A Life-changing Moment that Sparked Recovery

UK artist Jamie Scanlon recently told the Huffington Post[1] about the role that art played in his recovery from drug addiction. The 37-year-old multimedia artist also credited legendary British graffiti artist Banksy with inspiring him to get well. Scanlon began creating art as a child but stopped when he went to college, during which he began to engage in casual drug use. The trauma he experienced when his two friends were murdered in the same year fueled his drug abuse and sparked a ten-year cycle of addiction, during which he stopped creating art altogether. In 2009 he attended a Banksy exhibit, an experience the artist defines as a critical moment which inspired him to rekindle his love for art and use it as a weapon against his drug addiction.

Unforeseen Rewards

Since replacing the buzz of substance abuse with that of the creative process, Scanlon has vastly improved his life and launched his career into previously unimagined territories. His story reminds us of the power and strength that people often draw from their passion and creativity. It also makes the case for addiction treatment facilities to offer art-based therapy programs to help patients heal and explore their abilities to express themselves in other, healthier ways without having to self-medicate. Scanlon is one of thousands of patients recovering from drugs and/or alcohol that have experienced healing through the power and significance of art.

Transcending All Skill-Levels: The Benefits of Art Therapy

The American Art Therapy Association has defined art therapy as a practice in which patients, facilitated by an art therapist, use artistic media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. Participants engage in artistic expression in a variety of ways to articulate their feelings, including painting and sketching, depending upon the resources available at their facility. Some of the primary clinical benefits include:

  • Enabling patients to confront their trauma and stress via a safe and cathartic activity
  • Giving patients who aren’t particularly verbal an outlet to access their voice and express their emotions
  • Giving therapists advanced insight into their patients’ emotional state by examining recurring symbols and characters in their art
  • Bringing dormant or hidden emotional issues to light in a clear and tangible way
  • Reducing stress and anxiety through the actual act of art-making

A recent study from the University of Georgia found that art therapy was effective in decreasing denial, reducing opposition to alcoholism treatment, providing an outlet for communication and lessening shame.[2]

Impact on Treatment Outcomes

The American Art Therapy Association has compiled ample data to indicate art therapy’s clinical efficacy in treating a range of mental health issues[3]. These issues range from substance abuse disorder to autism spectrum disorder to cognitive impairment to ADD and ADHD. The use of art therapy dates back to the 1940s and has been further developed and innovated since its inception. To date, there are thousands of art therapy practitioners working in the United States. In order to be certified, one must possess a Master’s Degree or higher.

Integrating Art therapy Into Your Care Program

If you feel as through your loved one will benefit from art therapy, whether they have an artistic background or not, be sure to choose a facility that offers this type of therapy and can fully elaborate on the scope of their program. It’s also important to remember that art therapy, along with all other supplemental modalities, must be offered in combination with detox and individualized counseling, as reiterated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.[4]

If you’re interested in finding an addiction care facility offers art therapy, contact the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Information Center today. Our friendly and knowledgeable representatives will identify your loved one’s care needs and work to find you the best possible treatment option.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/30/jps-banksy-_n_6582264.html?ir=Good+News

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268880

[3] http://www.arttherapy.org/upload/OutcomeSingSubjectStudies2007.pdf

[4] http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment