Author Archives: Jenny Weatherall

About Jenny Weatherall

Jenny Weatherall is the co-owner and CEO of Eminent SEO, a design and marketing agency founded in 2009. She has worked in the industry since 2005, when she fell in love with digital marketing… and her now husband and partner, Chris. Together they have 6 children and 3 granddaughters. Jenny has a passion for learning and sharing what she learns. She has researched, written and published hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics, including: SEO, design, marketing, ethics, business management, sustainability, inclusion, behavioral health, wellness and work-life balance.

Using Recovery Coloring Pages To Help Your Recovery

For many people facing stress, mental health concerns, and even just everyday life, the world can feel perpetually dark. Like a never-ending tunnel, the mind may try to convince you that you are riding a runaway train that fails to find the light at the end. That trapped mind might tell you that the easiest solution is to accept this as your new normal, but deep down, you know that life was never supposed to be this way. Without steps to combat the darkness, many of those stuck in that cycle float through life, never feeling like who they were meant to be.

For those in recovery from substance use disorders without adequate coping skills, this darkness can result in continued use or risk a relapse back into substance use behaviors. Fortunately, life does not have to be lived in overwhelming shadows. With the right support, learning to navigate the difficult emotions, triggers, and stressors that accompany recovery can help create the color and light we need to help pull us from our darkness.

Why Coloring?

At an early age, crayons became tools of expression as we color both inside and outside the lines. From the walls in our homes to the paper at school, wherever we could create color, we tried. For many of us, however, as we age, we forget how powerful those bright and luminant creations were. We often stop creating and put pressure on ourselves to try to fit in, exacerbating troubles and traumas of the past that may have been left untreated.

Helping individuals recover starts by helping them understand that coloring outside the lines is nothing more than an expression of self. It is okay to be different, and recognizing that everyone’s life journey is different starts with the ability to show on the outside what is going on inside. For many in recovery, this starts by revisiting that favorite childhood activity: coloring.

By utilizing coloring pages as a form of art therapy, an individual recovering from substance use disorder can find the colors they were longing for in that darkness. In fact, coloring pages provide a multitude of benefits that go beyond simply practicing art skills.

Coloring Benefits

There are numerous benefits to coloring that can help provide the therapy needed to support recovery from substance use.

These include:


When you’re coloring, the mind can become more focused. Many people with substance use disorders suffer from other underlying conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, panic disorders, or even post-traumatic stress disorders. For many with these types of disorders, the mind is searching to be anywhere but in the current moment. The meditative properties of coloring and focusing on its soothing qualities can actually calm the mind and allow it to exist in the moment at hand.

benefits to coloring

Creating Mindfulness

Meditation is a great way to calm the mind in a moment, but mindfulness adds another layer that allows the mind to process thoughts and feelings. Without the ability to create the necessary space for purposeful reflection, the mind can become stuck in a loop that focuses on the negativities and difficulties of the past. This can cause a person to search for ways of breaking the cycle in unhealthy ways, which can make the turn to substances easy. Coloring creates the openness the mind needs to process emotions in the moment rather than continuing to perpetuate them with unsettled thoughts.

Expressing Oneself Freely

Recovery can be a lonely process for many. Distancing yourself from others can create feelings of isolation and limit the way you express yourself. Through intentional thoughts and choices in color patterns, the feelings one experiences internally can be expressed in new and unique ways. They can be kept to yourself or viewed by others who may be able to more easily understand the complicated journey you are on.


Recovery is a difficult process that is filled with many obstacles and challenges, and it can often feel like a punishment for engaging in an activity you once enjoyed. In addition, you may have given up many things you liked doing during active addiction. That’s why there is such power of entertainment, joy, and playfulness within the recovery process. When you color, childhood memories rediscover their place in the forefront of the mind, where it isn’t just about coloring inside the lines but the joy of creation and expression. This can help to reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety commonly associated with recovery.

Get Started With Coloring Pages

Improved Concentration

With substance use disorders often comes panic and anxiety. These can cause the mind to race and lose focus on the task at hand. Coloring is a low-stress opportunity to regain the focus and concentration needed for other tasks.

