How You Can Benefit From Adding Music and Art Therapy in Recovery
Anyone who has been moved by music or enjoyed an afternoon at an art museum knows that music and art affect us in powerful ways. The emotional experience we get from music and art can be more than just a feeling of joy or sadness. We can actually use this emotional connection as therapy, which can be especially beneficial for someone in recovery from a mental illness.
The Benefits of Art and Music Therapy
Strengthened self-esteem and self-identity. Whether you are a lifelong artist or a complete novice, creating art and music increases self-esteem. Many people who are going through recovery feel shame about their past actions and a lingering feeling of low self-worth. Creating something can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem, helping to build back up that positive sense of self you lost over the course of your illness. Many people also strongly identify with art, whether it’s a particular type of music that speaks to you or a style of painting you enjoy. Delving into whatever that is can help develop your identity as you’re rediscovering who you are in recovery.
Ability to express feelings without words. Moving through the process of recovery brings with it a wide array of emotions that can be hard to grapple with. Sometimes it’s just too hard, and other times you may not know how to express your feelings. Art and music give you a way to express those emotions and even tap into feelings that were hidden. As one art therapist tells the Huffington Post, the therapeutic benefit of art isn’t necessarily about the finished product, but instead, it’s about working through your feelings as part of the process.
Improved connection with others. Going through any kind of mental illness tends to be isolating, and even in recovery, you may still struggle to connect with other people. Besides strengthening your self-identity, art and music can also help you relate to the world around you. Music therapy conducted in a group, such as drumming circles, is especially beneficial for building trust and positive group dynamics. Even when we play or listen to music on our own, music has a way of making us feel a shared connection with humanity.
How Do You Incorporate Music and Art Into Recovery?
1. Learn an instrument.
While listening to music can impact your mood, learning to play an instrument is even more therapeutic. Learning an instrument is a new challenge for your brain, and taking on this challenge can help you discover new ways of thinking that apply to your journey through recovery. According to Psychology Today, it’s important to consider how different types of music affect your mood. When you’re picking an instrument to play, consider how classical music may make you feel calm, or maybe jazz would help you unearth buried feelings. Woodwind instruments are incredibly versatile, so you may want to consider something like the clarinet or saxophone to create that sense of calm or emotional connection that you need. Be sure to consult a buying guide before purchasing an instrument. For example, check out this saxophone buying guide from Music & Arts.
2. Learn a new art technique.
Creating something with your hands allows you to express emotion, but it can also be a healthy way to find peace with difficult emotions so you aren’t overwhelmed by them. According to Good Therapy, some of the best techniques for art therapy are painting, finger painting, sculpting, clay work, and drawing. The important thing to keep in mind with any of these techniques is to choose an art form where you can be fully expressive. You can also use more targeted art projects that are geared toward certain therapeutic goals, like this Unmasked project that addresses body image.
When you’re going through recovery, having the support of a therapist or group is essential, but that doesn’t mean traditional therapy is the only thing that can help. Art and music allow you to express emotion in new ways and encourage you to reconnect with yourself and others. And when you learn an instrument or new art form, you may discover a new hobby that adds even more value to your life in recovery.
Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.