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Art as Therapy

Humans have been creating art for many thousands of years. The earliest artwork discovered so far are cave paintings found in Spain. The paintings consist of hand stencils and simple geometric shapes and are approximately 64,000 years old. In a piece that ran in Psychology Today, Nathan Lents speculates about why humans create art. Art, he writes, is a visual recall of past events or emotions, and relies on “some knowledge and experience that is common between the artist and the audience…stored memories and associations in the brain.” Art can be an expression of beauty and can cause the viewer to have an emotional response. It is the link between art and emotion that has caused art therapy to be viewed as an important tool in the treatment of addiction and mental illness.

What Is Art Therapy?

In art therapy, a certified art therapist works with an individual client or group. The artistic form used can be painting, drawing, creating a collage, sculpting, or another visual arts technique. The client works on their artwork and afterward the art therapist will ask questions designed to encourage the client to think about the emotional and psychological aspects of their work: was creating the piece easy or difficult; any feelings about the process; any thoughts, feelings, or memories while working on the piece. According to Psychology Today, the therapist will guide the individual or group members to “decode the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behavior so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.” This form of therapy can be a powerful tool to help clients unlock their emotions and process feelings. It is especially beneficial when clients aren’t ready to talk about their feelings or experiences.

Using Art as a Therapeutic Tool

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is integrative in that it involves the mind, body, and spirit. Art therapy is “kinesthetic, sensory, perceptual, and symbolic.” It uses alternative modes of reception and expression, and “circumvents the limitations of language.” When art is used in a therapeutic setting, many benefits have been observed. Art therapy is particularly good at reducing stress. A 2017 research paper in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy reports that the act of creating art lowers the cortisol level in the brain, known as the stress hormone. The act of creating art can give clients a sense of mastery and accomplishment, and that sense of mastery can carry over into other aspects of their lives. Similarly, working on a piece can also help develop emotional resilience—the ability to stick with something when it gets difficult.

According to an article in Psychology Today, art therapy improves symptoms of depression and anxiety and can help clients to deal with physical illness or disability. In addition, art therapy can reawaken memories which can help clients to deal with experiences that they may have repressed. The process of creating art is about “the association between creative choices and the client’s inner life.” One therapist noted that some people aren’t comfortable with talk therapy at first, and that their brains, in effect, shut down. Art therapy is great for these clients because they don’t have to talk right away and the art itself gives them something to talk about. Therapists working in clinical settings have also noted that art therapy can promote relaxation, improve communication, increase mindfulness, improve immune system function, and increase engagement in meditative practices.

Art Therapy as an Aid to Addiction Recovery

Art therapy is an important tool in addiction recovery. According to an article by David Sack, M.D. in Psychology Today, “addiction stifles creativity, but creativity can play an important role in recovery from the disease…Creative approaches such as art therapy…allow people to express difficult thoughts, memories, and feelings without being constrained by words.” Addicts struggle with guilt and shame, which can be “difficult to put into words,” notes Sack, while “Creative approaches can help them process these feelings so they don’t trigger a relapse.”

Sack also notes that art therapy offers clients a “chance for vicarious healing,” in that a client can experience healing through someone else’s artistic expression. Art therapy can be a “stepping stone to eventually talking about pain instead of [using] drugs or alcohol.” Sack also notes that art therapy is fun and increases a client’s sense of playfulness, as well as giving them more control over their environment. In addition, clients can experience the sensation of flow as they become lost in creating, leading them to feel more present and fulfilled.

Art therapy can increase someone’s motivation to stay in treatment and can ease the feelings of loneliness and boredom that people can experience when they are newly sober. Also, creating art gives them a tangible reminder of their time in treatment for their addiction and can provide someone a new passion or connect them to a hobby they used to enjoy before drugs or alcohol took over their lives. As a part of an aftercare plan, people can be encouraged to create art during the time that they would use to drink or use. As an article that was published on www.

crisis prevention.com states, “Art therapy is all about replacing a negative coping technique with a positive one.”

An effective addiction recovery plan addresses the needs of the whole person, not just the addictive behavior, with a variety of holistic treatment modalities in addition to traditional talk therapy, 12-Step meetings, and medically assisted detox. An important part of recovery is finding healthy coping mechanisms to manage the difficult and painful feelings that are an inevitable part of life without returning to drugs or alcohol. Also, the time that a person used to spend drinking or using must be filled with better activities. Art therapy is a powerful holistic treatment modality in recovery–it reduces stress and muscle tension, boosts immune system function, and increases self-esteem and self-awareness. Creating art is an excellent way to fill the time that used to be spent drinking or using. If you are interested in exploring art therapy and other alternative therapies as part of your recovery journey, call Enlightened Solutions at (833) 801-5483.


