Drug and alcohol rehab is an innovative field. The treatment types from even just five years ago became outdated. Because the integrated addiction model promises the highest level of success, it is now the gold standard in recovery. Another groundbreaking field within the whole-person approach is the implementation of art therapy.

A Review of the Trauma Treatment Aspect in Addiction Rehab

  • Healing through art and trauma treatment are more closely related than you might think. Some facilities now offer a trauma informed care system. Real healing takes place during true trauma treatment. There is a clear connection between all types of distress and the potential for developing a substance abuse problem.
  • Unresolved trauma opens the door to addiction. It is also far more widespread than therapists initially realized. Life experiences that factor into this tangle can include mental illness, abuse, childhood neglect, and relationship problems. Unless you deal with each of these upsets, it builds up a strain on your coping abilities.
  • Insufficient coping skills cause feelings of personal chaos. When enough stress builds up due to unresolved emotional pain, you feel like your life descends into chaos. At first, you may lash out at those closest to you. To regain control, you might begin to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. By numbing the pain, you temporarily limit unwelcome feelings.
  • Self-medicating becomes your life’s new focus. As your body builds up a tolerance to drugs or alcohol, you must take larger doses. Eventually, your focus shifts from exercising control over your life to getting the drug your body and mind say you need. At this point, nobody and nothing else matters more. As a result, your relationships suffer, add to your guilt and unresolved emotional pain, and perpetuate drug use.

Hands working on a painting during art therapy programs at Healing Springs Ranch.

You know you’re hurting but may not even be able to put into words what suffering you go through. Even when you try to break the cycle and enter rehab, you may not know how to express yourself. At this moment, art therapy programs can help you get out what has been inside for a long time. For starters, this kind of program is not something you would rely on by itself but as adjunct therapy it can release emotions important for healing.

When you couple art therapy with individual counseling or group therapy sessions and other addiction programs, it can yield amazing results. It is noteworthy that art therapy is not the same as a recreational art class. You do not learn how to “do art” or complete paintings by following an instructor’s example. Instead, a facilitator helps you to translate your dominant emotion and important thoughts into artwork.

The Connection between Art Therapy, Personal Trauma, and Addiction

Although their uses in recovery are a relatively novel implementation, art therapy programs are not new but date back to the 1940s. Researchers discovered that art allowed patients in the process of undergoing psychotherapy to make breakthroughs when other treatment models failed. Recognizing that art is a form of communication when guided in a therapy setting, those undergoing rehab now can benefit as well.

Experts recognize five distinct connection points between art, trauma, and addiction.

  1. Stress reduction. Completing an art project reduces stress. The latter is, of course, a notable aspect in fueling trauma-related substance abuse. By quieting the constant presence of a high-stress level, you now have the opportunity to focus on your perceptions. In turn, you engage your mind to focus on emotions and thoughts you’ve kept away.
  2. Multi-sector brain engagement. Art, unlike other forms of therapy, activates the brain’s creative side. This sector of the brain also processes abstract emotions. By connecting art with fears, repressed emotional suffering, doubts, and grief, you learn why you reached for drugs in the first place. It is noteworthy that sometimes people struggling with addiction have no idea why they do what they do. This therapy can present the breakthrough point for them.
  3. Peer community building. Recovery starts with detox, moves on to rehab, and then enters the phase of relapse prevention. Active connections with peers are invaluable when you enter the last phase. Creating these connections is possible when undergoing group art therapy. Because you not only learn about your feelings but also about those of your peers, you form a tight bond.
  4. Developing accuracy of self-reflection. Substance abuse twists your perception of reality. It shifts what is real to something that you believe based on experiences and current hurts. As you progress during a residential or short-term residential treatment program, you see yourself in a more realistic light. It also puts your family members, work, and home life into the right frame of reference, which your artwork shows.
  5. Building self-confidence. Because you can see for yourself that you’re making progress, your confidence grows. You believe in yourself that you can make it through rehab after all. Therefore, the art you create no longer expresses only your emotions, but it now also supports the formation of healthy ones. You may find that you want to hold onto your art projects for years to come as a tangible reminder of your recovery.

Variety of Art Therapy Programs Puts Focus on the Process vs. the Product

When you discuss art therapy with someone who’s never done it, s/he’ll most likely envision a group of people drawing self-portraits. In fact, there are a number of art therapy options that can help you express yourself when words fail. Some might even include the self portrait.

  • Doll making. One of the most popular projects involves the creation of a doll. Some therapists ask those in rehab to refurbish a broken doll. Others provide a complete set of doll-making materials for the participant to create a new product from scratch. Therapists report that thought processes of recovery clients change in each session, and the projected look of the product shifts accordingly.
  • Third-hand drawing. When a therapist actively participates in creating the framework for the art project, experts refer to it as a third-hand approach. This practice offers the advantage of presenting a standardized set of instructions, which you then follow. The way that you put the suggestions to paper reveals your frame of reference. To gauge the effectiveness of this method, look at the completed projects of a group at the end of a session.
  • Road projects. The road is, of course, a metaphor for your life from start to now. This project may involve pencil drawings, charcoal art, collage work, or sculpting. The instruction only asks you to create a road. The details that you work into the design can become talking points at the next counseling session.

One of the reasons why participants experience breakthroughs during this setting is the use of mixed media. Another reason may be the facilitator’s insistence on using materials or techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Both approaches require a stronger right-brain response, which frees up the abstract thought processes. Because of the therapist’s guidance, you feel comfortable to explore them.

Find Out if Art Therapy is the Key to Your Personal Breakthrough

Have you tried different rehab facilities but never really got the help you needed? Maybe the problem wasn’t you but the fact that you didn’t have access to the right treatment model. Not everyone responds well to art therapy programs. For this reason, the innovative recovery program at Healing Springs Ranch offers multiple options.

Examples might include equine therapy, Yoga, and similar programs. The combined focus on trauma resolution, dual diagnosis treatment, overall bodily and spiritual wellness and substance abuse counseling works well. It offers a range of opportunities for you to reflect and express yourself when more conventional treatment models were unsuccessful. It also provides a safe place for someone who might not be sure that “all this talking” is really worthwhile.

If you’re currently struggling with a substance abuse problem and know that it’s time to get help, you now have an option. Why stay in the rut of drug dependence and suffer all the negative consequences addiction brings to your life? Why not find your way out today? A quick call to 866-656-8384 puts you in touch with the addiction counseling professionals at Healing Springs Ranch and on the road to recovery.