Using Art Therapy

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Using Art Therapy When Counseling Substance Abuse Addicts

A Research Paper

Francis E. Williams

The University of Oklahoma

Foundation of Art Therapy, HR 5110-106

Professor John Phillips Ph.d

October 29, 2009


A compulsive need for and use of a custom forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by broad mindedness and by well defined psychological symptoms upon pulling out. Individuals prior to being monitored positive or being diagnosed use alcohol or other drugs in order to try to feel normal. This may help the individual feel better, however, only for a very short period of time (hours). Autonomy medicating complicates matters and intensifies disorders.

If people are addicted to something physically, it could sometimes be dangerous to just stop without getting medical help. Doctors - or local drug fidelity units - can help anyone going through the first phase of stopping, and provide support and counseling.

Of course, the polity or state is certainly not the only social institution mandating counseling for various purposes. For example, much debate has arisen over the issue of mandatory counseling of university students(Johnson, 1992). Beyond traditional pastoral counseling, more and more churches have certified marriage counselors on staff, and couples seeking to get married in the church are expected or even required to receive this extra level of secular or "professional" marriage counseling.

Art Therapy & Substance Abuse Addicts


The use of art therapy in substance abuse treatment (SAT) has a long history. Many authors have described the benefits of art therapy for those with chemical dependency such as bypassing defenses (for example, [Julliard, 2004] and [Moore, 1983]), promoting emotional expression ([Cox and Price, 2000], Holt and Kaiser, 2007 E. Holt and D.H. Kaiser, Addiction and art therapy: Connecting theory to practice, Conference course presented at the meeting of the American Art Therapy Association Albuquerque, NM (2007).[Holt and Kaiser, 2007] and [Kaiser and Holt, 2002]), encouraging a spiritual recovery (Feen-Calligan, 2005) and fostering creativity ([Allen, 2005] and [Johnson, 2000]). In a review of the literature on art therapy in SAT over 20 years ago, Moore (1983) concluded that art therapy provides an active means of experimenting with imagery to communicate symbolically, offers an outlet for clarifying feelings and attitudes, reduces distorted thinking, and fosters increased insight. Since her review, several art therapists have developed interventions and assessments aimed at decreasing defenses and increasing acceptance of step one in a twelve-step recovery model.

In relation to acceptance of the first step, it is well recognized that one of the major objectives in the initial stages of SAT is overcoming denial so that clients may begin to accept the need for adopting behavioral changes that support recovery (Kesten, 2004). “Denial is the mental mechanism that enables addicts to give up more and more of the things that they find valuable in life…Denial is the foundation of addiction, the fertile soil in which it grows and flourishes” (Conyers, 2003, p. 23). Even though this conceptualization of SAT is long-standing and widely used it is beneficial to consider an alternative perspective.

Perhaps a more pragmatic and therapeutic way ...
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