What is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that combines the creative process of art making with psychology theory. Art therapy is an intervention that provides the opportunity for nonverbal expression and communication, promoting self-expression and healing. It can also be used as a tool to enhance verbal communication and achieve therapeutic goals through a less intrusive medium. The focus during art therapy sessions is on the process and the metaphors/symbols within the finished product that promote self-reflection and insight into one’s internal process.
According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), art therapy is a mental health modality that can help:
- By resolving emotional conflicts
- By building self-esteem
- By encouraging self-awareness
- By reducing anxiety
- By developing social skills
Who is Art Therapy for?
Art therapy can help people of all ages express difficult thoughts and feelings. Art therapy focuses on self-exploration and healing – not about making “good” art or being an “artist”. Prior experience/skill is not required to benefit from art therapy services. Some find it difficult to verbalize thoughts, feelings, and emotions, where art therapy provides a safe space to express and explore strong, sensitive, or destructive emotions. It can be a refreshing change for someone who is seeking something different than traditional talk therapy.
How does it connect to my addiction?
The goal of art therapy is to promote healthy functioning, similar to addiction treatment. It can aid resolving experiences, emotions, and issues that have led to/worsened one’s addiction. Feelings and experiences that are too painful/shameful to articulate can be expressed through ink, paint, clay, or other media. Addiction has many different origins (trauma, stress, PTSD), where people turn to substances for varying reasons. Creative activity gives a sense of control often lacking in life, where art can become a coping strategy for the challenges of recovery.
Art therapy has been used in substance abuse treatment since the 1950s, providing emotional release, self-expression, and adjustment to recovery. The Journal of Addictions Nursing states that art therapy can contribute to the recovery process in the following ways:
- Decreasing denial of addiction
- Increasing motivation to change
- Providing a safe outlet for emotions
- Lessening the shame of addiction
What do group sessions look like?
Art therapy can be a powerful complement to the 12 steps, offering a way to work through them by making denial, acceptance, and faith more tangible. Group sessions create bonds among peers by sharing experiences and practicing skills alongside other members. Sessions typically involve a verbal check-in followed by art-making and ending with reflection/discussion. According to Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, artistic activities uncover guilt, unmanageability, or shame that led to rehab. Art provides a visible, tangible object for discussion and insight through the power of the group.
How can I sign up?
Art therapy groups are currently available at Right Path’s Virginia Beach location. Individual sessions are also available upon request. Sessions will count towards clients’ required group sessions as an alternative treatment approach. Please contact the office to schedule your appointment!