Better Sleep

For many people with substance use disorders, including those in recovery, sleep is difficult. Whether it is the result of the aforementioned racing mind, the stress of the potential for relapse, or simply as a side effect of the substance or its withdrawals, sleep can be limited in both quality and quantity. Fortunately, coloring can help calm the mind, which promotes sleep. Much like those who enjoy reading before bed as a way to encourage the brain to rest, those who enjoy coloring may find that it creates an atmosphere conducive to sleep.

Get Started With Coloring Pages

Whether you are taking the recommendation of your mental health and recovery professionals or you want to explore other opportunities to aid in your personal growth throughout recovery, discovering the power of color and creation may be the light to bring you from the darkness. Here are a few ways specific types of coloring pages can help you during the recovery process. Read up so that you can find the one that may be right for you. We even have a few free samples to help start your art therapy journey.

Recovery Themed Coloring Pages

In recent years, we’ve found a number of coloring books tailored to those in recovery. Often filled with positive messages and words of affirmation, the design and style of each page allow artists the opportunity to express themselves while absorbing important messages for the recovery journey. For example, on days when recovery is more difficult, you may choose to incorporate shades of grays and blacks.

On days when finding the light is more necessary, you may turn to the powers of yellows and oranges. No matter what color choices are made, these types of coloring pages allow a dual focus on art therapy and positive thinking. They help you focus your mind on creativity and creation while also taking in the words and making connections with the images. With the help of recovery coloring pages, you may be able to center your thoughts on your recovery journey.

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Recovery Themed Coloring Pages

Sobriety & Recovery Coloring Pages

Like recovery coloring pages, sober coloring pages provide a creative outlet for managing the difficulties associated with substance use. Found in a variety of options from serious to bold to humorous, sober coloring pages can build upon the unique perspectives associated with recovering from substance use disorders. With each color choice or design element, there are opportunities to express what is on your mind, and if you discuss your art with others, you can draw on the support of those around you.

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Sobriety & Recovery Coloring Pages

Mandala Coloring Pages

Mandalas are derived from Buddhism and are designed using a pattern of geometric shapes, often incorporating a circle as a part of the design or in its overall shape. Many people may be familiar with these artistic designs because Buddhist monks famously create them as a way to meditate and bring calm and peace. Often, these elaborate designs are scratched into the sand. However, just like most ideas throughout the world, it has now become a widespread form of art used in various cultures.

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Mandala Coloring Pages

A notable psychological study has found that mandalas can help reduce anxiety levels. In the study, free-form coloring was compared to mandala coloring over a 20-minute period. It concluded that those who colored mandalas were able to reduce anxiety levels more easily within that time.

Mandalas were the subject of psychological study in the first place due to the amount of anecdotal evidence to that effect. In fact, Carl Jung knew the benefits of mandalas early on and concluded that they are useful in reducing stress and anxiety because the process was rooted in the subconscious. He also believed that coloring allowed individuals to reconnect with basic cognitive abilities. The research shows that coloring mandalas certainly can be a valuable tool in processing the trauma and other forms of distress that are often experienced by those with substance use disorders.

Creating the Colors of Your Life

Substance use disorder can seem like it’s eliminated the best things from your life, including hobbies, connections, and joys. The ability to navigate emotions, traumas, and even interpersonal relationships can become nonexistent as substance use begins to take all the energy you once had for these important aspects of life. Often, putting off facing these challenges for months or years, living in the darkness can feel like it is the only option. Together, the removal of joy and the persistence of the negative impacts of substance use can cause your world to become a gray, shadowed blur. Recreating the colors of your life by using coloring pages can illuminate new ways of thinking, improve focus, reduce stress, and even help create the space you need to truly see your authentic self inside.

Art therapies

Trauma, substance use disorders, and other mental health struggles do not define a person. They are simply difficulties we must address. Art therapies like coloring can allow the expression necessary to create the mind’s freedom. It isn’t about coloring inside or outside the lines, choosing the right colors, or creating a museum piece; it is about the process, the peace it provides, and the ability to speak in colors and express yourself through a universal language.

