When we think of addiction treatment, we tend to think about one-on-one counselling, group therapy, and 12-step programs. These are very necessary parts that can form the foundation of a recovery program, but there are supplemental therapies that may be useful as well.

Creative therapy programs involving art or music can have numerous benefits that can go beyond more traditional therapies. They may even help a patient who isn’t making progress.

Psychology Today writes that such therapies can provide “a pathway through shame,” helping patients to relieve stress and avoid a relapse. Read six other ways that creativity supports addiction recovery. And according to Addiction Hope, “Research showed a positive and significant relationship between 12-step support groups being a component of treatment and the use of both art therapy and music therapy.” Because addiction is often a response to an underlying issue or trauma, creative therapy programs can be outlets that may prevent relapse.

While there are currently no substantive studies linking creative programs and addiction recovery, existing research does support the overall benefits of art and music in therapy. In fact, a recently published review showed “it was evident that previously unmotivated patients had become more enlivened in their treatment when participating in music therapy” for substance abuse.

Creative Addiction Recovery Programs

What sort of creative addiction recovery programs exists? Art and music therapy programs have numerous ways that a patient can be engaged.

Art therapy techniques can include:

  • Art making, such as painting and sculpting, can be led by the therapist or used as a way to open up the patient.
  • Journaling is a way to safely express and process memories and feelings.
  • Dance or movement therapy is another option.

Music therapy can include both listening to different genres and participating in performance:

  • Writing lyrics and songs as a way to deal with emotions.
  • Listening or relaxing to music as well as analyzing songs and lyrics from artists.
  • Techniques such as music improvisation, for both musicians and non-musicians. For example, drumming has been shown to slow down brain waves, which can be beneficial for addicts.
  • Learning an instrument. Regularly playing an instrument can teach perseverance, discipline and responsibility. It can also bring a sense of accomplishment and achievement to a person in recovery.

Selecting The Right Creative Therapy Program

Patients don’t require talent or skill in music or the arts to benefit from these programs.  However, they should find a program that speaks to their interests. Music and art lovers may benefit more from a program that integrates their interests. Journaling and basic art do not require experience, but can grow a patient’s skill set.

Learning an instrument takes no training, just a willingness to obtain a new skill. Woodwinds, such as the clarinet or saxophone, can improve lung capacity and teach you to breathe properly. That can strengthen any relaxation techniques you are learning at the same time. You can also master endurance by learning an instrument that uses the breath.

It’s important to remember that creative therapy for substance abuse can be supplemental to other forms of treatment. There can be a combination of support, therapy, and groups that make up a patient’s recovery program. However, creative therapies can be part of the primary therapist’s training. Make sure that the provider has the appropriate background and skills in this area. Patients can find a qualified provider through the following organizations:

Art and music therapy, when integrated properly, can also bring up negative emotions and experiences. However, these creative outlets may provide a safer space for patients to process their feelings, leading to significant progress on the road to addiction recovery.

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