Creative Arts Therapy for Recovery

A powerfully transformative but sometimes overlooked tool in our quest for wellness is creative arts therapy. Many of us are more familiar with traditional talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs and support groups, but creative arts therapy can be used effectively in conjunction with any existing program and can help improve our overall results. Whether it is music therapy, songwriting, sound healing, playwriting, visual arts, dance or movement, any kind of creative expression provides wonderful mental, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits that help us in our recovery.

When we engage ourselves creatively, we give ourselves an effective outlet to express ourselves, release our emotions and shift our energy positively. Creative expression is therapeutic and soothing. We find ourselves inspired and motivated. Pent-up emotions are allowed to come to the surface. We’re able to process difficult thoughts, feelings, fears and memories through our creativity, and this brings us feelings of well-being and comfort. Our productivity makes us feel satisfied and fulfilled. We can feel a renewed sense of purpose in finding our natural talents and passions.

Talk therapy can be intimidating, even uncomfortable, especially when we’re trying it for the first time. Delving into difficult subject matter can bring up very painful emotions. Arts therapy allows us to do this important emotional work but with the added benefit of creative expression, which can be disarming and comforting, not to mention fun and invigorating. We can find ourselves actually looking forward to therapy!

The goal with any kind of therapy is to dig deep and get to the root of our issues – our unhealed trauma, our unresolved fears and pain. When we’re working with creative arts, we can use our artistic medium of choice, whatever it is, to help us with that process. For example, you can try using a writing prompt and see where it leads:  

  • When do I remember first feeling afraid?
  • When was my first experience with addiction?
  • When do I first remember feeling depressed or anxious?
  • What will it take for me to be happy?
  • What kind of life do I want to live?

Writing prompts give us a question to try and answer as fully as we can. We can take our time to relax and free-write, without having any expectations of perfection or even cohesiveness. Don’t be unafraid to let your mind wander and write down anything that comes to mind. The expression and release of long-buried thoughts and feelings helps us to process them and make sense of them. We gain more clarity and understanding. We’re better able to communicate our feelings and open up to people, especially the therapists and other supportive people who can help us.

Through years of experience working with art and music therapy, we know how powerfully beneficial they are in healing and relapse prevention. Call Enlightened Solutions today: (833) 801-LIVE.

Art Therapy to Help Express Feelings

Treatment centers all over the world use art therapy in treatment centers geared towards addiction. Patients who come into treatment, sometimes feel this kind of therapy isn’t going to work for them. This can be partially due to their control issues. Those who are used to serious work environments, find this to be a humbling experience. Let’s be real, who really has time for this when there are other most important matters at hand? That’s the kind of thinking that can become overwhelming and lead to constant anxiety. This is the patient that should be encouraged to needs to slow down and ground themselves. Recovering patient must stay open-minded throughout the process in order to receive the benefits. It’s only a small portion of a lifespan, and the alcoholic should be encouraged to take it all in, for a second chance at life.

Each patient expresses themselves differently. Sometimes the alcoholic is defiant against art therapy but gains most out of it. It can be a very enlightening for alcoholics or it can be felt like a waste of time. Either way, the story of the addict, is often that they had never really fit in with others. Those who have a hard time talking about feelings can use art to relate the message through art therapy. Some patients will even have break-throughs. Seeing the visual outcome of each project gives insight into what is going on, what isn’t being said in ordinary therapy sessions. Patients who struggle with perfectionism should not focus as much on the presentation, as what the process felt like while creating the piece. The therapist is trained to help read what the patient is trying to let out, whether they’re trying to or not.

While working on the various art projects assigned, the mind of the alcoholic will be less likely to obsess on other topics that don’t serve them anymore. It’s a learned process to change the way the mind thinks. Each day patients working on trauma will be able to use art therapy as a meditative technique. Clearing the mind is powerful to encourage the feelings that had been stuffed down for years, come to the surface. Treatment facilities such as Enlightened Solutions, offer a safe environment to freely express feelings and emotions.This is when the healing can begin.

If you are looking to transform your life and begin to heal, Enlightened Solution’s therapist give patients the ability to express feelings in different ways. The solution is here in New Jersey for real growth in our holistic, dual diagnosis program. For more questions call 833-801-5483.

