The benefits of art and music in recovery from addictions


Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am continuously plugged in- not just to the universe in general, but more specifically to my music. No matter where I am, my music travels with me. If I'm in the gym, Taylor Swift and Pink fuel my workout. When I'm in the car, I surround myself with a vast musical array, spanning from Kiri te Kanawa's arias to Lady Antebellum's country ballads- and ever thing in between. When I get to the office, the Calming Meditation and Spirit of Reiki tunes do not end until it's lights out at the end of the day.

I've never had to give much thought to why I value music- it's not just because I grew up signing on stage or in bars and coffee houses... it's because it makes me feel better. It makes life easier.

Turns out that not only does it make me feel better, but both music and art are used to help lots of folks feel better, especially if they're attempting to overcome addiction.

Guest Author, Michelle Peterson, the Founder of RecoveryPride.org shares her thoughts about the use of both music and art to improve well-being during the recovery process:

Guest Author: Michelle Peterson- Founder of Recoverypride.org

Overcoming addiction is a long-term process and one that can require many types of treatment. Supplemental therapies like art and music have become increasingly popular as complements to more conventional treatments. They can unlock a person's creativity and, importantly, give you coping techniques.

How to Use Supplemental Therapies

Supplemental therapies go by various names and are often referred to as alternative¹ or holistic therapies. Alternative therapy can be a misnomer, as the opinion of many professionals is that nontraditional approaches are most effective when used as a complement to more conventional treatments.

This is when therapies like art and music can be truly beneficial² to those going through recovery. The long road to recovery can be exhausting, and it's easy to find one's energy and emotions sapped by the process. Creative activities such as these can offer much-needed interludes, hopefully providing relaxing breaks to recharge from the rigors of conventional treatment. The skills that can be gained in the process can remain with you well beyond treatment. By incorporating these supplemental therapies into recovery practice, you can better challenge the cycle of addiction. Whether it's art therapy or meditation, supplemental therapies can lessen stress and anxiety, as well as other symptoms that might undermine recovery. Using such therapies as a supplement can help strengthen one's focus and sustain recovery, and they can be an invaluable asset to express emotions and maintain overall wellness.

The Benefits of Art

Sometimes, words aren't enough to communicate what we're going through. Pursuits like art therapy³ can offer a “visual language” as a means to express thoughts and emotion. Art might not seem particularly accessible at first glance, but anyone can pick up a brush and benefit from this form of therapy. If you're experiencing stress or or or anxiety (4), art therapy can be a fantastic tool in reducing and understanding negative patterns. As The Treehouse explains, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering with addiction to cope (5). 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.” As you create artworks that are truly unique to your experience, you may find yourself becoming more confident and assured in expressing things that might have once been internalized and hidden away.

The Benefits of Music

Music has long possessed the power to resonate and has been a comfort to many, from the brokenhearted to the angry. It's universality can be relatable enough that it can soothe tears and relocate our thoughts to more calming places. Music therapy seeks to achieve this, and more, by offering individuals the opportunity to creatively explore their inner selves. When facing addiction, it may be unavoidable that one's esteem and confidence has taken a hit. By learning to play an instrument or composing songs and writing lyrics, you can challenge that and tangibly see your thoughts and feelings being turned into music. Like art, it can also help reduce stress and anxiety and give purpose and focus. This can be invaluable motivation as you go through recovery and maintain sobriety. The knowledge and self-awareness that you may gain can be utilized beyond treatment, helping you develop coping techniques for the stresses and strains that can't always be managed through conventional methods alone.

When integrated into a comprehensive treatment program, art and music therapy can be empowering assets when recovering from addiction. Learning to paint or play music may be frustrating initially, but you will hopefully find your creativity nurtured and your self-belief and confidence given an invaluable boost. Sobriety is an immensely challenging thing to maintain, but in honing artistic skills, you may be better equipped to come to terms with the past, emotions, and thoughts.

1 Milios, R. (2016, May 18). Alternative Therapies for Addiction. https://www.recovery.org/pro/articles/alternative-therapies-for-addiction/

2 Keefer, A. (2017, August 14). What Are the Benefits of Alternative Medicines? https://www.livestrong.com/article/121642-benefits-alternative-medicines/

3 Newcomer, L. (2016, June 06). 8 Alternative Mental Health Therapies Explained. https://greatist.com/happiness/alternative-mental-health-therapies-heal-mind

4 How can Art Therapy benefit people with depression, anxiety, stress. (2011, July). https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/how-can-art-therapy-benefit-people-with-depression-anxiety-stress-and-other-psy

5 Art Therapy And Addiction. (2018, January 24). http://www.treehouserehab.org/art-therapy-and-addiction/

Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.

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