What are Alternate Therapies?

While you are in drug addiction treatment, you may participate in alternate therapy sessions involving art, drama, dance or music. Even if you do not consider yourself artistic or interested in the arts, you can benefit from participation. Often your alternate therapy sessions will serve as a relaxing break from the intensity of your treatment program.

Alternate therapies combine the act of making art with psychotherapy and healing. Professionals in these therapeutic fields have advanced degrees from programs that require proficiency in both the chosen art as well as in counseling and psychotherapy. They have to complete as many as 500 hours of supervised therapy sessions in order to obtain their credentials.

Traditional “talk therapy” alone can be ineffective for some people. Art enables them to confront inner trauma and psychological disturbances, and express them in metaphor, music, and form. Art is created on the right side of the brain, which means it comes from a more primitive, emotional place than your verbal center. By accessing this part of your brain, you can also access deep-seated emotions and memories that you may have hidden from others (and even yourself). You can also learn to express emotions such as anger and sadness through art, instead of suppressing your feelings with drugs.

Music therapy was one of the first alternate therapies to emerge as a healing discipline. Doctors and nurses who treated World War II veterans noticed that soldiers who were suffering from physical and emotional wounds experienced faster healing, felt more relaxed, and required less pain medication if musicians performed for them. By the mid-1940s, universities such as Michigan State University were developing master’s-level programs in music therapy.

Music therapy can incorporate actions as simple as listening to music you enjoy. You do not need any musical ability or instruments to learn to relax with music. According to the Association of Music Therapists, listening to music can alleviate pain, fight depression, improve mood, help you get to sleep, take away fears and anxiety, and lessen tension. Some therapists use techniques such as drumming, which can induce trance-like states of relaxation in some people, and which is particularly useful when treating individuals who previously turned to substance abuse to achieve such states.

Drama and art therapy can help people heal from drug addictions by providing them with a means of emotional expression and offering them a new way to relax. Art therapists lead workshops that use paints, crayons or pencils, clay, or materials for collages and scrapbooks. Working as part of the treatment center’s team of therapists, the art therapist can teach you how to use whatever form of art you prefer to help you communicate your deepest feelings and understand yourself better. The art you create will help you and your therapists better understand your unconscious world.

Drama therapy provides another form of expression, serving as a means of telling your own story in metaphor and images. According to the National Association of Drama Therapists, drama therapy can “reduce feelings of isolation, develop new coping skills and patterns, broaden expression of feelings, experience positive interactions, and help develop healthy relationships.” Some drama therapists have participants put on plays or skits, or just perform role-playing.

After you leave drug addiction therapy, you will have to go home and create a new lifestyle for yourself, which includes finding new hobbies and pursuits to fill the time you used to spend acquiring and using drugs. Many former addicts find that art, music, drama, photography, and other arts can become a permanent new outlet to express their individuality and sensitivity – a worthwhile new hobby or avocation that is both positive and healing.