How Art and Music Therapy Can Aid Those in Recovery

painting for recovery
Last updated: Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:17

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How Art and Music Therapy Can Aid Those in Recovery


By Michelle Peterson


Art and music therapies have been used to treat mental disorders for years, but they’ve both become increasingly popular coping methods for those struggling with substance abuse. Many more rehab centers across the country are incorporating art and music therapy as a supplemental part of treatment. Unlike some of the other modalities used to treat substance abuse (think behavioral therapies and motivational interviewing), these are fun as well as constructive. While each offers its own set of benefits, both can help to decrease denial about addiction, increase the motivation to want to change, strengthen communication skills, lessen feelings of inner shame, and help deal with any life obstacles that may have surfaced through the addiction. If you’re currently undergoing treatment, talk to your coach or doctor about integrating these techniques into your program.



What Is Art Therapy?


Art therapy is a type of experimental therapy that addresses emotional and spiritual well-being via artistic creativity of all levels, from novice to expert. Aside from the fact that art-related projects can be relaxing and stress-relieving, there are specific activities geared toward recovery that help patients express bottled-up feelings and emotions while exploring their creative side. Art therapy can also have a positive effect on one’s self-esteem; low feelings of self-worth can prompt an addiction. According to The Treehouse, "Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.”


The following are some additional benefits of art therapy:

Helps build self-esteem

Resolves past traumatic experiences and memories

Improves or stabilizes your mental, emotional, and even physical well-being

Helps transform negative behaviors that are hindering the recovery process

Improves self-image

Reduces mood and psychological disorders that potentially prompted an addiction

Improves social skills

Increases quality of life

Here are some way to incorporate art into your recovery therapy:

Incident drawings (a drawing of an incident that materialized while under the influence)

Stress painting (painting to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety)

Drawing or painting emotions

Journaling with art


Projects such as collages, sand art, making a diorama, etc.


What Is Music Therapy?


Around for centuries but considered a true alternative treatment practice since the ‘70s, music therapy is a form of creative self-expression that helps patients to identify and cope with any past or present feelings of shame, guilt, and emotional turmoil. Research suggests that music therapy can reduce anxiety and muscle tension while promoting positive relationships, relaxation, and communication skills. While there’s ongoing research to pinpoint the types of activities that are most beneficial to specific types of disorders and addictions, the common goal is to reduce anxiety and improve the mental state and social and emotional functioning for those in recovery.


The following are some benefits of music therapy:


Improves self-esteem

Boosts mood

Provides feelings of empowerment and achievement

Improves self-awareness

Increases concentration

Builds coping and problem-solving skills

Enhances mindfulness

Promotes relaxation

Improves interpersonal skills



Some ways to incorporate music therapy include:

Listening to music

Using it as a form of meditation

Discussing genres of music and specific songs

Making music


Drumming therapy

Playing music-centered games

Analyzing and writing lyrics


There’s no reason to stop music and art therapy just because you’ve completed treatment. In fact, continuing to engage in these activities can help prevent a relapse. Even if you no longer have access to a facility, there are several online resources to provide inspiration and direction.

If you’re really looking to challenge yourself, consider taking a course to become a certified instructor to help others like you.







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Tags:  art music benefits therapy recovery