Whether you choose to start with one of our free coloring pages or decide to explore one of the many coloring books available online, your substance use disorder recovery can benefit from tools as simple as a box of crayons, a pack of colored pencils, or a box of markers. The same tools you used when you discovered how colors can express who you are or when you first started coloring outside the lines can now help you bring back your light and create the colors of your world.

For more information about recovery and resources to help you maintain your recovery journey, ECHO Recovery is here to help. Our recovery community is dedicated to creating awareness and sharing resources to help end the negative influence of harmful substances in so many lives.


  1. Bobby, J. (2022, August 15). Mental health benefits of coloring. Mayo Clinic Health System.
  2. Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? Art Therapy, 22(2), 81–85.
  3. Coloring is not just for kids! (n.d.). CHE Behavioral Health Services. Retrieved May 10, 2024, from
  4. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, October 20). Substance Use Disorder (SUD): Symptoms & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic.
  5. ‌Blume, N. (n.d.). Exploring the Mandala. Asia Society.
  6. American Art Therapy Association. (2022). About Art Therapy. American Art Therapy Association.
ECHO Recovery Sober Housing Scholarship Update

Important Update: ECHO Sober Housing Scholarship Applications Temporarily Closed

Dear ECHO Recovery Community,

We are reaching out with an important update regarding our Sober Housing Scholarship program. Due to an overwhelming demand and a current lack of sufficient funding, we regret to inform you that our sober housing scholarship applications are temporarily closed.

The journey towards recovery is unique, challenging, and often expensive. The cost of sober housing can be a significant barrier for many individuals in early recovery. Our scholarship program was designed to help eliminate this financial obstacle by providing funds to cover the cost of sober housing. It saddens us to have to pause this vital initiative, but we remain committed to doing everything we can to support those in need.

While our scholarship program is on hold, we encourage all those in need of assistance to explore our other resources. We offer a range of free treatment resources on our website, which can be accessed here. If you’re based in Maryland, you can find additional free resources here.

We are actively seeking government grants and private donations to replenish our scholarship fund and help more people in their recovery journey. Every dollar donated goes directly towards sponsoring those in recovery, helping them secure housing, and meet basic necessities during the initial stages of treatment. If you are able, please consider making a donation today. Your contribution could significantly change someone’s life.

We understand that this news may be disappointing for many, and we share in your disappointment. However, we want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to reopen the applications as soon as possible. We appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

Thank you for your continued support of ECHO Recovery and our mission. Together, we can make a difference and continue to support those on the path to recovery.

The ECHO Recovery Board

Art Journaling to help with Recovery

Art Journaling Prompts for People in Recovery

Every road to recovery is unique. While there are general tools and support systems, nearly everyone can benefit from, finding a therapeutic technique that you truly click with can provide the best benefits for maintaining and thriving in a sober lifestyle.

Self-discovery and self-reflection are two critical aspects of recovery. When a person is struggling with a substance use disorder, they often neglect their true physical, mental, and emotional needs. Who they are becomes defined by the substance. Developing the ability to look internally and reflect on what you find is key to regaining your sense of personhood. In recovery, finding yourself again can be a difficult but rewarding process.

Consider Journaling for Recovery

One useful tool for rediscovering yourself during recovery is the concept of journaling. There is no wrong way to journal, and the most effective way for you to journal can vary depending on your personal style. Some individuals prefer to write in an open format, jotting down their day and experiences. Others like to have specific prompts that get them thinking about life and sobriety.

Another option that is growing in popularity is art journaling. Art journaling for addiction recovery provides an opportunity for you to partake in self-reflection while also tapping into your creative side. If you’re in recovery, art journaling can help you find inspiration and purpose as you move forward on your sober journey.

Art Journaling for Addiction Recovery

Art journaling is one of many forms of art for recovery. Art therapy is an effective tool for helping individuals with substance use disorders explore their feelings without fear of judgment or confrontation. In the early stages of recovery, there are often many emotions that rise to the surface after having been suppressed by drugs or alcohol.

Facing these deep emotions can be overwhelming, especially as recovery is beginning. However, the ability to face and move on from these emotions is key to maintaining recovery long-term. Art journaling provides an opportunity to use creativity to access emotions and begin to understand the root cause of traumas.

