Art and Addiction Recovery

by Matt Aaron

“Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him.” – Carl Jung

Pure art (meaning without any expectation of selling it to someone) is pure expression of who we are inside. Art is a vehicle to express emotions. It can help us feel whole again, allowing us to heal.

We like to use art in connection with silence to allow the deeper expressions of ourselves to come forward. Having a more complete relationship with ourself opens us up to healing. Here are three ideas for integrating art into addiction recovery:

Affirmation Beads


What: An Affirmation is a mantra, or statement designed to be repeated many times each day to re-focus the mind to your desired positive purpose and outcome.  Affirmations are one tool that can be used to form new neuro-pathways in the brain and replace habitual negative thinking with positive thoughts and outcomes.

Why:  A string of Affirmation beads can be used to more easily keep count of how many times one has said their Affirmation.  Creating a string of beads that are meaningful to you can greatly enhance this daily experience.



What: An artfully-made geometric figure a person uses to represent wholeness; their unique relation to the universe. Circular pieces of art that act as a spiritual representation of family, friends, and earth, etc. The circles of life.

Why: People who are struggling with substance abuse often feel lost and empty. The act of making a mandala helps to put life in perspective. It helps to define your role in the universe and experience direction and security.  This process allows one to connect with that unconditional loving part of us inside where peace, joy, harmony and Oneness also reside.

Opposite-Hand Work


What: Opposite hand writing and drawing are used to allow the young emotional parts inside that went through a traumatic experience to express themselves.  This allows you to address childhood traumas, which are very often an underlying cause of of issues with substances. By allowing the younger parts inside to express and be praised for their efforts, we are applying love to the parts inside that are hurting.  This is the definition of healing.

Why: The traumatized aspects of a childhood are stuck and persist in the adult. When we go through an event that was traumatic to us, an emotional part of us gets stuck at that age.  This part stops learning and growing and tries to relate to our world today with all the skills and knowing of the age of the traumatic event.  The way to heal is to love and care for that younger part inside.  Find out what it needs to feel safe and loved and follow through on that.  In this way, we can re-parent that younger part and invite it to grow and reintegrate with the whole.

These are just three examples. Have more artistic ideas? We would love to hear them.


About Matt Aaron 1 Article
Matt Aaron is the outreach coordinator @ The Clearing, SPC where he helps spread the word about healing underlying core issues in dual diagnosis addiction treatment. He is an avid reader whose favorite author is John Fante. Fluent in 3 languages, he loves to travel.

3 Comments on Art and Addiction Recovery

  1. Hi Matt, I am a member here and I also practice an alternative method to support 12 step recovery work using dreams. I have a small private practice and love working with folks in recovery. The dreams can support healing around the deeper causes and conditions as well as support conscious contact with Higher Power, help uncover and break habitual patterns and our reactions/projections (character defects in AA parlance), sorting out what is ours to own and what is not. Dreams can also help support the “unfreezing” process that occurs when we stop numbing our selves with mind/mood altering substances and support us in the transformative process of opening to our true feelings. I also use creativity and art in my sessions with dreamers. Thanks for your article and bringing this topic up!

  2. Matt & PsychologyTomorrow,

    Thanks for more fresh air in the challenging and beautiful world of addiction recovery. We always need freshness, even when feeling content…there is so much that life inherently holds for us.

    Thank you, Michael Picucci

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