Teens recovering from drug addiction often benefit from art therapy, which has been used at treatment centers since the early 1900s. Creating art allows teens to express what’s going on in their minds — and helps the therapist get a better grasp on what they’re feeling. Looking at the art together, and talking about it, helps teens in recovery express what may be difficult for them to say in words, according to Inspirations Youth, a drug rehabilitation family for teens. Self-discovery, personal fulfillment, empowerment, and relaxation and stress relief are among the many benefits of art therapy, it notes.
Creative writing can be an effective form of art therapy, according to Treatment 4 Addiction, an online recovery resource directory. This type of writing calms the mind, and keeps a teen’s focus on the writing, not other distractions or feelings that might be weighing them down. After a story or poem is finished, it can be read in a group setting or to a therapist, and then explored together. Often, the therapist will evaluate the writing by looking for metaphors and analogies in the tones, themes, settings, or behaviors the main character is engaging in. The stories and poems created by teens provide an outlet for their emotions and provide material for the therapist to make an evaluation.
Role-playing is another commonly used art therapy activity, according to Treatment 4 Addiction. Typically, teens play themselves, and other members of the group play family members. Together, they act out circumstances that occurred in the past, and through acting, show how teens and their families reacted. The teens then express to the group how they would deal with the dynamic now that they’re in recovery, and what they would say to their family. This is often something they wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing outside of a role-playing event. This type of exercise gives recovering teens a sense of peace and an image of what their family dynamic could potentially become with progress.
Having teens create their own CD representing their lives can be a powerful vehicle of expression, according to an article in “Publications in Assessment and Treatment Activities for Children, Adolescents, and Families,” edited by Liana Lowenstein, a licensed clinical social worker. Recovering teens are given an empty plastic CD case, construction paper, markers and colored pencils. Then they choose a title, design and playlist, either creating fictitious titles or real songs that have meaning — or a combination of the two. Because teens tend to respond strongly to music and it plays a significant role in their lives, they’re often able to express a range of emotions through their song selections. Through a teen’s choices, the therapist is able to gather information about her present life and her past, and strengthen the therapeutic relationship.
Creating a collage out of magazine photos is widely used in art therapy because it’s such a forgiving medium, according to an article at “Psychology Today.” With collage, teens who might be intimidated by pencils, paint or clay don’t have to worry about their final product looking childlike. Making a collage allows teens to tell a story, and create a visual narrative that serves to foster a dialogue about their struggles. This activity can be as simple as teens collecting and arranging pictures that may catch their eye, or more complex and surrounding a particular theme such as What My Life Looks Like in Recovery or There is Always Hope.