Humans have long created and appreciated art. Our creativity bubbles up from within, and we find ways to express our innermost feelings, without even using a single word. We know this, we create whole museums and other venues to celebrate the art we create. But what if art could heal us? What if we could take what we know and apply it to the recovery process, for example?
Since the 1950s, art has been used in the recovery process. As we are healing from our substance use, we experience a lot of emotions. There is a lot of different energy that can build up inside of us, with seemingly nowhere to go. Sometimes we are conflicted and not even sure how we are feeling. It can be challenging to know how to be with all of this inner confusion. This is why art is a perfect outlet within treatment for substance use.
We can literally use any medium—from paints and brushes to sculpting clay, from watercolors to crayons, from craft supplies to sidewalk chalk, or any combination thereof. Being given an opportunity to explore our creativity when our minds and bodies are in a state of upheaval and transformation can be healing in and of itself. We can find things out about ourselves through art that we were unable to express in verbal form.
Art is a great way to develop our self-expression. Many people feel inhibited by their artistic abilities, yet if they are handed a box of craft supplies and some glue and told to express their mood, they forget about ability and go about the process of creating. Inadequacy gives way to productivity as they are focused on the task instead of themselves. This process allows them to not only express how they are feeling, but also get in touch with themselves.
Perhaps they choose all of the dark-colored supplies and create a dense, compact shape. Or perhaps they spell out words that represent their mood. Maybe they choose bright and happy colors and create something with movement or humor. There are no right or wrong answers in art, and no right or wrong ways to express ourselves. For this reason, it is a great tool in recovery. With art, the possibilities are endless. Which is perfect when we are looking for an ideal form of self-expression.
Art as Communication
One of the most important ways that art can be powerful in recovery is as a form of communication. How often do we struggle to communicate in our lives? After using substances, then entering treatment for those substances, we have a lot of different feelings and emotions come up, but we may not be able to communicate them. The process of healing is a road that is difficult and riddled with powerful emotions and new experiences. Sometimes the words just aren’t there.
Using art as a non-verbal form of communication gives us a different way to release all of those feelings and emotions. We may be able to say something with a sculpture, for example, that we don’t have words for. Or after a painting session, we may open up and just cry, releasing all of those trapped emotions. Both the process and the end result of our artistic endeavors help us to communicate at a time that can be difficult and frightening. Art is powerful, and art can speak for us when we don’t have words.
We can also use art in recovery as a form of stress relief. When given the opportunity, while stressed or anxious, art can be an ideal outlet to relieve our emotions. Whether it be the repetitive movements of a paintbrush, the tactile experiences of something like clay, or simply the expressive nature of pastels, we can de-escalate by the actual process of art.
One of the beauties of art in treatment is that most of the time, we are utilizing the process, the experience of the art. We are creative beings, and so there is healing in that process. However, surprisingly, by following our emotions and experiences in the moment, we often create something that is truly beautiful and reflects our healing.
Healing With Art
Recovery is all about healing ourselves. Healing our pain, and healing from our substance use. We have many different techniques and tools to use in our healing, but art is something that helps to heal not only our minds and bodies but also our souls. We can tap into our creativity and find new ways to express ourselves. We can also use art to communicate when verbal and traditional forms of communication fail us.
In getting in touch with our creativity and self-expression, we are also getting in touch with ourselves. Art can help us to say things that we might not ever think to say out loud or even to ourselves. In so many ways, art helps us to heal. It gives us another voice from within us and helps us to grow more confident in expressing who we are and how we are feeling.
The healing power of art can help you on your recovery journey, too. At AToN Center, we believe in using art and other experiential therapies to help you to heal your soul. Find out more about our programs by calling (888) 535-1516. Find out for yourself how art heals us.