Art and music therapy are typically known as complementary treatments to addiction recovery. Although they are not evidence-based practices such as behavioral therapies and pharmacological treatments, they are still a valuable way to boost the efficacy of these approaches. These therapies take advantage of the calming and motivating benefits of artistic expression. As a result, people who do not respond well to traditional addiction treatments may want to explore the possibility of supplementing with art and music therapy.

Music Helps Us Manage Anxiety

Music therapy includes activities such as relaxation training, lyrical analysis, songwriting, and musical improvisation. It may involve actively listening to music or making music yourself. According to in a new tab), music therapy has been shown to promote relaxation, decrease feelings of anxiety and increase positive emotions. For example, one study(opens in a new tab) found that music therapy can evoke emotional change in people dependent on substances. Specifically, it increases feelings of joy and happiness while reducing guilt, fear, blame, and regret.

Art Can Help Us Rediscover Our Emotions

As Treehouse Rehab notes, “Whether it’s watercolor, acrylic, or oils, painting is a wonderful way for those suffering from addiction to cope. Not only is painting a quiet, soothing activity(opens in a new tab), 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. ”

Art therapy offers a much-needed emotional outlet(opens in a new tab) for people facing difficult and complex feelings that are hard to express verbally. This can give you a unique insight into your own situation and allow you to better understand your own feelings. As you paint, you may discover deeper meanings to your emotions, allowing you to uncover the underlying thoughts that may never have emerged otherwise.

Artistic Hobbies Improve Performance in Other Areas

Did you know that engaging in creative activities can actually improve your skills in other areas? According to Psychology Today, studies have found that people’s job performance can be improved by engaging in creative activities(opens in a new tab). Writing and art increase our feelings of control and mastery, giving us higher levels of motivation to tackle challenging tasks on the job and in our personal lives. Similarly, art therapy can help addiction survivors find jobs faster by improving their ability to cope with feelings of helplessness.

Creativity Exercises The Brain’s Resilience and Plasticity

Unfortunately, addiction damages our brains(opens in a new tab) by causing alterations to our natural biochemistry. This can cause lasting problems with the brain’s reward-processing and memory functions. Artistic activities like painting, drawing, or writing songs can help the brain recover(opens in a new tab) from illness and injury. In fact, these kinds of hobbies can help prevent cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s in old age. This is because creating requires communication between many parts of the brain, including those involved in memory and executive decision-making. As a result, art and music therapy can be extremely beneficial in helping the brain heal itself following addiction.

Incorporating Supplemental Art Therapies into Treatment

It’s easy to get involved in artistic and musical activities(opens in a new tab) alongside your addiction treatment. You can pick up your favorite instrument and learn how to play by following tutorials online. Or, try creating something yourself such as a collage from scraps of paper or an abstract watercolor masterpiece. Take advantage of adult coloring books and calming music for meditation. You may even want to use the same song to de-stress on a regular basis, so your body learns to associate calming music with relaxation. Whatever you do, remember that your art doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to share it with anyone.

Engaging in art and musical activities are a commonly overlooked ways to deal with negative emotions and stress. This makes them a hidden jewel of addiction recovery treatments. Whether you need an outlet for difficult emotions or just a distraction from nagging thoughts, turn to creativity and your mind will thank you.

For more information about behavioral healthcare, reach out to Cognitive Behavior Institute

Article written by:
Michelle Peterson
Founder of in a new tab) in a new tab)