Creative Arts Therapies Are Beneficial For Wellbeing

Few things, if any at all, in treatment are planned without a copious amount of research behind them. Every didactic lecture, experiential activity, physical exercise, holistic healing, and creative arts therapy is integrated into a treatment program for a very specific reason. Most often, they are for two specific reasons. First, they are proven to reduce the symptoms of addiction, alcoholism, and many of the mental health disorders which are often co-occurring. They relieve stress, enhance relaxation, as well as encourage physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. Second, they provide priceless instruction in “relapse prevention”, which is a general term for the collection of tools and skills those in recovery take with them after treatment. Though it can feel like it, treatment doesn’t last forever. One day, the structure and routine are gone. When difficult moments of triggers and cravings arise, it is up to those in recovery to utilize the tools they’ve picked up to get themselves through.

Creative arts therapies are an important practice and skill set in recovery. Treatment programs contain such an array of modalities because not one individual will recover in the same way. No two people experience their alcoholism or mental health disorder in the precisely same fashion. As a result, treatment programs have to be flexible enough to be tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Some people express themselves and work best in an academic setting while others find their best communication through art. Creative art therapies help create a bridge for grasping wide concepts in recovery, learning to communicate with others, finding ways to express emotions, and creating tools for self-care in the future.

According to Mindful, new research from New Zealand has found that “creative acts” in every day life can contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing. “Results showed that people who were engaged in more creative activities than usual on one day reported increased positive emotion and flourishing the next day, while negative emotions didn’t change,” the article explains. Interestingly, the opposite response did not occur. “People who experienced higher positive emotions on day one weren’t more involved in creative activities on day two, suggesting that everyday creativity leads to more well-being rather than the other way around.” Specifically and directly, the researcher behind the project explained that there was no sham around the effect of creativity and well being. “Research often yields complex, murky, or weak findings,” she expressed, “But these patterns were strong and straightforward: Doing creative things today predicts improvements in well-being tomorrow. Full stop.”

Integrative treatment is what we believe to be the solution to the problem of drug addiction and alcoholism. Our programs at Enlightened Solutions bring together a balance of clinical, holistic, spiritual, and twelve step approaches. For more information on our partial care programs, call 833-801-5483.

Art Therapy Is More Than Arts And Crafts For Rehab

Art is an expression beyond the confines of language represented by words. Art is a language of its own, using the symbols of expression to communicate metaphor, emotion, transition, and meaning. One of the only static communications styles to be so dynamic, art can create movement without moving. A painting can encompass a lifetime, a sculpture can encompass transformation. What is put into art is transitory, which makes the modality of art therapy so important. Everything is changing in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. From one minute to the next, the brain is healing, the body is healing, and the soul is being rejuvenated. Art therapy is a way to move beyond traditional talking or packets and put that experience into different forms.

Though an art piece might be static, the process of making art is not. Art therapy might seem to symbolic to be realistic to some. However, there is importance in the symbology. For example, building up a sculpture with clay to represent pain, resentment, or trauma, then smashing that sculpture down into a blob is a transformative experience. Feelings, thoughts, emotions, judgments, pain, trauma, are all intangible. We feel them in many different ways as they manifest in our lives, but we can not simply grab anger by the handful, throw it across the room and pronounce it gone. With art therapy, the intangible becomes tangible, malleable, and useful.

Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is full of talking, processing, analyzing, and reflecting, all of which are important tools and methods. Art therapy is an opportunity to engage in a different kind of processing which doesn’t require as much brain power as it does soul power. Using two different sides of the brain during treatment is important to helping the brain grow strong and find more balance.

An art therapist and specified art therapy groups are not required to do art therapy. You can bring art therapy home with you through very simple routines:

  • Use coloring books
  • Buy art supplies and create a designated time to just create
  • Create gifts for people with crafting rather than buy new things
  • Lookup art therapy activities online, which can include a narration

Art therapy is becoming a more relied upon model of treatment for addiction recovery. We employ alternative and holistic treatment methods as part of our integrative approach to healing addiction in mind, body, and spirit. Enlightened Solutions believes that there is an answer to addiction. For more information, contact us today.

Benefits Of Art Therapy In Addiction Treatment

W. Somerset Maugham once said that, “Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul”. Recovery is, if nothing more, an adventure of the soul. Taking off on the exploration of a lifetime is what treatment is like- discovering hidden depths and wonders along the way. Art therapy is a healing modality which helps express that adventure in a creative way.

