Creative Sobriety

Using Art Therapy to Treat Addiction

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Why Art Creation Helps Mental Health

art therapyArt creation is good for people on many levels. It reflects our culture, documents our history, connects people everywhere and gives creative people an outlet for their angst. But one less known function of art is that it balances people’s mental health. Both creating and experiencing art have been found to increase a person’s mental health significantly. Creating art especially allows an artist to go through a self discovery process as they reflect themselves through their creative work. This benefit of art occurs for many reasons.

Firstly, art allows an artist to express themselves without difficult thinking. There is no right or wrong in art, only personal expression. Therefore, art is not mentally taxing for anyone. On the contrary, it is soothing. In most other disciplines, there are problems to solve and riddles to figure out. While some find this enjoyable, the benefit of expressing one’s self through an automatic task that allows the thoughts to wander freely cannot be overstated. Doing something functional but thinking freely at the same time makes use of both sides of the brain at once, enabling your neural network to be very connected.

The creative process makes use of parts of the brain that people fall out of touch with. This is very important to mental health because recalling the unadulterated thought patterns of your youth is part of the mental healing process. The more parts of your brain that are active, the better off you are. Brain scans have indicated extensive activity in the brain of someone creating art. As you get in touch with yourself through creative expression, you grow your own brain activity and make yourself more functional. This is a good reason for everyone to participate in art creation.

And lastly, art offers a person a judgment free zone. Sometimes this has to come with protection of a person’s creative space from those who will pass judgment on it, or for more seasoned artists, criticism may be embraced as part of the artistic process. Regardless, the art creation process itself is a totally safe zone and is very nurturing for a person who needs to express themselves.



Art Removes Inhibitions

art uninhibitedArt creation is a universal way of breaking down inhibitions. Inhibitions are things that hold us back from being completely truthful with ourselves and with others. Art has the ability to remove inhibitions because it is free of rules, it is a zone where controversy and offense do not apply and it gives its creator a total sense of freedom. Because of this, art is often used as a healing device for people who need to recover from trauma, abuse, addiction or disorder.

The rules about art state that there essentially are no rules. The base foundation of art is that it is a completely free expression. There are not laws or regulations governing art, the way there are in other disciplines. Instead, one can depict what is truly on their mind and their heart, and this process is so rewarding and therapeutic that it causes people to let their walls down and connect.

In art creation, there is no such thing as controversy or offense, in theory. Art is intrinsically a totally free form of expression. As soon as offense is subjected onto art, there are rules governing it, which goes against its very nature. In reality, it often does not work this way. People frequently take offense to art and do their best to control its content. They do not see that they are threatening the ideological framework of art itself. This is why it is the preference of many to create art intended for their eyes and the eyes of those they know and trust alone.

Typically, art done for therapeutic purposes is this type of art. This is why it rewards the artist with a total sense of freedom. The feeling of free expression is what destroys inhibitions, connects a person with meaning, reveals a person’s truest identity, and reminds them of what they truly value in life. These things are very important to healing from negative thought and behavior patterns.



Art Therapy to Treat Addiction

artists and addiction

The use of art therapy in treating addiction has become a common practice in the rehabs and addiction treatment centers of North America. Art therapy, in the form of painting, drawing or making collages, has been found to hold a number of benefits for addicts. The artistic process is so beneficial that many rehabs and addiction treatment centers list it as part of their program and treatment plan. People are equipped with a creative part of the brain and making use of it to ease the symptoms and tendencies of addiction has proven to be highly successful.

The artistic process connects addicts to under-resourced parts of the brain and ways of thinking that have long been forgotten about. Using the creative part of the brain opens up channels in the neural network that have retired, and makes it possible to change thought patterns simply through the act of creating. This is very useful to addicts who’s primary goal is to change their thought and behavioral patterns.

The arts also seem to have a calming “zen” type effect on people. Any process that people can do recreationally that does not require much of the problem solving faculty is good for people. Delving into a creative process that allows for practicing skills but also having total creative freedom is very good for the human mind. The sense of control it gives the artist is therapeutic, and the freedom to execute a creative vision is invigorating and restorative.

