Creative Sobriety

Using Art Therapy to Treat Addiction

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January 2016

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.