Because of distinctive life situations and stressors, musicians and other artists can benefit from specialized drug rehabilitation with behavioral therapists, counselors, and peers who understand their unique struggles. They may also benefit from certain approaches to therapy, like art therapy.
Addiction treatment involves detox, to end the body’s physical dependence on a substance, and rehabilitation, which provides behavioral therapy to reduce the risk of relapse back into substance abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is clear that there are a variety of approaches to evidence-based addiction treatment, which can be tailored to individual needs. This includes the choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment; intensive short-term or gradual long-term care; and what type of therapies are involved in rehabilitation.
Evidence-based treatment does not mean one size of drug rehabilitation fits all, and this is especially important when it comes to helping certain groups, like artists and musicians.
Scientific research into the causes of addiction shows that genetics, family history, and environmental triggers all play a role in whether someone becomes addicted to drugs and what drugs they struggle with. Stress can be an environmental factor, often stemming from family or work life.
Artists, musicians, painters, writers, and many creative people have long had their professions associated with higher rates of both addiction and mental illness. While there is no direct link between creative work and higher rates of addiction, people who enter creative fields as professionals may struggle with higher rates of stress due to seeking approval from others, working odd hours, being in highly social situations with pressure to abuse substances, and other situations that increase their risk of substance abuse and eventual addiction.
Art therapy is increasingly applied in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapies, both for individuals and groups, to help children, teenagers, and adults improve symptoms of mental illness, regulate emotions, cope with grief and loss, and manage cravings for drugs or alcohol.
The foundation of art therapy is the belief that creating works of art can lead to a release of tension and a deeper understanding of oneself. Art therapists can work with anyone, not just musicians or artists, but using these skills during the drug detox and rehabilitation process may be a useful approach for this demographic.
Substance abuse changes brain chemistry, especially around mood-elevating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Addiction begins when the brain’s reward system is triggered by a flood of dopamine, which makes the person feel good and leads them to compulsively abuse the substance again to feel as good as they did before.
Depression, fatigue, sadness, anhedonia, and lethargy are common side effects during the withdrawal process. For creative professionals like artists and musicians, this can be an especially painful time, as their minds may not work as creatively as they once did. It is important to find approaches to addiction treatment, both detox and rehabilitation, that help the person feel calm and manage the desire for creative output without adding stress and potentially leading to a relapse.
During treatment with an art therapist, your first session will, like other kinds of counseling sessions, consist of you talking to your new therapist so that they can understand how their work fits into your overall addiction treatment plan.
Your art therapist will then guide you through some exercises. These may be associated with your professional creative work, or they may be very different. As you move through the art exercises, your therapist may ask you questions about how you feel about the process, what worked or was difficult about creating the artwork, and if you experienced any specific thoughts or memories as you moved through the work.
Whether you use art therapy as an approach to overcoming addiction or not, using your creativity during drug rehab can help you understand stresses that trigger your addictive behaviors and how to better manage them. Creative approaches can help you heal by:
Some creative professionals benefit from drug rehab that works with their current vocation. For example, musicians are still encouraged to create music while in inpatient treatment. In other cases, an artist may benefit from trying a type of art they have not done before. A musician may try painting as a form of art therapy, and this could work better for their healing.
A program that understands your creative profession and your passion for the industry can work with you through different types of therapy that are appropriate.
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Experiencing withdrawal, even in a safe, medically supervised detox program, may cause panic for musicians or artists. Dramatic changes in brain chemistry may make them feel bad, physically and mentally, which can cause creative expression to stop. This writer’s block is temporary, but the stress and fear induced by the experience are real, so it is critical to find a detox and rehabilitation program that can manage these feelings.
People who work in creative industries like music, visual arts, performance, or writing are more likely to be freelance or contract workers. This means they are less likely to have insurance coverage that can cover the kind of treatment they need most.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded insurance coverage for everyone, giving subsidies to those in need and requiring insurance companies to offer some coverage for substance abuse and mental health treatment. Still, those with little income from their creative work may find that they can only get the lowest cost insurance, which does not cover a program that works best for them.
In this case, finding a social worker or counselor who can refer you to services that understand your work and your needs will help you get the most out of the insurance coverage you have.
Sometimes, counselors or addiction specialists recommend that artists get out of “the business” long enough to move through detox and rehabilitation. For many people who experience work stress as a trigger for addictive behaviors and substance abuse, hearing that they should take a sabbatical may sound like a good thing. However, in a competitive creative workforce, in which one’s persona is deeply tied to one’s work, this may not be the case, and hearing that from a trusted medical professional may do more harm than good.
This makes it even more important to find programs that understand musicians and artists and how to support them as they go through the drug rehabilitation process.
Most addiction treatment programs can customize care to effectively treat musicians and artists. Some programs that work with artists like musicians to help them get personalized detox and rehabilitation include:
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(October 24, 2017) Seven Ways Creativity Supports Addiction Recovery. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201710/7-ways-creativity-supports-addiction-recovery
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