Therapy plays a critical role in helping people successfully manage mental health issues and overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Much of the work of therapy involves addressing the thoughts and emotions that trigger substance use or symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yet accessing and naming certain feelings can be hard, especially for those who have relied on drugs and alcohol to dull or repress painful emotions.
The Expressive Arts Therapy program at FHE Health helps patients connect with their emotions, communicate what they are thinking and feeling, and develop greater overall self-awareness. That in turn informs and supports the primary work and goals of group and individual therapy.
For more in-depth information about the Expressive Arts program at FHE Health, including the types of expressive arts that we offer as an adjunct to therapy and how they benefit our patients, we invite you to read on.
What Is Expressive Arts Therapy?
Expressive arts therapy is the use of creative expression in its various forms to facilitate healing and recovery. As part of the patient’s treatment plan, expressive arts can help them unlock and release their emotions.
Creative expression, be it art, music or writing, enables patients to identify their emotions and articulate what they are feeling. Many patients also find that the creative process itself is a pathway to greater self-acceptance and closure regarding life issues that have contributed to addiction or mental health struggles.
Expressive arts provide enjoyable and meaningful outlets for self-growth and self-discovery. These opportunities to reconnect with oneself in positive ways can be very helpful during early recovery and are often vital to successful, long-term recovery.
Types of Expressive Art Therapy
There are many types of expressive art therapy, including visual arts, dance, drama, music, and writing therapy. At FHE, we provide the following types of expressive art therapy:
- Visual arts psychotherapy
- Music therapy
- Writing and poetry therapy
Each of these expressive arts offers specific therapeutic benefits. In the next section, we invite you to explore these therapies and what they can uniquely do for patients.
What Does Expressive Art Therapy Work for?
Expressive art therapy works for many different conditions and patient populations. At FHE, expressive art therapy (art, music, and poetry) is used for a wide range of mental health issues, as well as substance use disorders. Below you can explore what each of these therapies does and how it can benefit patients.
Visual Arts Psychotherapy
Visual arts therapy pairs creative expression via drawing with psychotherapeutic processing in groups. The beauty of art is that it is a universal language that anyone can use. It’s also a means of communication by which patients can externalize their emotions, experiences, and personal histories.
We use visual arts in the treatment setting to help patients in various ways:
- become more connected to the present moment
- reconcile emotional conflicts
- encourage self-reflection and self-knowledge
- develop adaptive coping skills
- process trauma and related emotions in a safe, supportive environment
- improve interpersonal and communication skills
- encourage self-exploration and self-expression
- reduce stress and anxiety
- impart coping tools for life after rehab
Various theories and techniques inform our approach to visual arts therapy, with the goal of helping patients:
- become more self-aware and present in the here and now
- develop a positive, healthy mindset
- feel heard, validated, and empowered in their recovery
Music therapy is often an adjunct treatment for depression, anxiety, and addiction. At FHE, musical expression provides a positive, constructive distraction from issues that may be triggering cravings and symptoms. Here are some of the ways that music therapy works specifically for anxiety, depression, and addiction….
Music Therapy for Depression
When a person has clinical depression, they are not able to experience enjoyment from the daily activities that once gave them pleasure. They also tend to have low motivation. Meanwhile, anxiety and muscle tension can be common symptoms.
Music therapy produces a sense of enjoyment and motivation, by boosting dopamine in the brain. (Dopamine is often referred to as the “pleasure neurotransmitter.”) Music can also reduce muscle tension, decrease anxiety, and facilitate emotional release.
Music Therapy for Anxiety
Music therapy can improve mood, as a medium for expressing and processing emotions related to trauma and other experiences. Music can also be a natural calming agent. That is because it can reduce the amount of stress hormones in the body. Lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline mean lower levels of anxiety.
Music Therapy for Addiction
Music and musical expression are a form of entertainment, relaxation, distraction, and a way of enriching and enhancing life—all of which can support early recovery. Music also helps to motivate patients in their daily activities and to reach their treatment goals.
Poetry therapy encourages patients to create their own individual or collective poems. Through this process of creative self-expression, some people find they are better able to access feelings and memories buried in the subconscious and identify how these dynamics relate to their current life circumstances. This type of expressive art therapy can also be beneficial as:
- a vehicle for the expression of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express
- self-reflection and exploration, increasing self-awareness and helping individuals make sense of their world
- a way for individuals to reframe and redefine their situation, by unlocking new perspectives
- validation of emotional experiences and formation of interpersonal connections (when people share these experiences with one another)
What Is Expressive Art Therapy Like
What expressive art therapy is like will depend on the type being used (whether art, music, or poetry). For example, if the therapy is art, the therapist might invite patients to draw their diagnosis as a beast, creature, monster, or villain. This might then be followed by a time of group discussion in which patients are invited to share the negative thoughts and feelings that their creature embodies and to challenge those thoughts and feelings.
In music therapy, recording messages to oneself or a loved one can be cathartic and therapeutic, as a vehicle for communicating feelings and expressing love. Patients can also choose to learn to play a musical instrument during their time in treatment.
Why We Offer Expressive Art Therapy
At FHE, we offer expressive art therapy because of its proven benefits for a wide range of mental and behavioral health issues. When integrated with medical and clinical interventions, art, music, or poetry therapy can greatly enhance and support healing and recovery. They also can serve as tools for sustaining a healthy life after rehab.
For more information about treatment at FHE, reach out to us at 1-844-244-3963. Our compassionate counselors are available 24/7 to answer any questions.