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Art Therapy and Music Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Creative Arts Treatments for Addiction

Music and art therapy may be used in both group and individual counseling sessions. They can promote personal growth and discovery in those suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

You will find the following on this page:

Use of Creative Arts Therapy

Art therapy and music therapy are known as complementary and alternative medical practices that can be used to treat substance abuse disorders.1 Some people find that more mainstream or traditional recovery programs, such as 12-step meetings, don’t work for them and that they respond better to alternative methods.

These strategies are used in a variety of settings, such as rehab centers, hospitals, schools, crisis facilities, private practices and forensic institutions. 2 A recent estimate suggests that about 40% of adults use some form of complementary and alternative medical practices. 1

Benefits of Art Therapy and Music Therapy

Art therapy can benefit people who suffer from and addiction to drugs or alcohol in a number of ways: 1

  • Reduce denial.
  • Decrease resistance to addiction treatment.
  • Improve communication skills.
  • Decrease shame and guilt.
  • Increase motivation.
  • Improve social skills in group settings.

Music therapy can help people with addiction in a variety of ways: 1

  • Promote positive emotions.
  • Help with relaxation.
  • Help prevent relapse.
  • Reduced depression, anxiety, stress and anger.
  • Increase willingness to seek addiction treatment.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy dates back to the 1950s.1 It is an alternative form of treatment that uses different artistic approaches to encourage the person to creatively express themselves. The act of creativity can reveal unconscious and underlying processes related to substance addiction.

A certified art therapist uses the creative process and final piece of artwork to explore the person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviors while harnessing their self-awareness and improving self-esteem. 2

Art therapy has also been used to decrease symptoms of anxiety and repair damage caused by emotional strife. 2 The goal is to create a sense of happiness and comfort, and improve the person’s functioning through reflection and creativity. 2

Art Therapy Interventions

Art therapy is empowering because it gives the person the ability to discover – or rediscover – themselves with the help of a therapist. Art therapy interventions use all forms of visual art, such as:1,2

  • Painting.
  • Sketching.
  • Coloring.
  • Sculpting.
  • Collaging.
  • Drawing a specific incident related to addiction.
  • Making an art journal.
  • Stress-relief painting.

Once the artwork is completed, both the patient and the therapist should keep an open mind about interpreting the expression to maintain the potential for meaning and discovery. 3 The therapy is a collaborative process between the therapist and the patient.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy, which dates back to the 1970s, 1 is also an alternative treatment. Music therapy interventions are used in different clinical settings to improve the overall functioning and mental health of the patient. Clinical research has revealed that music therapy often shows positive results in those who don’t benefit from other recovery options. 4

Music is used as a form of creative self-expression and allows the person to communicate in a nonconventional manner. It is an easily accessible intervention, and the person doesn’t need a background or education in music to actively participate.

Music therapy allows patients to do the following: 4

  • Examine emotions and self-esteem.
  • Enhance positivity.
  • Empower themselves through success.
  • Improve self-awareness.
  • Increase attention and concentration.
  • Build coping and problem-solving strategies.
  • Enhance mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
  • Improve interpersonal skills.

Music Therapy for Teens

Teenagers who suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction may be particularly receptive to music therapy due to their regular use of music. Research has revealed that addicted adolescents in hospital settings are able to build a positive identity and self-image through music therapy. 1 Music therapy interventions, such as drumming, allow isolated teens to express themselves in a healthy manner. 5

Treatment centers with a higher percentage of teenagers are more likely to use music therapy compared to those with fewer adolescents. This suggests that recovery programs may make accommodations that they think will best benefit that particular population. 1

Music Therapy Activities

Certified music therapists use techniques that work to promote positive change in the lives of patients by addressing their unique needs. Music therapy activities include all aspects of music, both vocal and instrumental, such as: 1, 4

  • Listening to music.
  • Discussing music.
  • Actively making music.
  • Songwriting.
  • Music games.
  • Analyzing lyrics.
  • Improvising.

Find a Recovery Program Today

If you need help finding a recovery center for yourself or a loved one, call anytime to speak to a treatment support specialist. A representative can verify your insurance coverage and provide treatment options in your area.

If you don’t have insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline at 1-800-662-4357. You can receive a referral to a recovery program in your area that helps those without insurance.

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