Both art and music therapy are used as supplemental treatments to help reduce stress and anxiety while helping promote a positive mood as well as peace, relaxation, and comfort. Expressive arts therapies are individualized for the patient in order to effectively encourage self-expression. While each patient’s experience is going to be unique, we can generally define art therapy and music therapy based on common factors.
Art therapy uses one or more visual art materials and media including painting, drawing, collage and sculpture as an integrative activity that helps a therapist diagnose a patient by getting to know them better as they communicate through the artwork. Patients often experience a reduction in stress and improvement regarding self-observational skills.
Music therapy involves a broad range of activities including listening to music, singing, writing music, and playing a musical instrument as a way to encourage positive changes in the psychological, cognitive, physical or social functioning of individuals being treated for physical or mental health problems. Patients often experience things such as a reduction of pain, loneliness and stress as well as improved feelings of self-esteem.
The creative arts are used as extra treatments on top of other practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. However, art therapy and music therapy are both established in the health profession and backed by scientific research and case studies. Therapists often employ expressive arts therapies as they increase the patient's motivation to become engaged in their own treatment, which can produce more positive results.
Expressive Arts Therapies for Addiction Treatment
While becoming an addict results from a string of behavioral choices, abusing drugs and/or alcohol for an extended amount of time affects the brain and body in the same way as a disease. Left untreated, addiction grows more severe, disabling and life-threatening over time. This is why most medical institutions, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, define addiction as a disease. Just like someone struggling to recover from cancer, the addict needs professional assistance and medical treatment to overcome their problem.
While art therapies alone cannot treat addiction, they are effective supplemental treatments that can help with the recovery process. Both treatments can aid when it comes to a patient working out difficult emotions related to their substance abuse problem. Using free association artwork, therapists encourage patients to use their active imagination in order to spur introspection and discussion about their feelings. By using art as a means for understanding and coping with addiction, the recovery process is less stressful and the patient is better able to cope with difficult emotions. Furthermore, these therapies help improve self-esteem, concentration and problem-solving capabilities, so they are more confident in their abilities to face life post-treatment as they reintegrate into their normal lifestyles.
Incorporating Art & Music Therapies into Daily Life
Art and music therapies are able to help patients long after they end a session with a therapist. Making art or music at home can help with cognitive abilities and emotional release in a way that prevents relapse. To encourage the inner artist, it helps to have a space of one’s own to create.
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. Even without an entire room to dedicate, a small area to oneself can serve as a retreat where they can escape when tempted with relapse.
Expressive arts therapies like art and music therapy help when it comes to diagnoses as well as treatment of physical and mental illnesses. Those recovering from addiction often use art therapies as a way to deal with difficult emotions regarding their disease and the stress and anxieties that come with it. Incorporating art and music therapy into one’s life doesn’t have to be relegated to the therapist’s office. Setting up an artful space at home encourages the imagination and improves self-esteem.
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