Using Expressive & Experiential Therapy to Heal in Addiction Treatment

expressive-and-experiential-therapy-for-addictionOver the years we have found many ways to express ourselves, especially when experiencing difficult situations. This is demonstrated by mankind’s inventions to improve the quality of life, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances like global warming and finding ways to connect to the world around us. Though the below is a short and broad list of how we can express ourselves, what key factor do all these things have in common? Creativity. In particular, we’ve begun to introduce creativity in the form of expressive and experiential therapy for addiction treatment. The most interesting thing about creativity is that there is no singular way for any one individual to express himself or herself; it is based solely on that individual’s interests and skills. With that being said, let’s talk about five projects that have been used in addiction treatment, as well as outside of addiction treatment that you can do to help yourself down the road to healing.

1) Painting: Express yourself by painting a beautiful landscape.

Considered both crafty and artistic, painting is by far one of the most visually appealing ways of expression. Painting to heal not only helps unlock the inner artist we all possess, but it allows you to experiment with colors, shapes, and styles in a way that may not be readily evident. Painting is often used in expressive and experiential therapy for addiction as a way to tap into ones journey to healing. When words don’t come as easily, painting as a form of expression helps with dealing with feelings especially those that are associated with prior trauma or grief. It can also create an open space for communicating in a non-traditional but often effective way.

2) Origami: Use intricate folding techniques to create paper cranes.

The art of paper folding is unique. Origami can be done on any flat, square piece of paper that is easy to fold. The best thing about this project is that it requires little to no tools! Origami covers a broad variety of subjects such as animals, nature, objects, and people. The options are boundless if you have the patience and instructions to assist with executing the intricate, yet simple folds involved. Within expressive and experiential therapy for addiction, origami can be used to lessen anxiety and put the mind at ease while working through ones troubles. The art of controlling and using paper to create beautiful “handiwork” will not only give you pride in your work but will help you focus on things other than yourself, which can be conducive to healing.

3) Photography: “A picture is worth a thousand words” – Fred R. Barnard

This project allows you to literally focus on subjects other than yourself. Also, if capturing yourself would also be beneficial, then go for it! Regardless of the subject, photography is a great outlet for self-expression and creativity. Pursuing this art form grants the artist a lot of flexibility. When most people think of photography, they think of big cameras with heavy equipment, but you can start with something as simple as a polaroid or a smartphone camera. The photographer can liberally use different types of film, equipment, even different methods for developing photos. Like any other art project, photography affords you the opportunity to capture specific things around you, and many times, more than one conclusion can be drawn from the same photo. Within expressive and experiential therapy for addiction, photography can be used as an outlet for expression, as well as a catalyst for discussion.

4) Cross-Stitch: Breathe life into a blank piece of linen with some handy tapestry needle-work.

I’ll be honest, this one might sound boring at first but just like origami, there are a variety of options for creativity. I remember during one of the most stressful periods of my life, cross-stitching helped me to express myself relieve a lot of stress and sadness. Similar to my experience, this is often a valuable tool in expressive and experiential therapy for addiction. What is involved with this project? It is a form of sewing that utilizes x-shaped stitches in a piece of tiled linen. It requires that thread be counted in each direction so that stitches are uniform. Like painting, different colored threads can be used to give life to creations. The stitcher uses designs that can either be printed on the piece of linen or printed on a piece of paper. This project can be time intensive but very fulfilling, try it out sometime.

5) Writing: Let’s try a simple short story or poem.

Personally, this is one of my favorite creative activities. Writing has always been close to my heart, and that is probably because I also love reading. Often overlooked as a creative activity because of its basic nature, writing can truly help one express themselves both directly and indirectly. In particular, this has been found to be one of the must beneficial forms of expressive and experiential therapy for addiction. The act of writing allows one to process through emotions, be present and express themselves in a comfortable setting. For instance, think about one of your favorite poems or short stories. What was special about this piece of writing? What emotions did this piece create for you? Were they feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, or surprise? That is one of the great aspects of writing, it can evoke emotions that are simple and complicated. Writing can be descriptive, narrative, persuasive, and expository. So, why not take pen to paper, and express yourself?

According to Psychology Today, “creativity brings satisfaction as we solve the challenges our injuries present in living our lives.” Subjectively, the projects mentioned above have helped me to properly cope and express both positive and negative feelings. While on the road to active healing, I hope these projects can help you express yourself as they have helped me.

Author: Samantha Golding – Footprints to Recovery – Admissions Coordinator

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