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Everyone heals from substance use disorder (SUD) in their own way. Some people prefer psychotherapy or behavior modification, while others may benefit more from creative therapies. According to the Journal of Addictions Nursing, creative therapies “can be used to engage clients and enhance internal motivation for change through the creation of imagery.” West Coast Recovery Centers offers art and music therapy to clients recovering from substance abuse. Clients are encouraged to use creative therapies to facilitate personal growth and healing during continuing care. 

What Are Creative Therapies?

According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Creative Arts Therapies is an umbrella term for healthcare professions that use the creative and expressive process of art making to improve and enhance the psychological and social well-being of individuals of all ages and health conditions.” 

Some of the most common forms of creativity used in therapy include: 

  • Handcrafts 
  • Painting and drawing
  • Sculpting 
  • Woodworking 
  • Traditional or interpretive dance 
  • Music writing
  • Listening to music 
  • Playing an instrument 

Almost any artistic activity can be incorporated into a therapeutic modality. 

How Do Creative Therapies Help People Recover From SUD?

Creative forms of therapy provide people with healthy ways to outwardly express internal experiences. Often, art is shared with therapists, peers in treatment, and loved ones. The shared art experience facilitates more profound healing and social connections. According to the previously mentioned article by Frontiers in Psychology, “Creative arts therapies use the relationship between the client and therapist and among clients in group or dyadic therapy in the context of the creative-expressive process as a dynamic and vital force for growth and change.” 

Creative art therapies use sensory experiences, emotions, and cognitive processes to do the following: 

  • Create a narrative, including spoken or nonverbal symbolism
  • Work through internal conflicts 
  • Create a form of communication between internal and external experiences

Many people with SUD struggle to regulate emotions and engage with others in healthy ways. Chronic substance abuse affects how the body responds to stress and emotional situations. Creative therapies help people discover new ways of coping with stress or complex emotions by providing a safe outlet. 

Common Creative Therapies Used to Treat SUD and Mental Health Disorders

Many creative activities have been used in the last few decades to support recovery from substance abuse. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices can improve chances of recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs), especially when used in addition to traditional SUD treatments and mutual self-help groups.” For example, “music-based interventions . . . help accomplish individual goals (e.g., creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music), and are tailored to the patients individual needs and preferences.” 

Below are brief descriptions of three common creative therapies and their benefits:

#1. Sound and Music Therapy

Music has been used for thousands of years to improve the physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being of individuals with mental health issues. Researchers have reported multiple health benefits of using music in treatment. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “Performing or listening to music activates a variety of structures in the brain that are involved in thinking, sensation, movement, and emotion.” Often, people in treatment for substance abuse use music therapy to improve focus, reduce depression, and increase mindfulness. 

#2. Dance Therapy

The mind-body connection is often negatively impacted by chronic substance abuse. Dance therapy helps people develop healthier relationships with their bodies while learning emotion regulation. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Dynamic body feedback is used in dance movement therapy (DMT), with the aim to facilitate emotional expression and a change of emotional state through movement and dance . . . It has been demonstrated that moving in a specific way can evoke and regulate related emotions.” West Coast Recovery Centers does not currently offer dance therapy. However, clients are encouraged to take advantage of dance therapy during outpatient treatment or continuing care. The care team can provide referrals and information about local creative therapy resources.

#3. Art Therapy

Art therapy is one of the most common forms of alternative holistic therapies and is often used alongside traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of addiction or mental health disorders. According to the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, “Art therapy, active within multiple aspects of the mental health field, has been utilized for several decades now as a treatment modality with individuals suffering from addictions.” West Coast Recovery Centers offers art therapy to clients in every program. Art therapy reduces stress, increases emotional stability, and improves overall mental health. 

Creative Therapy at West Coast Recovery Centers

Artistic forms of self-expression are helpful during and after rehabilitation. Many people continue to use art, music, and other creative activities to increase their quality of life after treatment. Creativity allows people to share their recovery journey with others in a unique way.

Humans are creative and often find self-expression helpful in healing from trauma, injury, or illness. Recovering from substance use disorder requires learning new routines and behaviors. Creative therapies help people feel more comfortable exploring essential lifestyle changes. Art and music are popular alternative holistic therapies used alongside behavior modification, peer support, and psychotherapy to help people develop emotional stability and healthier coping skills. West Coast Recovery Centers offers art therapy to clients in treatment for substance abuse. The care team understands the importance of allowing people to heal using various tools, including artistic mediums like music and painting. To learn more about our programs and services, call our office today at (760) 492-6509