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Individuals transitioning to aftercare often benefit from various evidence-based and holistic therapies. Some people focus on therapeutic forms of self-expression, such as art therapy. Art therapy has grown in popularity over the last few decades to reduce stress, stabilize emotions, and maintain positive mental health. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Art therapy, as a non-pharmacological medical complementary and alternative therapy, has been used as one of medical interventions with good clinical effects on mental disorders.” West Coast Recovery Centers encourages clients to engage in art therapy and other helpful complementary treatments during aftercare.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy. During sessions, clients engage in creative forms of self-expression using a variety of mediums. According to Cureus, “The basis of art therapy is established on the idea that people can recover and feel better via artistic expression.” Moreover, art therapy allows people to manifest their feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in various forms of art.

Some of the most common art mediums used for this form of therapy include: 

  • Drawing 
  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Creating collages
  • Crafting 

Almost any form of creative self-expression can be used during art therapy. However, the accessibility of drawing and painting supplies makes them the most commonly used artistic formats for therapy sessions. Some people may worry about participating in art therapy if they have no art experience or feel “bad” at creating art. The excellent thing about art therapy is that clients don’t need any experience, and all talent levels receive the same mental health benefits. 

Holistic Benefits of Art Therapy

Humans have been fascinated with art for over 50,000 years. Some of the earliest cave paintings were created between 43,000 and 60,000 years ago. In the history of human civilization, many healers and medical professionals have noted the healing power of art. Art therapy combines artist expression with psychotherapy to create a healing space where people can process their trauma or emotions.

Some known benefits of regularly engaging in art therapy include: 

  • Lowered stress levels and reduced blood pressure
  • Decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders
  • Increased focus 
  • Improved mood and emotional stabilization

People gain significant health benefits from engaging in art, watching others create art, and observing completed art. According to Advances in Nursing Science, “Art has been adopted as a health intervention across multiple disciplines including medicine, nursing, psychology, and occupational therapy . . . empirical evidence has accumulated demonstrating its health benefits on various health outcomes including depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and pain.” Art therapy is also very accessible, making it an excellent option for aftercare.

Positive Emotional Expression Reduces Stress

People who focus on the positive aspects of their lives often have greater emotional stability and lower stress levels. Engaging in or appreciating art is an excellent way to improve positivity during aftercare. Expressing positive emotions, thoughts, beliefs, or feelings using a physical medium often helps people control their moods and behaviors better. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Art therapy utilizes the visual arts for processing emotions to facilitate self-expression and communication to improve psychological wellbeing.” Furthermore, art therapy allows individuals to process emotions and focus on positivity. 

Trauma Healing Through Art

The effects of trauma influence how a person thinks about themselves and others. Therapy provides relief from stress and trauma-related mental health issues, including depressive symptoms and anxiety. People in treatment and aftercare may use art therapy to cope with the effects of trauma and a wide range of other conditions. As stated in the Mental Illness Journal, “With certain drawing techniques and manipulation of various mediums,” clients can “rearrange the sensory and cognitive overexcitation, and thus feel a sense of control over the traumatic experience.”

Art therapy allows clients to heal from trauma more effectively by providing the following: 

  • A safe space to explore difficult or taboo thoughts and emotions 
  • Time to absorb the emotional response to the art 
  • Self-reflection and insights into personal thought processes 
  • A way to process trauma without going into detail with a therapist

Art therapy is often a part of self-care for individuals in aftercare who have mental health issues related to trauma. People in aftercare gain similar emotional relief and inspiration from watching others make art or analyzing finished art pieces. 

Substance Abuse and Art Therapy

Substance use disorder (SUD) has potential long-term symptoms, including cravings, intrusive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors. Art therapy helps people in aftercare maintain control of their emotions and behaviors by channeling the thoughts and feelings related to various symptoms and side effects into art. According to the Journal of Addictions Nursing, “[R]esearch on the benefits of art therapy is widely documented,” and “findings suggest several benefits for SUD patients, such as decreasing denial, reducing opposition to alcoholism treatment, providing an outlet for communication, and lessening shame.”  

West Coast Recovery Centers offers art therapy and other complementary forms of treatment to individuals in treatment. The care team also ensures clients have access to referrals or other resources to ensure they continue to benefit from art therapy after transitioning to aftercare. 

Many treatment programs use art therapy and other alternative therapies to help clients reduce stress and manage symptoms of substance use disorder. Clients can continue to benefit from art therapy during aftercare by taking advantage of private or community-based art therapy sessions. Researchers have proven that actively producing art or observing the art of others provides multiple physical and mental health benefits. West Coast Recovery Centers encourages clients to take advantage of art therapy and other holistic service during treatment and aftercare. The care team helps clients improve their self-confidence and expand their self-expression through art therapy. To learn more about our program and services, call our office today at (760) 492-6509.