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Art Therapy at Destination Hope

Do you sometimes feel that you can’t translate your emotions into words? Well, you don’t necessarily have to. Art is an alternative therapy that allows you to discover themselves through a creative process. It allows you to reach deep within and use a non-verbal means to articulate emotions.

Art therapy is not always centered around creating art but can be as simple as observing or discussing it. It requires no skill – only an open mind. Art therapy can improve social skills, self-awareness, and help a person uncover and face emotional trauma.

History of Art Therapy

Art therapy is a field that takes qualities from both art and psychology to create an alternative and effective therapeutic process. Surprisingly, research shows that pairing art and psychology is not a new practice and can be traced back centuries. However, it became mainstream in the 20th century1. Art therapy began in Europe as an outlet for patients suffering from tuberculosis, but soon spread and was used in other practices and fields.

There are many forms of art therapy; to name a few:

  • Painting
  • Doodling
  • Sculpting
  • Drawing
  • Making collages
  • Writing
  • Photography
  • And film

Many times, when a person struggles substance abuse, it is because of an underlying conflict, feeling, or condition that is not being properly acknowledged or treated. Art therapy allows clients in the recovery process to connect with those emotions through an enjoyable activity. They can then begin to address and overcome these emotions.

Benefits of Art Therapy

The ‘mainstream’ form of art therapy can be seen as adult coloring books or paint by numbers. Activities such as these help people focus on their art and how they feel in the present moment, instead of getting loss in their everyday stressors.

However, art therapy goes deeper than paint by numbers. Art therapy uses its creative expression powers to channel deep or longing feelings that that may have been held for years, or a lifetime. It is used in hospitals, rehab centers, schools, prisons and more to give people a different way to try to connect with their feelings. The benefits of art therapy vary from person to person, but include:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Helping confront difficult emotions
  • Reducing stress
  • Encouraging self-expression
  • Developing coping mechanisms
  • Strengthening self-esteem and confidence
  • Stimulating positive emotions and trauma resolution

In a study conducted at Drexel University, researchers measured the blood flow in the brain of a person that was taking part in a creative activity. The researchers found blood flow increased to the subjects’ prefrontal cortex which regulates thoughts and emotions as well as motivational and reward systems. The findings of this study indicate that people who participate in artistic activity experience stimulated thought and a reward complex2. Many further studies have supported the notion that art therapy can have positive impacts on people, especially their physical or emotional health

The Bottom Line

Art therapy is used with people of all ages and has shown great success with confronting deep emotion through creative expression. Destination Hope explores art therapy with clients on their road to recovery to give them a chance to navigate emotions outside of conventional therapy – especially in cases of dual-diagnosis. It can be paired with behavioral therapy in order to enhance a patients experience and develop and understand their emotions from different perspectives and helping them progress toward a happier and healthier life.

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