Expressive Therapy

Creative expression has numerous therapeutic benefits for people with substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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What Is Expressive Therapy?

The act of creating a work of art allows people to feel effective, vital, and fully engaged. The process of creation helps people to refocus thought patterns on the task. The work can stimulate the reward centers of the brain allowing the person to feel successful and content. Expressive therapy is an effective complementary therapy for people suffering from substance use and co-occurring mental disorders. When combined with other addiction therapies, Expressive Therapy has several key benefits.

Benefits of Expressive Therapy

  • Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety
  • Enhances Ability To Cope With stress
  • Increases Self-Esteem
  • Promotes Change
  • Increases Self-Awareness
  • Resolves Internal Conflicts

“The purpose of Expressive Therapy is provide an outlet where clients can explore their feelings and express themselves while having fun. The act of creating art is an effective way for clients to deal with internal feelings and conflicts in a safe environment.”

History of Expressive Therapy

Ancient Egyptians encouraged people with mental illness to create works of art. The ancient Greeks used music and drama to understand trauma from war. The concept of utilizing art in addiction treatment and psychotherapy began in the late 19th century. Creative therapies were adapted and developed in the 1930s and 40s. They were initially developed as a way to help nonverbal patients.

In 1958, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) began researching the benefits of art therapy. NIH research showed that art therapy helped people to express their feelings about conflicts and concerns through their art.

The NIH continued their research throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Their research accumulated more interest from other therapists both national and international. In 1969, the American Art Therapy Association was founded as a non-profit professional and educational organization. In the 1970s, key researchers at the NIH either left the organization or passed away. As a result, funding for research started to diminish and less research was conducted for almost 20 years.

In the 1990’s, researchers once again began to study art and recreation therapy. Since then, art therapy has become an accepted complementary approach to substance use and mental health treatment. Art therapists continue to research how this therapy can increase a person’s desire to stay sober and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Expressive Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Expressive therapies that improve mood and mental health can reduce a person’s risk of substance abuse.  This is what makes Expressive Therapy an excellent complementary therapy during substance use rehabilitation to help people who experience co-occurring disorders. However, even without an underlying mental disorder, expressive therapy is effective at improving recovery and helping people maintain abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Expressive therapy can help people with severe substance abuse problems improve and maintain behavioral improvements over time, assisting long-term recovery.

There are several studies that indicate the effectiveness of Expressive Therapy during drug rehabilitation. In one study, people using methadone to recover from chronic opioid abuse and participated in expressive art therapy required less methadone. In addition, a study found people receiving this type of therapy are less likely to abuse cocaine.

An analysis of hundreds of expressive writing studies found that participants experienced on-average a 23 percent improvement in trauma symptoms. This level is comparable to other forms of psychotherapy. People who experience trauma, especially during childhood, are at a much higher risk for developing substance use and chemical dependence issues later in life. As many as 80% of women who seek treatment for substance abuse have at least one lifetime trauma.

At Midwest Detox Center, we utilize Expressive Therapy in our treatment program because it can improve psychological  withdrawal symptoms. We specialize in providing care for people with co-occurring disorders.  This type of therapy can effectively treat underlying mental health issues when combined with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In addiction, Expressive Therapy can enhance traditional addiction therapy modalities like Group Therapy.

Is Residential Treatment Right For You?

Learn About Our Program Learn More

Get Help Now

An Addiction Specialist Is Available To Discuss Treatment Options That Are Right For You. (833) 440-8647

Verify Your Health Insurance Benefits

Expedite Admission To Our Facility By Verifying Your Insurance Benefits. Verify Now