The latest trends in the United States for both illicit and legalized substances are sounding alarm bells for experts who track the harmful consequences of addiction. In 2022, more than 109,000 people in the nation died of drug overdoses—an estimated 54% jump from 2019, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (National Center for Health Statistics, 2023). Roughly two-thirds of these deaths involved illicitly manufactured art therapy for addiction fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC, Vol. 72, No. 26, 2023). In this exercise, clients are asked to imagine where they will be in a year if they make the changes that support recovery and create a self-portrait that reflects that. They’re then asked to perform this same exercise again, only this time, imagining where they will be in one year if nothing changes.

Psychologist and artist Hanna Yaxa Kwiatkowska was also an important figure in art therapy. Born and educated in Europe, she came to the United States to work at the National Institute of Mental Health. Once sober, many people find it difficult to fill all the hours they used to spend seeking and using drugs or alcohol. 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. Many people lose touch with their true selves when their primary relationship is with drugs or alcohol.

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Just over half of the programs (53.1%) required 12-step meetings for their patients. The average logged program size was 2.6, which represented 27.1 FTEs (the median was 12.5 FTEs), while the average age of a treatment program was 28.4 years. Around 37% of programs were accredited by either the Joint Commission or CARF, and more than half of the programs (61.5%) received revenues from Medicaid. Finally, programs reported that, on average, 43.8% of their counselors held at least a Master’s degree level of education.

art therapy substance abuse

We may receive advertising fees if you follow links to promoted online therapy websites. Programs generally last two years, with additional time for supervised clinical experience. While addiction knows no bounds, it disproportionately affects certain groups of people. All these factors can help people stay motivated and committed to their recovery goals.

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Try incorporating some of these concepts into your own practice to see the good and healing it can bring. Researchers are also working to address the underlying psychological and social conditions that perpetuate problematic drug use. Katie Witkiewitz, PhD, director of the University of New Mexico Center on Alcohol, Substance Use, and Addictions, believes it is critical to depathologize substance use behaviors. “If we recognize that people experience something positive when using these products, we can help them see the negative consequences and find different ways of getting their needs met,” she said.

Art therapy is beneficial to teenagers because, by this age, they have likely learned to be guarded with their emotions. As we get older, we realize that expressing ourselves through words can be very painful, and sometimes teenagers have the inclination to close these emotions off instead of reflecting on them and letting them out. Teenager’s brains are still developing, and this may mean they are more prone to the benefits of art therapy, such as stress relief or recovering from trauma.