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Art and Music Therapy: On the Path to Recovery

Next Step Therapy - Thursday, April 19, 2018

Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is one of the most strenuous ordeals you can face, and many people say they need more than self-discipline to face all the new stresses that come with sobriety. That’s why drug counselors recommend finding a creative outlet to tap into natural talents, express anxieties positively and stay calm through the windstorms of substance temptation.

Here are just some of the art and music therapies that help addicts keep clean and their many benefits.

Sounding It Out

The idea behind music therapy is that people often indulge in drugs and alcohol because they are self-medicating a deep-seated pain or loneliness that they don’t have an expressive outlet to address. Music provides that “expression of the inexpressible” – a way for addicts to sound out their most private wounds through an art form that resembles “pure communication.”

What is Music Therapy?

While some music therapists acknowledge that “music therapy” sounds like a wishy-washy substitute for the hard work of real recovery, but they also list an array of hands-on activities that nudge recovering addicts toward feeling focused and creative: joining a drumming circle; creating playlists that motivate you; listening to music that eases you into self-reflection; or turning your own poems or journal entries into song. Succumbing to stress is the easiest way to dive back into drugs, and for many, music provides a way toward reflection and healthy self-expression.

Art Therapy 101

The American Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as a mental health profession used to foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills and provide many other benefits. Therapists work not only in drug rehab clinics, but also in schools, hospitals, crisis centers, senior communities and other institutions. They focus on empowering individuals who have been through trauma or hardship as a way of expressing themselves that transcends any stumbling blocks they might encounter with language.

101 Art Therapy Exercises

The list of art therapy exercises goes on and on – drawing a mirror, making a stuffed animal, weaving a dream-catcher, sketching Zen gardens in the sand, or crafting a postcard that you never send. The thinking behind these activities is that too often we get caught in patterns of negative thinking that reinforce negative decisions, until we’re defenseless against painful triggers and lose sight of how to make positive choices.

Art therapy, meanwhile, allows us to escape those patterns and peer into our lives, lending us reprieve from cycles of self-doubt and helping to clear neural pathways that lead to continual sobriety.

Recovery is a task that doesn’t just start and stop at a recovery center. There’s a reason that people at AA meetings introduce themselves as alcoholics, as they need to face their addiction in order to not succumb to it. That’s why people who discover art therapy in recovery continue with it long afterward as a hobby, supplementing those habits into an ingrained practice of staying healthy.

As HomeAdvisor recommends, “Everyone deserves to have their own space for their passion project, be it a crafting station or simply a place to journal. Look around your home with a creative eye, and you’ll realize that much of what you need to create your ideal hobby workshop is already nearby and can be easily converted.”

Set up a canvas and easel in the bay window. Clear off a table in the laundry room and start journaling. Hook up a sound system in the house and turn on the soundtrack that helped you through rehab. Whatever you do, incorporate the habits that led you onto the path of recovery into your daily routine.

Michelle Peterson

Guest Blogger 

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