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The struggles that one faces after a traumatic event can lead to mental health issues and substance abuse. Symptoms that a person may experience can include damaged relationships, low self-esteem, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, nightmares, depression, anxiety, and personality changes.

The symptoms, including substance abuse, could very well be what causes a person to seek help, but often, unresolved trauma is the root cause of these concerns. One therapeutic modality that can help treat unresolved trauma is art therapy.

What Is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is a holistic treatment option based on the idea that creative expression can lead to healing and improved mental well-being. Art therapy draws upon the link between art and emotion; the goals of art include self-expression on the artist’s part and causing the viewer to have an emotional response. Viewing art causes people to think and feel.

In art therapy, a therapist with special training leads the sessions or class. Art therapy can use various mediums, including drawing, painting, finger painting, sculpting, working with clay, or creating collages. An art therapy session will differ from an art class in that the goal isn’t the finished product but instead focuses on the client’s inner experience.

The therapist will ask the clients questions about the emotional and psychological aspects of the process. For example, the therapist might ask the client if they have any feelings about the process or if their piece caused any feelings or memories to come up.

Why Art Therapy Is Effective

Part of why art therapy is effective is that it engages the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. Creating art is a kinesthetic experience: you feel the paintbrush in your hand, you see color and form appearing on your canvas, and you smell the scent of the paints.

Clients Can Express Themselves

Art provides a way for people to express themselves without using words. Often, clients may find it easier to open up and talk during art class than they do in a traditional therapy session. A client may not feel ready to talk about a traumatic experience. They may be afraid of being judged, or they may not remember the experience on a conscious level. Art can be a way to process situations that are too painful to talk about or buried too deeply.

Other Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy reduces stress, improves immune system function, reawakens suppressed memories, and can give the client a sensation of flow or being in the zone. It can provide the client a sense of accomplishment, and it can be just plain fun.

Using Art Therapy in Treatment

Art therapy can be a suitable addition to treatment plans for some clients. It can enable clients to get in touch with their deepest feelings and be a way for them to express themselves when they don’t feel ready to talk. At its core, art therapy enables people to express their thoughts and feelings without using words and can enable them to move on from a traumatic experience.

When someone struggles with substance use disorder or a mental health issue, the root cause can be unresolved trauma from the person’s past. Art therapy can be beneficial in enabling people to process unresolved trauma and is often included as part of a treatment plan for substance abuse. At The Guest House, we offer trauma-informed treatment. Art therapy is one of the holistic treatment modalities that we offer in addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups. For more information on our program, call us at (855) 483-7800.