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Ask the Mental Health Expert Archives 2001-2004

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Art Therapy

Q. I am a chemical dependency specialist looking for simple techniques to incorporate art into my groups. Do you have any ideas that I can try with my clients (some having no art background)?

A. There are certainly ways you can incorporate art therapy into your treatment of individuals with chemical dependency, though I'm not aware of controlled studies showing that such an approach has any particular benefits for the drug problem. (In theory, it might even distract some people from focusing on what they need to do to stay clean and sober). That said, I'm all in favor of creative approaches! And, art therapy has been used with some success in other psychiatric conditions that involve inappropriate control of intake, such as bulimia nervosa (Steinbauer et al, Eat Weight Disord 1999 Jun;4(2):95-102).

I would suggest you log onto a couple of art therapy web sites that can give you some more specific suggestions. A good one is www.arttherapy.co.za/about.htm, which also provides lots of links. You can also try the website of the American Art Therapy Association, which is www.arttherapy.org. No background in art is needed for most types of art therapy. Again, I think the underlying question is, how helpful will this approach be to individuals with a chemical dependency?

June 2002

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