As art therapists, we bring our own paradigms to the work. When working with clients who struggle with addiction, I combine A.A., Harm Reduction, The Transtheoretical Model of Change, Mindfulness Practice, Somatic Experiencing and Focusing. The creative process itself is healing and when combined with other paradigms, it comes a powerful tool to help heal addictions. Making art can be a way to relax, change focus and mood. Clients can make art when they are feeling urges or feeling restless. Clients can review the art that they have made to see how far they have come in their recovery process. Making art in therapy sessions can lead to a hobby as candle making, painting, or working with clay. It means that there is always something to pick up and focus on which helps the client move into a new lifestyle. The client can feel a creative high instead of a chemical one.
The appeal of using art therapy in recovery work is that art can bypass conscious defenses and enliven treatment. Creativity is open-ended and dynamic. It is in direct contrast to a rigid, self-perpetuating addictive activity. Creating also helps integrate right and left hemispheres of the brain, increases self-awareness and allows access to nonverbal communication.
Creating helps clients focus on their islands of competence. Getting into art can help people become more resilient. Working on an art project can help provide physical and psychological stabilization. There is no right or wrong way to create art, each person has their own individual expression, it is something that everyone can do and creating moves people towards health. Creating a piece of art gives people a feeling of accomplishment and pride. It can also give clients a sense of optimism, ownership and personal control to create something they feel good about. Connecting with their innate creative process helps people reconnect with themselves and it enhances self-esteem. Creating art can help foster hope.