The Art of Therapy: How Art and Music Can Help Recovering Addicts

June 23, 2018

The author has been in recovery for several years and started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.

 

Life will often lead us to unexpected places. Finding ways to steer ourselves back onto the right path can be painful and challenging. When recovering from addiction, the magic of art and music can help mend old wounds and fortify the spirit in the process of healing. 

 

Approaching the Different Dimensions of Wellness

 

Addiction treatment is a lifetime process. This is because addiction is a chronic brain disease which requires continuous treatment in order to avoid relapse. The best pathway to recovery includes a wholesome and all-encompassing approach to wellness and overall health. According to The Huffington Post, there are eight dimensions of wellness that can be targeted as part of a recovery program. Three of these include the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual dimensions. A holistic approach toward wellness means going through these varying channels and constantly working on healing and self-discovery. Art and music are two effective ways to address and fortify the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual side of wellness.

 

In recent studies, the National Institutes of Health has found that using complementary and alternative medical practices (CAM) can be greatly beneficial to people suffering from substance use disorders. Two of these alternative practices include art and music. Using art therapies, for example, not only provides an outlet for communication, but aids in lessening shame and inspiring change in patients. Music therapies allow patients to engage in active participation of listening and creating music. Methods of music therapy have been used to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, and stress.

 

Art Therapy

 

There is a wide array of possibilities when it comes to art therapies. Painting is a popular and accessible way to engage with artistic expression. According to recovery experts at [The Treehouse], “Whether it’s watercolor, 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.” Being creative allows people to express what’s on their minds freely without fearing the judgment of others. Slowly, patients come to discover themselves all over again and learn about their own emotional complexities.

 

Music Therapy

 

Music therapy can include listening to or playing music. As Science Daily reported, music is primal and affects people in a very visceral and emotional way.  It has powerful effects on the brain and brain connectivity. Using music can help restore connections in the brain and allow people to reconnect with the world in a different way. By learning to appreciate or study new and different kinds of music, people can find new joy in this universal language. Picking up an instrument allows people to learn and play music based on emotions and different states of mind. Music can improve cognitive function, memory, and inspire positive thoughts. Sharing music with family and friends is also an incredible opportunity to engage and talk with others about internal turmoil.

 

Incorporating These Supplemental Therapies

 

Art and music therapies can be used in conjunction with more traditional practices. People can practice art and music through classes, private lessons, or group therapy sessions, which encourage dialogue and discussion. This treatment is guided on the principle that self-expression has therapeutic value. Working through issues via artistic creation can help recovering addicts come to terms with their past.  Engaging in art and music, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and using other treatments is a great, well-rounded approach for a long lasting recovery process.

 

Addiction therapy can be multifaceted. Approaching recovery through the various dimensions of wellness will yield far better results. By tackling the issue through several directions and fortifying different aspects of our lives, we become better, stronger, and more resilient.

           

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

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