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How Art Therapy Helps Residents in Rehab

How Art Therapy Helps Residents in Rehab

Art therapy that is used in rehabs, has proven to be a highly effective method in the addiction and substance abuse recovery process.

Art therapy is useful to people undergoing addiction treatment because it provides them with ways to understand and cope with their addiction. Both art therapy and traditional therapy focus on helping a person practice introspection and healthy coping skills, but art therapy can be a great way for a person to explore aspects of his life that he might not be able to explain in a conversational way. When done in a group setting, art therapy can also help people going through addiction treatment grow closer and better understand each other’s experiences and feelings, it can help people express their thoughts and feelings in ways that they may not be able to say with words. This therapy is especially helpful for people who have underlying psychological issues related to their addiction, such as a history of abuse.

Since creating art is often a nonverbal process that expands the ways a person can convey ideas and emotions, art therapy provides an opportunity to explore, understand, and resolve issues in a person’s life that he may not feel comfortable talking about in a regular conversation.

Art therapy uses various art forms to get patients “to talk about their images in therapy because this helps in discovering insight and meaning.”

The father of art therapy, Dr. Carl G. Jung, had a mental collapse in adulthood that was so severe he couldn’t work. While he was in the depths of his depression, he reflected upon his childhood and how he would play with toy soldiers and draw. He said it was the last time he truly felt happy. He then decided he was going to play with toys and draw again to feel better. In his autobiography, Jung expressed that these activities gave him the strength to work through his distress and solidified his belief that human beings have the capacity to heal themselves if they are given the correct tools.

Art therapy can be a great way for a person to work through the experiences, emotions, and issues that have led to and worsened his addiction. It offers them a safe place to communicate ideas and feelings without using standard conversational methods, and it can therefore be a refreshing change for someone who is looking for something different than standard talk-focused therapy.

The artwork might be used as an introduction into a deeper conversation, or as a tool for the person to explain his thoughts by having him describe the artwork from the artwork’s point of view.

In using active imagination, the artwork as a starting point, the person lets his mind roam in spontaneous free associations, which open the door to introspection and discussion about his feelings.

Graphic arts like drawing, painting, collaging, graphic journals, coloring, and scrapbooking are the easiest kinds of creative exercises to implement in a rehab setting. Invest in supplies like blank paper (a continuous roll of butcher block paper is best), pencils, pastels, water or acrylic paints, crayons, paint brushes, gel pens, glue sticks, scissors, sequins, magazines, feathers, and found objects.

Assignments can be directive or nondirective. A directive one, where the therapist will instruct residents to make creative representations of an object, feeling or issue they are working on.

In a nondirective lesson, you can have residents collect a series of pictures, art supplies and shapes, and come up with something new that they wish to express.

One art therapy technique that has proven particularly helpful in promoting self-soothing is called mandala making. The art therapist will talk for a few minutes about how mandalas are a configuration of patterns in a geometrical circle, the circular shape is a representation of the universe as “mandala” means “wholeness” or “cosmos” in Sanskrit. Everything, good and bad, is held together in a dynamic balance to maintain health and wholeness. It is a meditative practice. Residents can then make their own mandalas from scratch or use color-in mandala designs. Hundreds of these pre-made designs can be found online. Residents will work for 30 or 40 minutes on producing their mandalas and then talk about their experiences afterwards.

Journey is an upmarket, professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre located in Atholl, Sandton. Our luxurious premises offers comfortable accommodation, spacious gardens, professional treatment, WiFi and entertainment for inpatients and outpatients.

Our treatment programme is premised on the principles of support, love and understanding where the patient is allowed the opportunity to learn and recover from addictive behaviors in our recovery focused environment.

Contact Journey at 011 786 0326 / 082 447 6727 | |

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