Practicing self-expression and creativity can significantly increase your chances of success in addiction recovery. Learn more about the most useful relapse prevention strategies in this article.
Learning how to manage your thoughts, feelings and emotions is an integral part of being successful in addiction recovery. Every single day humans have tens of thousands of thoughts running through their minds. But many feelings are hard to put into words, and many people have a tough time opening up and sharing their feelings. Some thoughts or emotions are not even clear to the person experiencing them – which is often why so many people turn to substance abuse in the first place.
But now in recovery from addiction, how should feelings, thoughts and emotions be dealt with if you are not comfortable with or do not have the opportunity to open up to a friend or family member? In many cases, people push feelings away, suppressing them for a while until they pop up again another day – simply to be suppressed yet again. But suppressing thoughts can cause more harm than many people realise.
The Importance of Self-Expression
An fMRI study was done where participants were asked to look at images of people with emotional facial expressions. In each participant, the part of the brain most closely responsible for emotions, the amygdala, reacted according to the emotional images. However, when the participants were then asked to name the emotion, the amygdala reactivity was reduced, replaced by a stronger activation of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain most commonly thought to be responsible for decision making and the orchestration of thoughts and actions among other activities.
Basically, this means that by simply naming and recognising the thought or feeling, the emotional activity tied to it will decrease, allowing the brain to think more logically about the emotion, thought or feeling and prepare for a way to handle it in the best way possible. Learning to recognise and express these feelings is a major part of successful addiction recovery and relapse prevention, as suppressed thoughts can build up inside causing many negative feelings that may lead to a person thinking about using again to get rid of their negative or confusing thoughts.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult for most people to be completely open about their innermost thoughts and feelings. That is why different forms of art and creative therapies can significantly increase a person’s chance of success in addiction recovery. Use the following creative therapies to help release your emotions so that you can deal with them in a constructive instead of destructive manner.
Creative Therapies for Successful Addiction Recovery
Use any or all of the following creative therapies to set yourself up for success in addiction recovery:
1. Visual Arts Therapy
Visual arts cover a wide variety of artistic projects such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking and architecture. In these cases, emotions will not necessarily be named, but you will have the opportunity to allow your feelings to flow through you onto the paper, through the camera lense, or into anything you create, offering a bit of release. And you will undoubtedly see the emotion show through in your work.
From journaling to poetry or creating tales of fiction, expressive writing can be an incredibly powerful way to release the emotions and feelings that you have inside. Expressive writing is beneficial not only in helping to create self awareness, but it helps people cope with and manage emotions more effectively.
3. Music and Dance Therapy
Music is incredibly emotional, which is no wonder why it can be used as a method of therapy. Learning to express your emotions through song writing, playing an instrument or dancing is a great way to recognise and get in touch with your feelings and then set them free in the song or dance. Just be careful about listening to any music that reminds you of when you were in the depths of your addiction. Music can be very triggering to memories of past events.
4. Drama Therapy
The North American Drama Therapy Association (NADT) explains drama therapy in the following way:
Through storytelling, projective play, purposeful improvisation, and performance, participants are invited to rehearse desired behaviors, practice being in relationship, expand and find flexibility between life roles, and perform the change they wish to be and see in the world.
In other words, drama therapy allows individuals to act out thoughts and emotions and practice being the person they want to be in the future. It is also said to reinforce proactive choices and improve inter – personal skills.
Benefits of Creative and Art Therapies in Addiction Recovery
Aside from expressing your emotions, one of the biggest benefits of doing something creative is letting your mind slip away from the constant nagging and repetitive thoughts that it conjures up all day. Whether colouring a picture, writing a screenplay or dancing to your favourite tune, your mind is in a creative zone, focused on the task at hand.
Being creative creates a state of ‘flow’ which is very similar to the the state of mind of someone meditating — which is good news for those who want to be successful in recovery but do not like meditation or find it too difficult. Whether through meditation or creative therapies, the goal of relaxing and de-stressing the mind is the most important end result.
Comprehensive Addiction Treatment
At The Cabin Chiang Mai, we offer a unique addiction treatment programme that incorporates a wide variety of therapies to ensure that clients get the best and most effective treatment possible. We combine Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with mindfulness therapy as well as incorporating a focus on health and art therapies to round out the programme.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction or having trouble in addiction recovery, contact us today for a no-obligations, free assessment to see how we can help you or your loved one on the path to success!