Recovering from addiction requires more than just quitting drugs or alcohol. Many people grappling with addiction are also dealing with mental health and emotional issues. Clinical support, behavioral therapy, and peer support groups can help you rehabilitate your life, but you may need more help overcoming the distressing challenges that contributed to your addiction. Research shows that creative therapies can help you relieve stress, express your emotions, and cope with mental health and emotional challenges in a healthy way.
Even though art and music therapy aren’t evidence-based practices, they can help increase the effectiveness of research-based treatments. In addition to helping you stay calm as you recover, art and music therapy have been shown to help:
- Reduce depression
- Ease stress and anxiety
- Improve mood and well-being
- Encourage self-expression and healthy communication
- Increase concentration and focus
- Distract you from cravings
- Heal difficult emotions and repressed memories
- Develop a sense of control over your life
- Improve brain functionality
By helping you regulate emotions, resolve personal challenges, avoid cravings, and improve brain functionality, art and music therapy can help you achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
What Are Art and Music Therapy?
Art and music therapy are complementary treatments that are used in addiction recovery. Generally, these creative therapies are used:
- In conjunction with traditional addiction treatments such as behavioral therapy, medication, individual and group counseling, and 12-step facilitation
- As an alternative approach to help individuals who don’t respond well to traditional forms of treatment
- To help decrease resistance to other forms of addiction treatment
In art therapy, the creative process of making art is used to help improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In other words, art becomes a way for you to express complicated and distressing emotions related to your own personal experiences. Creating can help you reveal unconscious and underlying feelings related to your addiction challenges.
As you become more in touch with your inner feelings, a certified art therapist can help you explore the thoughts and behaviors expressed in your art. Expressing yourself creatively can also help relieve anxiety and distressing emotions, which can help improve your mood and motivate you to continue pursuing positive change.
Art therapy can include all forms of visual art such as:
- Making an art journal
- Stress-relief painting
- Drawing an addiction-related incident
Music therapy also helps to improve your overall well-being and can include a wide range of activities related to music. You might create music, but you might also sing, listen to or dance to music as well. As you express and experience your emotions through the rhythms, melodies, and tones of instrumental and lyrical music, you can:
- Strengthen your brain pathways
- Heal repressed memories
- Soothe high levels of stress
- Examine your emotions and self-esteem
- Improve your self-awareness
- Experience positivity
- Learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques
Common music therapy activities can include:
- Music games
- Analyzing lyrics
- Discussing music
- Making music
- Playing a musical instrument
- Exchanging information through music
- Music improvisation and jam sessions
How Do Art and Music Therapy Help Addiction Recovery?
Creative therapy can help you express and process difficult emotions you can’t quite seem to put into words. Getting lost in music or art can also help you practice mindfulness and avoid cravings. But that’s not all. Art and music therapy benefit the recovery process by:
- Reducing denial
- Decreasing shame and guilt
- Improving communication skills
- Promoting positive emotions
- Encouraging relaxation
- Reducing depression, anxiety, stress, and anger
- Increasing your motivation to change
Let’s explore some of these benefits in depth.
Creating Art Stimulates The Release of Serotonin and Dopamine
Research consistently shows that art enhances brain function. In addition to positively impacting brain wave patterns, creating art can raise serotonin levels and seems to stimulate the release of dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate your mood.
Serotonin helps manage your well-being and happiness. Drugs and alcohol can cause depleted serotonin levels, making you feel depressed, anxious, restless, and discontented. Creating art can increase serotonin levels which help reduce depression, regulate anxiety, and improve your overall mood.
Dopamine helps regulate pleasure and emotional responses and plays a role in planning, thinking, and motivation. Addictive substances overstimulate dopamine production which motivates you to continue to use drugs or alcohol. Creating art also stimulates dopamine production but in a healthier manner. This helps you to feel happy and motivated by simply creating art, proving that you can experience pleasure without drugs and alcohol.
Music Helps Us Manage Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are two of the most common triggers of relapse. Luckily, the majority of music therapy activities can help you alleviate stress and anxiety. One particular study found that participating in music therapy actually helped promote an emotional change in people grappling with addiction challenges. Data from the study revealed that dancing and moving along with music decreased feelings such as guilt, fear, blame, and regret and increased feelings of joy and happiness. A 2018 study found that listening to “Weightless,” an instrumental song by Marconi Union, reduced anxiety in study participants by 65%.
Creativity Exercises The Brain’s Resilience and Plasticity
Creativity therapies can also help improve your focus and concentration. Using drugs and alcohol damages the brain and alters the organ’s delicate biochemistry. Unfortunately, this behavior can cause lasting problems with the brain’s reward-processing and memory functions. Luckily, creative endeavors like painting, drawing, or writing songs can help the brain recover. Some scientists believe these activities might even be able to help prevent cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is possible because creative exercises encourage communication between many parts of the brain, including those involved in memory and decision-making. Basically, art and music therapy can help the brain heal itself after enduring the negative impacts of addiction.
Creative Therapies Help Build Self-Esteem
In addition to helping you express yourself, manage anxiety, and heal your brain, art and music therapy can help you rebuild your self-esteem. Losing control of your alcohol and drug use can put a damper on your self-esteem. Thankfully, writing your own songs, creating a piece of pottery, painting a painful memory, or dancing away your pain can help you realize your own autonomy. You are more than capable of making and maintaining positive changes in your life. Creating art and expressing yourself through music can help you recognize that.
Let Us Help You Live Sober
Here at Soba Recovery, we want to help you live a thriving, purposeful, sober life. We do that through a wide range of traditional evidence-based treatment techniques. But we also know how powerful, helpful, and effective alternative and creative therapies such as music and art therapy can be. Talk therapy and the 12-step program aren’t the only way to overcome the cycle of addiction. Let us help you discover a treatment plan that’s right for you. Contact us today to learn more about the traditional and creative therapies we can use to help you or a loved one overcome addiction.