Relieves Pain

Art therapy can be very pleasing as well as very soothing. During an art therapy session, patients can experience feelings of joy as well as feelings of relaxation. Being able to play and create stimulates the dopamine production in the brain, sending healthy signals of pleasure throughout. In addition, the repetitious behavior of brush strokes, movements, working with clay, or other mediums can be very relaxing. Relaxation can stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain, helping the body to relax and reduce pain.

Reduces Anxiety

Art is a concentration and a focus. When people are given space to create and express themselves authentically, they fall into a state of meditation. Art can be performance, but most often art therapy is not drama therapy or performance therapy. Instead, it is a quiet time to focus on the activity at hand. Anxiety includes a lot of scattered and rapid thinking that is difficult to focus. Art makes time for that, allowing someone with anxiety to experience what it feels like to be focused on one activity which brings them joy.

Regulates Emotions

Using art as a form of expression can be helpful during what is otherwise very clinical treatment. Instead of having to talk, analyze, and process, art therapy gives people the chance to just express and create. Having a few moments of normalcy and privacy helps people to feel more human and like themselves. With art, there is no need to impress or please anyone. People are free to make whatever they want and proclaim it as art. Often this takes a lot of emotional pressure off, allowing people to feel as though they can express whatever they want. Usually this translates back into clinical treatment by helping with emotional regulation and more.

Enlightened Solutions creates a treatment program that helps heal the mind, heart, body, and spirit with traditional treatment methods, 12 step inspiration, creative modalities, and holistic methods. For information on our partial care programs, call us today at 833-801-5483.

7 Art Therapy Ideas For The Winter Holidays

Holidays are known for beautiful decorations, fun crafts, and delicious meals. Incorporate your recovery into holiday cheer with some of these therapeutic activities.

Art Therapy Ideas For The Winter Holidays

  1. Ornaments.
    Decorating ornaments is a great way to express creativity and add to the holiday tradition. You can buy pre-colored ornaments and use adhesive methods like hot glue gun or modge podge to cover the ornament in decoration or collage. Buy clear, glass ornaments and different color paints. For a therapeutic twist, use the clear ornament as a metaphor and notice how each paint leaves a unique color streak when you pour it on the inside. Some colors mix better than others. As you twist the ornament in different ways you can change the way the paint colors the inside of the glass. Like in life, we are affected in different ways by the things which come into our existence. Not everything mixes beautifully, but by learning to navigate life and accept what comes, we can still create something to cherish.
  2. Wreaths.
    A wreath is a beautiful holiday welcoming symbol that can be incredibly creative. How do you want your door or home to be noticed? Start with a styrofoam ring and start to decorate. You can choose whatever theme you want and hang the wreath proudly for everyone to see. For a therapeutic activity, consider the wreath to represent the circle of your life. Choose decorations to show how far you’ve come and where you want to go.
  3. Custom Wrapping Paper.
    Buy sheets of blank colored wrapping paper and sets of sharpies or paints. Rolling the paper out across the floor, use rocks or something heavy to hold down the corners. Draw, splatter, paint, and doodle all over the paper for a pattern that is completely original and unique to you.
  4. Holiday Themed Coloring Books.
    Coloring is a great art therapy tool. Find holiday themed coloring books and spend time coloring in the scenes which speak most to you about the holidays.
  5. Snow Globes.
    Imagine what your perfect winter wonderland would look like. Using any kind of jar, fill the body with water and white glitter. On the inside of the lid, glue decorations to depict your ideal scene. Is it trees? A log cabin? Walking a dog? Find a small toy or decoration. Once it is dry, screw the lid back on and flip it over.
  6. Holiday Music Meditation Activity.
    Holiday music can bring back a lot of happy memories and a lot of difficult memories. Pick a favorite album or song to do a mindful meditation to. Notice what emotions come up as you listen to the song. Which parts are your favorites? What smells does it remind you of or feelings? After the song, journal your reflections.
  7. Ugly Holiday Sweaters.
    The ugly holiday sweater has become a major trend for parties and celebrations. Finding the right ugly sweater can take tons of shopping in thrift stores and shops. Create your own using fabric paints, decorations, patches, and more. From any store, purchase a plain colored crewneck sweatshirt. Using the colors and decorations you’ve chosen, decorate the front of the sweater. At your first sober holiday party, you’ll blow everyone out of the way with your very own ugly sweater. Use the activity as a time to practice remembering not to take yourself, and even the holidays, too seriously.

We know the holidays can be hard. You don’t have to do it alone. If you or a loved one are in need of seeking treatment this holiday season, Enlightened Solutions is here to help. Give yourself the gift that will last the rest of your life. Call us today: 833-801-5483.

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