Guest Blog Post: Michelle Peterson – Can Art or Music Therapy Help You With Addiction Recovery?

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Music and art are what make us whole. The ability to create is humanity in its highest form. Those who have been suffering with addiction can find themselves and promote their healing through art and music therapy. Many addiction centers offer this kind of therapy as part of the recovery process, and for good reason.

A study published by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in 2014 showed that art and music therapy were both effective in helping those in substance abuse recovery. According to the American Art Therapy Association, “Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”

Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity, it allows an artist to bring out whatever emotions they’re dealing with onto the paper or canvas and leave it there. Because drugs and alcohol can dull a person’s emotions, painting can bring you back to yourself, little by little.

If your treatment program doesn’t include art or music therapy, speak to your addiction counselor. He or she might be able to direct you to a good program that specializes in addiction. If you had music or art therapy in rehab, but don’t have access on your own, consider taking some lessons. While it’s not the same as therapy, learning to create your own art is a meditative practice that can help you relax and feel better about yourself. You don’t need talent, you just need to create for the sake of creating.

If you don’t have the money to spend on art lessons, consider learning from YouTube. There are many free art lessons online that will help you learn to draw or paint like a pro. Or, just buy a sketch pad and some pencils, and start drawing. Focus on how you feel and let your emotions come out in the form of art.

The DHHS study said, “Just like art therapy, (music therapy) is thought to help patients tap into emotions and needs that may be difficult to express through more traditional forms of communication. Furthermore, music therapy also provides a way to motivate patients to receive treatment.”

Another study published in Drug and Alcohol Review showed that music therapy was an effective therapy because it helped participants stay engaged. Basically, it was fun, so participants were more likely to show up, a constant challenge in addiction therapy.

Music lessons are everywhere, and you can easily learn to create beautiful music by learning an instrument. You can rent an instrument and take lessons. If you can’t afford it, YouTube has music lessons, too. Or there are books you can buy or check out from your local library. When you’re focusing on learning how to play, you’re not thinking about temptations. You let the rest of the world fall away. Learning an instrument is more than just meditative — it also gives you a sense of accomplishment and boosts your self-esteem. If you can conquer that guitar, you can conquer the world!

Music and art therapy are excellent ways to feel better about yourself and the world. They will help you find your own talent and creativity, as well as make you feel accomplished. Even if you don’t become a rock star or famous artist, you’ll know you have something inside you that wants to create, and that’s crucial for well-being. Start looking for an art or music therapist to add to your recovery.