Merely being able to express emotions through the creative process is reason enough for recovering addicts to participate in art creation. A person can express anything they are feeling through art. The use of color, light and shadow can convey mood. The subject of the art piece can be used to direct emotion toward. The artist can use the art as a discovery process, moving forward into it without planning it out. Or, they can execute an artistic vision they are having, purging their emotions in a healthy, productive way onto their chosen canvas.


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Art Therapy

art therapyThe therapeutic elements of art creation are many. Art is good for the mind and the soul on many levels. Art comes in many varieties, but its objective is always the same: to create something that will provide entertainment, enlightenment and information to an audience. This experience may be intellectual or sensory. The therapeutic element of creating art comes from the creative process and through the presentation of the finished product. Creativity is innate in humans, and regardless of your personality, chances are you are creatively talented in one way or another.

The visual arts are a common method of expressing one’s artistic abilities. This may include drawing, painting, collaging or any number of digital art designs. This method is popular because the materials are easy to find, but also because the concept is simple while the art itself can be as complex as a person desires.

Performance art is another widespread artistic release. Performance art may include singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, acting in a play or musical or a number of other performative modes of expression. Live performance art is for those who are brave enough to express their craft with people watching.

The literary arts are for those who are gifted with words. This usually involves some form of creative writing, but can arguably extend to essay, article and other forms of writing as well. Putting work into creating a piece of writing that you are proud of can be enormously rewarding and can help you gain self-awareness.

The culinary arts are a favorite among foodies. Putting thought, skill and artistic flare into cooking can result in true masterpieces, or simply a delicious, savory meal. Many people swear by cooking as their most valuable stress release during the week.

Of course, these are not the only art forms available to people in their spare time. Art is very diverse and an artistic process can be found in many areas of life.


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Self-Expression Through Art

self expression artArt is a universal language. Whether you fell in love with art creation when you were very young, or whether you have recently discovered its rewards as an adult, you know that art is one of the greatest means of self-expression. This is because art can communicate our thoughts and ideas in ways that other expressive outlets, such as verbal communication, fall short of doing. Art projects have been known to assist in the treatment of mental disorders and addiction by allowing the individual total freedom and creative control of their project in order to sort through their thoughts. When it is used purely for self-expression and therapeutics, there is no need for any particular level of talent or ability.

An art project can be focused on content or style, depending on the artist’s objective. A content focused piece of art is something that can be interpreted for a specific meaning. For example, if the artist creates an image of a homeless man being snubbed by a wealthy man, the art’s content is clearly aimed at the injustices of homelessness. But if the piece contains no recognizable images and centers on colors or shapes, the artist was being more stylistic. This can also be thought of as the difference between abstract and literal art.

Art can be emotional or philosophical. If someone has a bad day and they approach their canvas to release emotion, more than likely they will not approach their art project in a regimented, developed way, but rather in a completely spontaneous way. If someone conceives an art project over time and plans their execution of it, they are taking a more philosophical approach to art.

Art can be created through the use of a traditional medium or a non-traditional one. A traditional medium can be thought of as pencils, paints and pastels. A non-traditional medium can be practically any kind of material the artist can manipulate. There is a famous, modern piece of art that is simply a domestic iron with spikes glued to it.

 



Addict Art Gallery

Below are some examples of public art created by people recovering from addiction. Some of them are clearly of a high skill level. This is no coincidence. Addicts tend to be very high functioning people when they are taking their recovery seriously. The addict’s mind seeks out extremes in order to stay stimulated. When its energy is being channeled in a healthy direction, the person is capable of great feats. When they are distracted and held back by addiction, their energy is channeled to an unhealthy place. The beauty of the art pieces that come from rehab clients and addiction treatment center patients speaks to the talent and potential of addicts everywhere who need support and encouragement.

addiction art

 

addict art

 

rehab art

 

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artistic expression


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