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The Beauty of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

How have you seen art therapy help people in addiction recovery?

“How important the art therapy program is” Sal Vasquez, art therapy teacher at Cycles of Change, says many clients at Cycles of Change told him before they leave the facility. “Art helps them relax,” he continues. It helps them relax while they are doing on artworks. The relaxing part is very important for some of these clients because they’re stressed out.

It helps them relieve stress, it helps them communicate with the other clients because they work together on projects. Basically, it helps them think positively and it increases their attention span.

When they first come in here, I notice that their attention span is very limited. They’re very fidgety and unsure of themselves. And after one or two weeks of working the program, I notice a change in attitude, they’re more relaxed and not as stressed.

In fact, art therapy has been found to decrease stress and can even help those in addiction recovery heal relationships with loved ones. That is why Cycles of Change weighs in on the benefits of art therapy for addiction treatment.

Can you give an example of how art therapy has helped a client of yours?

One good example of how it relates to the client and family, is a client some years back had a daughter come in and visit him. I had given him designs to work with, and you know, some of these clients don’t have a lot of art talent, so I go on the computer and print off designs and things that relate to everyday life.

And so, he took an image of a cat or a dog, some abstract with geometric design, and he transferred it into a watercolor. When his daughter came in to visit one weekend, she had crayons with her and she colored in his picture.

So, after that, what he would do in each session is he would outline a design and send it home, and she would color it in and send it back. This created a relationship between him and his daughter, which had been lost for some time because of his addiction. They were able to do something they both enjoyed doing.

How do you help clients with no artistic experience?

A friend of mine years ago did a research project at Cal Tech where they used monkeys. They used a monkey’s brain and electrodes, and from that they came up with the theory that the right side of the brain is used by artists and musicians more than the left side of the brain.

I used that experiment a few years ago with clients with no art talent at all, and I had them draw a horse and had them put the horse upside down. Drawing upside is one of the training tools we use for people who have no art talent.

By turning the horse upside down, people are forced to use the right side of the brain more than the left. I use that once in a while on clients who have no art experience at all.

What sort of art do you use in your program?

When researching, there are different things like Mandala art, a universal art where objects like circles, organic designs and geometric designs are incorporated into the design of work.

One of the most popular items that I found that the clients like to do is bookmarks. They personalize these bookmarks – some use their hometowns or sports teams – and it kind of relaxes them. I’ve been complimented by clients with no art experience at all about how relaxed they are for an hour, hour and a half during the day.

I found out from these clients that something they can do to personally send home – greeting cards, bookmarks, scratchboards, things they can frame and send home – helps them get back to their home life and relate to their family.

A lot of clients here have lost bonds with their family life and by doing art and sending these personal items home, it helps them get back in touch with their family. I think that’s important.

Holistic Addiction Treatment at Cycles of Change

At Cycles of Change, we believe recovering from addiction takes more than traditional treatments. When you or your loved one come here, your recovery program will include holistic treatments like art therapy and you’ll work with our experienced staff members like Sal Vasquez to help heal your mind, body and soul from addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and you’re ready to seek treatment, contact us today.



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