Since the surrealists developed automatic writing as a method of expression, art has explored the subconscious and the ways in which we can express our subconscious. Just as they struggled to express their thoughts and ideas in media other than words, it can be difficult for someone going through addiction recovery to put their experiences into words.

While many therapies allow addicts in rehabilitation to communicate their conscious thoughts and feelings, art therapy is one of the few treatments to allow expression of the worries, troubles and hopes addicts have in their subconscious. It is also difficult to withhold anything which the client may otherwise be uncomfortable discussing in front of a group, since feelings are held bare by their artwork.

This workshop from Life Works Community provides a means for addicts to explore the meaning of recovery through a variety of art materials and techniques. Art therapy involves using two- and three-dimensional media, such as paints, pastels, clay and collages, to give clients complete freedom to express themselves. Such expressions makes exploring thought processes and ideas which would otherwise be difficult to investigate through speech or writing easier, as well as making the client more aware of issues and memories that have previously been suppressed.

Art therapy was developed in the 1940s, with therapists breaking away from more traditional psychological therapies. Art therapy grew in popularity through the ‘70s and ‘80s and today there are a number of approaches to this treatment.

It is not just the finished artwork that is of value: clients’ thoughts, ideas, emotions and reactions as they create can give clues to their past and present states. Combining this process of discovery with the emerging themes from individual and group counselling sessions, such as childhood, release, hope, faith, expression of emotions or letting go, ensure that the process is of great value to the client.

Art therapy also allows clients to work with and discuss their peers’ work. This gives them an opportunity to engage with and gain support from each other, an especially important aspect of the therapy for those who would otherwise find it difficult to express themselves. This engagement helps foster relationships between clients, giving them more understanding of each other’s conditions and so their own. The bonds also help in the future, when clients have left Life Works after successful rehabilitation.

Life Works offer art therapy as a treatment method each week to their clients, also offering others in addiction recovery the chance to participate in workshops at The Grange this year.

Author's Bio: 

Life Works Community is a residential rehabilitation and addiction treatment centre in Woking, Surrey