Art to Heart: Healing the Core of Addiction.


The word art may be the very last thing that comes to mind when people stop to think about addiction treatment.

We consider art therapy as the most flexible type of treatment at the addiction center I work at, and it yields some beneficial effects. Art is part of the greater human attempt to validate life and purpose, and it’s just logical to use it to remind our patients about the importance of sobriety in achieving their goals and making their lives more purposeful.

Art therapy has two goals. First, it aims to give patients an avenue to release their stress and other anxieties. Second, it aims to help our patients get grounded and believe that their addiction is just a roadblock they can overcome. We lay down the ways that those struggling with addiction can benefit from this type of therapy.

There are no rules about how the patient’s artwork should look, this is entirely their own choice. Once their piece is complete, the therapist usually views them and gets an insight of what challenges and emotions the patient is dealing with. From here, the therapist then determines how to help the patient recover and heal from addiction. 

Subtle Expression of Disturbance

Most addicts suffered through traumatic experiences, which are actually the factors that had them turn to drugs in the first place. The death of a loved one, abuse during childhood, and other events that have left the patient strained and pained can be addressed by opening the patient’s creative senses.

During the first week of recovery, addicts are usually faced with feelings of guilt, shame, and even devastation. The artwork patients create is used by counselors to help them work through problems. Counselors usually make interpretations of the elements and symbolism involved in the work. The use of colors, lines, shades of each stroke say something about a patient’s mood.

Recovering addicts also have a difficult time with expressing themselves with words, and art allows them to bring out their inner emotions. 

Liberation from Denial and Shame

Denial and shame are among the biggest problems that prevent patients from recovering. Patients need to express these issues thoroughly before moving forward to the other phases of healing. Sometimes, though, words are not enough to express these negative emotions. Art, on the other hand, is an avenue for expression and sublimation of these unconstructive feelings. 

Preventing the Symptoms of Relapse

Relapse is normal, especially if the body of the patient was once fully dependent on the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be a painful experience. They sometimes cause anxieties and other variations of stress. Conditioned patients can turn to art, which provides a healthy distraction.

Art therapy has a subtle way of helping those who suffer from addiction because it is a refuge from negative emotions. It also brings out their creativity, and they are able to express themselves in a healthy way. There are a couple of other recovery therapies, such as animal-assisted therapy, but art therapy is one of the best, and it is becoming the most popular form of therapy among recovering addicts.


AmyRothermelAs Financial Director and co-owner of Alpine Recovery Lodge, Amy Rothermel is very involved in the finances and marketing operations. A graduate of Nevada State with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, Amy also took Masters level Math, Finance and Economics classes at UCSD. She is committed to the business end of daily operations, and strives to use her knowledge of business processes to encourage the continued growth of Alpine Recovery Lodge. She works with insurance companies to get the most possible coverage available for the residents.


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