
I mean it this time. I’m staying clean.
Just goes to show…never lose your dreams.
Me and my man are finally saying “I do.”
After marriage who knows? I may go back to school.
My family and friends came just to see me.
It’s all so surreal.  There isn’t one empty seat!
Nobody would believe it!
I’m out of pills and I don’t care.
I feel a change…like I’m walking on air.
My dad is crying.  I guess he’s afraid.
He doesn’t want to give his little girl away.
I have to go see him.  Why does he keep looking down?
I hope my man doesn’t see my wedding gown.
But halfway there my body goes numb.
I’m struck with guilt.  What have I done?
As I get closer I’m pained at the sight,
of my dad devastated, as he tells me goodbye.
Can you believe this?
My Cold feet and heart freeze my path.
I look down and see what he was looking at.
Then I realize it’s not my wedding day.
My family and friends aren’t here to celebrate.
It seems I’m here as my own guest,
to watch them lay me down to rest.
Just yesterday I was getting high.
Now I’m in this church dressed in white….
I never would’ve believed it.


Author: Tamara

You never would’ve believed it! Just yesterday I

I tell you what is  easiest when deep down it’s really not.

I find it much easier to say that they don’t have a cure for what I got.

I tell you what is easy for me that it’s all just a bad habit, that it is more difficult to explain it to those who don’t actually have it.

That my actions are no longer my own, living in the body of an addict. I’ve been lying to you all but I don’t know how when I’m quite literally bad at it.

But the lies that I tell they all come from the heart, I find the truth is more difficult to say even when it was this that is the hardest part.

If I were to tell the truth for once I wouldn’t even know where I should start.

I’m at a loss of words I can barely form my own thoughts, but in my silence I’m dying to tell someone how I have been feeling completely lost.

I have no idea where to even begin, how could I muster the courage to where I just talk, you just shut up and listen.

I want to be the one that tells you, I need you to hear it from myself, not hear it from the whispers of my enemies.

This is the only way I could ask for help and expose all my negative energies.

Who is this person I wake up as every morning and shed tears for when I fall asleep?

How does she know all the right things to say and yet somehow all the wrong secrets to keep?

This isn’t fun anymore, but it’s a ride I cannot seem to get off. I’m neither here nor there and I can’t remember exactly when I fell off.

But I’m trying … please believe me when I say, that I will find my way back to being normal even though I’m normally not okay.

I just want someone to love me, know me enough to know when I lie. I think what I really want is for someone to really miss me when I die…..

Author: Sarah

I tell you what is  easiest when

Dark Hope

a poem by davy m

I scream, but no one hears

I cry, but not with tears

The dark it has become my friend

And so to this I search an end

Around me yes there is much

But it seems just beyond my touch

Is it the ordinary things I crave?

Will I find them before my grave?

Happiness, contentment, a peace within

But life’s wedge to me always seems thin

The secret is to make your own:

So to this old dog I throw a bone

Grasp it, hold it, oh so tight

Oh Mother Nature give me sight

I want to feel, I want to see

I want my mind to be set free

Many things I can blame

Unfair rules in an unfair game

But in the end it’s up to me

To fix the problems that I see

So there it is – 

Take control

‘cos only you

Can save your soul

Dark Hope a poem by davy m I scream,

I was thinking about Nathan when it happened.

It was January 2018. I sat in a small room in my company’s office, in utter despair.

The reasons were numerous – my inability to help Nathan, a close friend who was dying of brain cancer. My growing six-figure student loan debt, my drug addiction, my four years of hard work with little to show for it financially, immense pressure from my company and live-in girlfriend. Everything.

I felt myself breaking. So I did something I had never attempted before.

I called out to God. Audibly.

“God, what can I do in 2018 to make this year better? To change my life?” I asked, with tears streaming down my face.

I heard the words.

“Laugh more. Love yourself.”

Heard them.

“Laugh more. Love yourself.”

The voice was not a voice, in the human sense of the word.

It was like hearing a clap of thunder through a storm, as those words flashed through my brain.

That’s the best I can describe it.

Flash forward to January 2019. Everything had changed.

I was drug free. Healthier and fitter. Living in a new city with a new job. My student loan debt was suddenly manageable. The pressures of work and my girlfriend were lifted.

I was starting to love myself.

Nathan passed away from Stage 4 Glioblastoma in January 2019.

The night of Nathan’s funeral, there was a massive reunion of old friends and coworkers. His passing doubled as an opportunity to reconnect with close friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Nathan’s wife took a a picture of me that night. I had no clue she took it until she posted it on Instagram a few days later.

It’s the first picture of me laughing in years.

I was thinking about Nathan when it

Thanks to Jodie G. for submitting this beautiful poem.

Shame, guilt, remorse,

Could I possibly feel any worse?

Anger, resentment, pain,

Coursing through my veins.


