The Art of Expression

How art can help in recoveryArt and drama therapy offer a useful space for the recovering addict to employ different all senses and express internal issues that can prove difficult to verbalize.


Last year Life Works added drama therapy to our list of treatment modalities. While group psychotherapy is central in alcohol treatment and treatment of dependence on other substances non talking therapies too can prove useful. Along with art based psychotherapy drama therapy represents a way in which for clients to engage with their thoughts and emotions in a different way.

For many that come into treatment the Arts therapies are largely unknown, due in part to its lack of exposure outside of the therapeutic community. The stereotypical image of a client lying on a Freudian couch has largely come to represent the nature of therapy. However in reality therapy can take many different forms. Where the talking therapies such as psychotherapy rely on verbal communication, the Arts therapies allow for non-verbal expression through the use of a range of different mediums such as; art, drama, music, photography, clay etc. In this way drama and art therapy can be a welcome break from talking therapies which make up the majority of the therapy at Life Works, allowing for a more creative outlet.

Art and Drama Therapy
The widespread initial apprehension in taking up art and drama therapy is often due to the false belief that in order to benefit, one requires artistic skills and has to be a great actor. This could not be further from the truth as the aesthetic element of the art piece and the quality of the theatrical expression is irrelevant. In order to prepare the mind for creativity, the art therapist will often initiate the session by leading the group through a guided meditation from which a theme emerges. Using a variety of art materials from crayons, pens, water paints to clay, the client is encouraged to express whatever emerges in relation to the guided meditation. In drama therapy the process is equally creative. Drawing from stories, myths, play-text, music, objects, puppetry and improvisation, the client is invited to engage with the body and all of the senses. Sessions can elicit everything from laughter to tears, and many report that they surprise themselves with what emerges in the session.

For the addict the body has been the object of neglect and abuse and therefore the very act of reconnecting with the body can be a healing experience in its own right. In addictions, such as Eating Disorders the sense of having a body is greatly diminished. A central aspect of recovery for people suffering with eating disorders is therefore to reconnect the mind and the body and foster a sense of awareness of the needs of both. Where the talking therapies rely on verbal communication, Art and Drama therapy offer a space in which feelings and inner processes that can prove difficult to communicate, are allowed expression.

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