What is Art Therapy | Substance Abuse Treatment at Passages Rehab

By Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” -Michelangelo

Artistic and creative expression has a connection to our mental health. In recent years, the use of art therapy has successfully been incorporated into substance use and addiction treatment plans. You do not have to be Michelangelo to benefit from art therapy; all you need is an open mind and willingness to explore your creative side.

At Passages Malibu, art therapy includes several artistic mediums. These include drawing, painting, watercolors, and collages. The vision board, for example, is a collage of images, pictures, clippings, words, or other materials that represent your goals, hopes, and dreams in life.

            “Art Therapy is used to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.  Through integrative methods, art therapy engages the mind, body, and spirit in ways that are distinct from verbal articulation alone.” (The American Art Therapy Association)

It is not always what we say that sheds light on our well being, it’s how we express ourselves through what we create. Creativity in art therapy addresses developmental, motivational, affective, and cognitive processes. It allows for the subconscious (mental processing without conscious awareness) to bring underlying emotions safely to the surface. For this reason, it is extremely helpful for individuals to process otherwise scary or confusing thoughts, feelings, and memories through artistic expression.

A feeling of isolation is common among those suffering from substance use and addiction. Bringing people together through the arts is a positive way to make a healing connection. A therapist will work with his/her client to effectively support personal and relational treatment goals. Developing a shared bond with the counselor and others through creative expression is an integral part of art therapy.


Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC is a published researcher, educator, and social media consultant. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) (e-therapy), and Suicide Prevention Instructor (QPR) under the National Board for Certified Counselors.

How to Contact Passages Addiction Treatment Centers:

Call Passages Addiction Treatment Centers today if you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our admissions department is available 24/7 and can be reached directly by calling our toll-free number at (888) 397-0112. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Passages, Where Addiction Ends and Life Begins™

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What is Art Therapy at Passages Rehab
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