At its core, recovery from substance abuse is a creative process. Recovery is unique for every individual, and must be crafted to fit individual needs. It’s not a linear, mathematical journey that can be calculated – it’s complex and requires imagination, expression and inspiration.

The journey towards sobriety requires creative modes of treatment. To address the variety of human needs to elicit the best hope for recovery, supplemental therapies have grown in popularity and demand.

If you’re interested in out-of-the-box treatment options, read on to learn about recreational therapy, art therapy, music therapy, equine assisted therapy and more modalities. You’ll also learn why creative expression could make the difference in your recovery.

Creative expression for recovery

Breaking free from substance use is one of the biggest challenges a person can face. Changing a drug or alcohol habit affects a person emotionally, socially, spiritually, physically and intellectually. In order to get past the obstacles of sobriety, all of these areas have to be addressed.

Treatment for substance use issues is not a one-size-fits-all model, and different people will respond to different treatment modalities. That’s why treatment centers that offer a variety of creative options are effective and appealing. 

Processing trauma through art or spending time in reflection outdoors utilize the senses, making treatment more engaging and offering reality-based perspectives. Moreover, when individuals have some agency in trying different forms of treatment and are able to feel invested, they can achieve greater success in recovery.

Recreational therapy

Recreational therapy is an activity-based intervention that can be used to promote wellness. It’s used with kids and adults for medical conditions, disabilities and mental health issues. It includes activities like dance, crafts, games, acting and community activities.

Recreational therapy allows people to build real-life skills that support recovery. Participants will grow in cooperation, self-discipline, patience and perseverance – which are crucial to long-term sobriety. This treatment modality also has a strong social component so individuals can build relationships with like-minded peers.

Art therapy

Art therapy is exactly what it sounds like. This treatment utilizes different mediums (like painting, drawing, sculpture and more) to express and process feelings. Because substance use often stems from traumatic experiences, art therapy is especially effective in helping people who have a hard time verbalizing their experiences.

Art offers a different outlet than traditional talk therapy. Although psychotherapy is always the first line of defense for substance use issues, art therapy is a great adjunct treatment option that encourages creative exploration.

Music therapy

You don’t need perfect pitch to benefit from music therapy. While some music therapy involves creating music, other practices focus more on listening to or discussing sound. Regardless of the activity, anyone can participate.

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy uses evidence-based practices to help to relieve stress, alleviate pain, improve memory and more. This type of therapy can be done in individual or group settings.

A meta-analysis conducted by the AMTA found that music therapy can be effective for individuals who struggle with substance abuse as it has been shown to increase self-esteem, decrease anxiety, improve motivation, increase self-awareness and improve a person’s ability to cope in the face of distressing triggers.

Animal assisted therapy/ Equine assisted therapy

Animal assisted therapy is the practice of incorporating animals (horses, specially, in the case of equine assisted therapy) into the therapeutic process. This mode of therapy focuses on building bonds between humans and animals, teaching emotional skills (like caring for animals) and stress management.

A 2007 meta-analysis published in the journal Anthrozoos found that animal assisted therapy was associated with positive outcomes for behavioral issues, emotional well-being and medical difficulties, and shows promise as an adjunct treatment option.

Further, an article from the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that animal assisted therapy decreased the heart rate of participants, backing up claims that this type of therapy can induce relaxation.

Nature therapy

Exploring the great outdoors can improve your mood, offer inspiration and give you a sense of peace. Nature therapy, or eco-therapy, takes all the advantages of being outside and reinforces them with therapeutic techniques.

According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, nature therapy has been shown to reduce stress and encourage a positive emotional state. Moreover, the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning found evidence of increased cognition with more time spent outside.

Nature therapy is one way to include creative exploration into your mental health journey. It is a breath of fresh air – literally and figuratively.

Narrative therapy

Narrative therapy is the art of storytelling to help individuals recover from trauma and forge into the future. Individuals may journal or share their story with a group, presenting it however they please. Narrative therapy may be an effective tool for therapy with minority populations, as it pulls from cultural story-telling traditions.

When people tell stories, they are empowered to craft their own narrative. The control over telling their life events translates to a sense of empowerment over writing their own future. Additionally, narratives are dynamic and a person can present the story differently as his or her journey progresses. Narrative therapy can assist individuals in substance abuse treatment come to grasps with past substance use and imagine a future without it.

Getting more out of treatment

Substance use treatment shouldn’t expect everyone to fit into the same mold- and that’s why modalities that encourage creative exploration work. Whether you’re painting scenes of a future free from substances or participating in trauma-sensitive yoga, there’s something out there for everyone.

Find the therapy treatment that clicks with you at Real Recovery Sober Living. Real Recovery has homes for both men and women that offer unique opportunities for your unique needs. Call (855) 363-7325 to get started today.