Creativity Helping Shame

This past week, my class and I learned about people with addictions and all that comes with it. The main thing that comes along with addicts is shame. The core of all addictions and the central theme to the addictive process is indeed shame. It can be the cause of an addiction or the reason why the addiction continues on. These substances like alcohol or drugs help people numb and avoid the powerful feelings of shame. Addictions also come along with defensive behavior like denial, rage, arrogance, and withdrawal. There is a lot that addiction comes with, but all can be helped with art therapy!

There are many directives that an art therapist can used with a client with an addiction. One of the main goals in the road to recovery is to reduce shame and the destructive feelings that are present. Here are the Five Basic Guidelines and beneficial directives:

  1. Establishing Safety with Self and Group 
    • Developing a language for the self
    • Supplying safety and containment for the raw/unprocessed feelings
    • Learning self-reliance
    • Directives:
      • draw your circumstance that brought you to treatment
      • show how you feel about being in treatment
  2. Understanding the Nature of Addictive Illness
    • Labeling the addiction
    • Unmanageability & powerlessness
    • Directives:
      • draw your addiction
      • show what happens when “under the influence”
      • draw the chaos of your addiction
      • depict how you feel powerless / the effects of that on your family
  3. Breaking through Denial 
    • Forms of denial (rationalizing, blaming, minimizing)
    • Awareness of trigger situations
    • Directives:
      • illustrate your forms of denial
      • show the external and internal consequences of addiction
      • create a list of your triggers – emotional triggers too
      • draw what helpful tools that help you deal with triggers in recovery
  4. Surrendering to the Process of Recovery
    • Support involvement in 12-step program/sponsorship
    • Build a structure of belief in a Higher Power
    • Directives:
      • list out the benefits of the program
      • list the qualities you want in a sponsor
      • draw out a figure of forgiveness
  5. Understanding the Origins of Shame
    • Addressing family-of-origin
    • Breaking through myths/rules
    • Self-affirmation and empowerment
    • Directives:
      • depict a family portrait
      • create a road to recovery – can be used in group setting
      • create a safe, empowering place

Although addiction is not the easiest to understand, it does not mean that people with addiction are not in need of help. Art therapy is there to lend a hand and guide the addict down the road of recovery.


[Information from The Handbook of Art Therapy by Cathy Malchiodi, edition 2]

Featured image [Road to Recovery, https://ged-project.de/videos/competitiveness/challenges_in_international_competitiveness/2016-the-world-economy-on-the-road-to-recovery/]

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