Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

Art Therapy for Addiction: Benefits, Techniques, How to Find a Therapist

Key Takeaways

  • Art therapy for addiction provides a safe and supportive environment for people in addiction recovery to express their thoughts and feelings through creating various forms of art.
  • Art therapy is a holistic treatment. It can be used with other types of addiction treatments for a comprehensive approach to recovery for drug and alcohol abuse.
  • The treatment allows for healthy emotional release, works as a method of self-expression, provides stress management, and helps people adjust during their addiction recovery process.
  • It can help prevent relapse by providing tools to cope with triggers and emotional roadblocks. It can also give people with substance use disorders a new, healthy hobby to fill their time.
  • Some tips on finding a therapist include searching online, requesting recommendations, checking credentials, considering the therapist's specialization and creative process, and contacting the therapist to ask questions.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a treatment for addiction where those recovering use creative art-making to express feelings and thoughts that are hard to put into words. This therapy allows them to explore and address issues related to their addiction.

Such activity allows them to feel safe and comfortable, especially when they find it difficult to discuss these issues in regular talking therapy sessions. It's beneficial for those with underlying mental health conditions who may struggle with verbalizing their emotions.

No artistic skill is required for art therapy; the key is a willingness to engage in the process. A trained therapist guides these sessions, which are adaptable settings like group counseling and medication-assisted treatment.

Can Art Therapy Treat Addiction?

Yes, art therapy can help treat addiction from substance abuse. The practice provides a creative outlet for people to express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences through various art forms. However, art therapy alone isn't enough to treat drug and alcohol addiction.


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What are the Benefits of Art Therapy?

There are many benefits of art therapy for substance abuse, including:

  • Allows for healthy emotional release
  • Works as a method of self-expression
  • Provides stress management
  • Helps people adjust their substance recovery abuse recovery process
  • Reduces any denial of addiction
  • Increases motivation to change
  • Provides a safe outlet for painful emotions
  • Lessens the shame of addiction
  • Functions as a break from more intensive talk therapy treatments
  • Allows the subconscious to express itself through a creative process
  • Provides an alternative way to describe and communicate feelings
  • Allows you to create something to discuss with your therapist and others in a group

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6 Ways Art Therapy Can Help Treat Addiction

Here are some ways art therapy can help treat addiction.

1. Provides a Healthy Outlet for Self-Expression

Sometimes, emotions like grief, anger, guilt, shame, and hopelessness are too complex to put into words. People also often need time and space to process issues like trauma or abuse. So when you’re struggling to express yourself but still crave emotional release, art therapy can help.

2. Sets You on a Journey of Personal Discovery

Denial is a characteristic of addiction. Many people lose touch with their true selves when their primary relationship is with drugs or alcohol.

Art therapy for addiction can be an intensely reflective process. You can notice your creative output evolve as you reconnect with your innermost thoughts and feelings.

3. Helps Prevent a Relapse

Relapse prevention techniques are essential for people aiming to finish their relationship with substance abuse and maintain sobriety.

Art therapy is a holistic treatment that provides the tools to cope with triggers like anger and loneliness. It teaches you how to overcome emotional roadblocks and express yourself when communicating with others.

4. Gives You a New, Healthy Hobby

Substance abuse can be extremely time-consuming. Once sober, many people find it difficult to fill all the hours they used to spend seeking and using drugs or alcohol.

If you enjoy art therapy enough, you can turn it into a new hobby. For example, painting, drawing, or photography.

Creating art releases dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical that increases your energy and concentration.

5. Boosts Creativity 

Thinking more creatively is a great way to engage different areas of your brain and develop your problem-solving skills.

Creativity provides you with greater freedom. With art therapy, there are no rules to hold you back.

6. Improves Motivation

Art therapy can be powerful in motivating and encouraging people to continue their recovery journey from substance abuse.

This type of addiction treatment can help improve motivation by providing people with:

  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Evidence of progress
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • A sense of purpose

All these factors can help people stay motivated and committed to their recovery goals.

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How to Find an Art Therapist

Finding an art therapist for addiction can seem daunting, but here are some tips that can help simplify the process:

  • Search online: Start by searching online for art therapists in your area. You can use search engines, directories, or specialized platforms to find registered or licensed art therapists near you. 
  • Request recommendations: If you have friends, family members, or healthcare professionals who’ve worked with an art therapist, ask them for recommendations. They may be able to provide insights into the therapist's qualifications, approach, and expertise.
  • Check credentials: The art therapist you choose should be licensed or certified by a recognized professional organization. You can check with the American Art Therapy Association or your state's licensing board to check a therapist's credentials.
  • Consider the therapist's specialization: Art therapists may specialize in various areas. For example, working with people experiencing trauma or developmental disabilities or with certain types of addiction.
  • Contact the therapist: Once you have a shortlist of potential art therapists, reach out to them to ask questions about their art therapy process. For example, you may ask about their approach, experience, fees, and availability. You should schedule a consultation or initial session to understand whether the therapist is a good fit for you.

Art Therapy Techniques

The goal of art therapy for addiction is to find an alternative form of communication that allows those in addiction recovery from substance abuse to express their experiences.

Some of the art therapy techniques and practices include: 

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Sculpting
  • Creating music
  • Writing poetry
  • Journaling
  • Acting


Art therapy is a valuable and effective form of treatment for addiction, as it allows you to express your emotions healthily and creatively. It has many benefits, including providing an outlet for self-expression and helping with personal discovery.

If you're interested in art therapy for addiction, there are various ways to find a qualified therapist. You can explore different techniques in sessions to help you on your journey to recovery.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024

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