Art Therapy Found To Be Effective In Addiction Treatment

August 17, 2018

Addiction manifests itself in many ways: mentally, physically, physiologically, emotionally, behaviourally, and even spiritually.

The days where addiction was limited to alcohol, sex and drugs are also long gone with caffeine, cellphone, and even Netflix addictions are becoming commonplace in Australia according to a study published in the Sydney Morning Herald. While there are many conventional addiction therapies that render impressive results, the immense power of art therapy should never be renounced. By engaging in art therapy you are gently coerced to step outside of your comfort zone which is a very important part of the healing process.

While art therapy most commonly involves drawing and painting, therapeutic artistic expression can effectively take place through other art forms such as sculpture, ceramics, and photography. A closer look at the various art mediums that can form part of art therapy will help establish the efficacy of each.

Painting and drawing

Painting can provide individuals living with addiction with a wonderful emotional outlet, allowing them to express their feelings by putting oils, watercolours or acrylics to paper.  Painting is a very soothing activity that can enable you to reawaken the emotions that were stultified by the addiction. While some individuals will react better to free painting, other might feel more confident when told to stick to a particular theme. Drawing is one of the simplest forms of artistic expression and can be of great therapeutic benefit regardless of the level of skill an individual living with addiction possesses.  

Even if you start out drawing simple stick figures you will soon see your skill improving while your anxiety is eased.  According to the Western Australia Department of Health, art therapy can help develop self-awareness and self-esteem while also boosting much-needed social skills.  If an individual feels overwhelmed by painting or drawing a good place to start would be a colouring book, a pastime that has almost quadrupled in popularity over recent years.


There is an age-old saying that states that a picture paints a thousand words.  In general, people have become tired of talking and prefer to express themselves (and their views of the world) through photos. It is for this very reason that photography can effectively be used to combat long-term addiction.  There are many ways photos and photography can be used to complement traditional addiction treatment. While taking photos is a superb way to self-express, viewing photos in a group context, discussing them and even posing for them can be of great restorative benefit. Photography as a form of therapy requires no prior photographic experience nor is expensive equipment needed to make it effective.Taking photos with a phone or basic camera will have the same benefit as taking them with a state-of-the-art DSLR camera.

Sculpting and pottery

Although sculpting and potter may prove to be messier than drawing, painting, and photography, it can be extremely valuable to someone trying to break an addiction.  Seeing a sculpture or piece of pottery come to life before your eyes give you a sense of purpose which not only alleviates stress and combats negativity but also boosts your natural coping skills. Regardless of the medium you work with, you will soon find yourself thoroughly enjoying creating your own art piece. Sculpting and pottery can be initiated by a therapist to specifically accommodate a patient’s needs and have been proven to be especially helpful in cases where anger and frustration are prevalent.

In most cases, addiction is about more than a physical and mental craving for a certain substance or activity. Addiction is often an indication of another underlying psychological issue that is yet to be exposed. Art therapy can help a patient unlock these buried emotions, providing him with a sense of self-worth and an increased chance of beating the addiction once and for all.

This article was kindly provided by Chrissy Jones.

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