Art Therapy Ideas for Substance Abuse

paint cans

There are many different factors that contribute to addiction, alcoholism, OCD, anxiety, mood disorders, and other problems in a person’s life. Treatment that is solely focused on stopping your addiction can only take you so far. At Banyan Treatment Center in Chicago, we are committed to treating the various factors behind substance abuse using a variety of methods.

Those who are serious about finding sobriety, health, and happiness should seek help from our addiction treatment center in Illinois. We offer many levels of care, from PHP to our alumni program with unique approaches to helping our patients overcome their substance abuse problem and co-occurring mental health issues. Art therapy is one of our most effective tools in treatment.

How Does Art Therapy for Addiction Work?

Sometimes words fail us, and it can be hard to articulate emotions or fears. With art therapy for addiction, our patients use various creative outlets to connect with their deepest emotions in a therapeutic way. Art therapy helps patients express themselves in a nonverbal way when they are unable to do so aloud with words. Art therapy can help break down a patient’s walls, promote emotional healing, and even improve a patient’s communication skills.1 Art therapy and addiction treatment should be used together in order to get the best results.

Recovery Art Therapy Ideas & Techniques

  • Gestalt methods. This method focuses on processing the present moment, without burdens of past feelings or experiences. Art can help with this method, allowing patients to draw out their feelings. Gestalt art therapy is highly effective in uncovering past trauma and initiating the healing process.2
  • The third hand. This technique of art therapy for addiction involves the therapist working in conjunction with the patient. The therapist works with the patient to create the finished product, gaining a better understanding along the way. This art therapy method is also crucial when therapy first begins.3
  • Association through art. Everyone derives a degree of emotion from most art. This approach to therapy helps patients pinpoint emotions through interpreting or creating art.

Substance Abuse Art Therapy Activities

There are various forms of art, and so many art therapy ideas for substance abuse out there. The three techniques mentioned above are only the beginning guidelines.

Some other way to incorporate art into your addiction recovery journey include:

  • Journaling – Journaling has been proven to help reduce stress, manage anxiety, and lower depression.4
  • Listening to classical music – Classical music makes people more emotionally available and helps relieve anxiety.5
  • Drawing, painting, or molding something out of clay. These three art mediums have also been proven to help people deal with a traumatic event in their life.6
  • Dancing – Some studies have found that “dancing your feelings” can help people who struggle with mental illness.7

Get creative. There is no wrong way to do art. The important thing is that whatever art you choose leaves you feeling happier and healthier.


At Banyan Treatment Center Chicago, we offer many approaches to treating addiction, alcoholism, and dual diagnosis disorders. Our treatment professionals are here to help you heal with many approaches to treatment, including art therapy. Contact us today to learn more about art therapy and its benefits for your recovery! Call us today at 888-280-4763.


  1. - Outcome Studies on the Efficacy of Art Therapy: A Review of Findings
  2. Psychology Today - Cool Art Therapy Intervention #5: Show Me How You Feel Today
  3. Psych Central - 5 Quick Facts about Art Therapy
  4. University of Rochester Medical Center - Journaling for Mental Health
  5. Reader’s Digest - 10 Wondrous Things That Happen to Your Body When You Listen to Classical Music
  6. NCBI - The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature
  7. BBC News - Dance therapy for mental patients

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.