Prisoner of disease,

Crawling on my knees.

Please help me, I mumble,

In the dark I do stumble.


Looking for the light,

So far out of sight.

Feeding my addiction at all cost,

All hope is lost.


Spiritually bankrupt,

Feeling completely stuck.

Unable to hide

Behind my mountain of false pride.


Pain is so great,

I begin to suffocate.

Fear mounting so high,

I think I might die.


Then a hand reaches out,

To me, one so full of doubt.

Saying “why don’t you try our way?”

Just for today.


Shaken, hopeless, and beaten,

I attended the meeting.

Inside I found warmth and laughter,

A sense of being together.


One day, one step at a time,

Out of the pit I began to climb.

Trembling along the way,

Hoping for a new day.


Then the miracle happened,

The chains were broken.

Freedom and happiness at last,

No longer prisoner of the past.


Spiritual connection made,

No reason to be afraid.

The amazing gift of sobriety,

So freely given to me.


For this I will forever be,

A grateful addict in recovery.

For all who still suffer,

Just know you can recover!

Thanks to Jodie G. for submitting this

Thanks to Jodie G. for submitting this piece.

So, I woke up today (my usual cheerful self in the mornings🥴), letting a snarled “good morning” out from under my breath.

Went about my morning, had some prayer and meditation, played with my puppy, and tried wiping the sleep from my eyes.

Here’s what I know about today. Today is all I have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.

So for today, I know this: Today I walk a free woman. Not in the sense many of you may think, but in the spiritual sense.

For years I lived in a dark place, suffocating inside my own skin, silently dying inside.

What I felt: Lost. Hopeless. Angry. Resentful. Hurt. Shame. Guilt. Defensive. Misery.

What I tried to portray: Happy. Confident. Successful.

The lie lasted for far too long, until my insides spilled out onto the outside.

It was then, when I felt broken beyond repair that a HAND reached out. What I had left to bring was a smidge of willingness. The doors were wide open.

I slithered (if you will) through the doors. It has taken time for all the shattered pieces to be picked up and repaired, but inside the workshop the miracle transpired. Inside the workshop, this broken woman was lovingly repaired.

I have true friends today, and even more surprising, I can be that true friend to someone else.

I can look people in their eyes. I can admit my wrongs.

I can know that my God is there and will lovingly guide me through this life.

I can genuinely smile today.

I can laugh, and more importantly, I can cry and not feel shame for doing so.

I can FEEL. I can feel happiness, sadness, pain, frustration, anger, and so much more. I no longer need to stuff the feelings I ran from for so long.

I can accept that I am human, and in being so, I am NOT nor will I ever be perfect.

I can accept my flaws and in doing so, I can be aware of them and can ask for help with overcoming them ONE DAY AT A TIME.

I can journey through this walk called life and know that I AM NOT ALONE.

These are the miracles that have happened to me.

I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

I have a relationship with God today that I didn’t think was possible for me. I

f you or anyone you know is struggling with something, just know you are not beyond help.

You are loved. You are worthy of grace. You are worthy of happiness. You are worthy. All you have to do is reach out and ask.

Thanks to Jodie G. for submitting this

by TomCat

Shadows drift around me slowly.

Covering my wounds and scars.

As days pass by, I grow lonely.

These shadows feel like prison bars.

I cast these shadows in the darkness, leaving them there eternally.

I know they won’t forget my scars.

Why must they haunt and scorn me?

They took everything I had.

I should have acted how they told me, but back then I merely laughed.

Ignorance had damn near filled me.

Loneliness was all I had.

Then at last I saw a shimmer, perhaps peace had yet arrived.

That light constantly flickered, until it burnt out and died.

Is this the way life’s meant to be?

Nothing left to see or do.

Time flies by so rapidly.

Is it too late or far too soon?

by TomCat Shadows drift around me slowly. Covering my

Round 7:35pm Mountain Standard Time

I called an old friend.

One of my best friends from law school.

Ain’t spoken in 5-6 odd years.

We’d had a falling out.

He was on Xanax and alcohol.

When he tried to kiss my girlfriend

Right in front of me.

The next day, he refused to apologize.

We lost touch soon after.

Both of us had been law school black sheep.

The underachievers.

We had a kinship in that way.

He’d been a good friend for the most part.

And I felt compelled to reach out tonight.

So we spent 45 minutes on the phone

Catching up.

He’d just gotten back from an AA meeting

As it turned out.

And had purposefully cut off most of his old ties.

The recovering alcoholic that he was.

But today, it had just so happened

that I and another long lost friend,

who was also in AA

had reached out on the same day.

To check in and see how he was.

This is how I know.

That God exists.

He enters our thoughts.

Steers our actions.

Then steps back and says


And I thank Him for old friends.

Round 7:35pm Mountain Standard Time I called an