So what is an art journal? Also referred to as a visual journal, an art journal functions much like a traditional journal. With traditional journaling, you are writing down your thoughts and feelings. With an art journal, you are expressing yourself through sketches, doodles, drawings, clips of pictures and magazines, and any other way that you can creatively collect your thoughts and feelings.

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Requirements for Art Journaling

Fortunately, you do not need to be a great artist to benefit from participating in art journaling. Just like traditional journaling, this is a practice that is designed to be personal and will be seen only by you and those you wish to share with. There are no right or wrong ways to journal, and there is no worry that your work will be judged or criticized. The purpose of an art journal is to have an emotional outlet that works for you.

For many, putting into words how you’re feeling and what you are experiencing can be too difficult. In that instance, drawing what you are experiencing may provide the outlet needed. As with traditional journaling, though, consistency is key. You’ll want to consider a mode of creativity that makes sense for daily reflection. Larger artistic projects such as sculpting or painting can be therapeutic, but a journal is more of a daily tool that can change with your moods and feelings.

Benefits of Art Journaling for Addiction Recovery

Art journaling can provide numerous benefits for individuals in any stage of addiction recovery. Journaling can be a helpful tool in recovery because it allows people to explore their deepest emotions without fear of judgment or criticism. Journaling can help uncover triggers, which in turn can help people face those triggers to avoid relapse. Journaling also adds a bit of routine to a person’s day, which can help them develop a schedule conducive to sober living.

There are other major benefits of art journaling, and understanding them can help you decide if art journaling may be a good fit for your needs.


People in recovery often need to slowly tear down walls that took years to build. This is because when a person has a substance use disorder, they tend to isolate themselves from others. Many people don’t want their addiction to be apparent, so they hide their true selves and develop a defense mechanism when people try to get too close. Addiction can also provoke feelings of shame, which further hinders the ability to be authentic and honest.

Art journaling is a safe medium for facing instead of suppressing emotions. This can be beneficial in recovery because suppressing emotions can negatively impact mental, emotional, and physical health. Art journaling presents an opportunity to be authentic with your deepest thoughts and feelings at a pace that is comfortable for you.


Expressing yourself through any medium can feel liberating, and this is especially true in recovery. For example, when you vent to a friend about something that is bothering you, you usually feel lighter and have better clarity about the situation. In the same way, art journaling can help you free your emotions at your leisure.

Opening up in recovery can be challenging, which is why art journaling can be so beneficial. This form of therapy allows you to release negative emotions, evaluate your thoughts, understand the problems you are facing, and participate in a creative opportunity that you enjoy.


Art journaling is designed to help you uncover long-buried emotions, but it is also designed to help you develop an understanding of yourself. Especially for individuals in recovery, finding yourself again can feel overwhelming. For months, if not years, substance use has defined who you are, but finding yourself again can be facilitated through art journaling. You can rediscover who you are, what you enjoy, and what brings you happiness. This is a vital tool for self-care.

Goals and Intentions

Recovery should be a time when people move on from the behaviors, thought patterns, and destructive activities of the past. For that reason, recovery is about setting goals, large and small, that help keep you motivated and focused on what you want from the process. An art journal is the perfect way to visualize your goals. You can draw positive goals and outcomes you would like to see in your future.

Supplies you might use in Art Journaling Projects

How to Start an Art Journal

When you are considering starting an art journal, it can be beneficial to first think about the way you would normally take notes. Do you like to work with colors or keep it simple? Do you prefer handwriting your notes or using a digital platform? These questions can help you determine what kind of art journal would be best for you. To get started:

Gather Materials

It is helpful to have a dedicated notebook for your sobriety art journal. Since art can demand more than a single piece of paper, use a visual-journal-specific notebook, or consider purchasing thicker paper. You’ll also want to round up your preferred art materials. This can include paint, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, pencil sharpener, and anything else you might need to create your work. If you would prefer to create digitally, look into platforms and programs that would allow you to easily access your art and keep it organized.

Journal with a Plan and Purpose

Art journaling is a way to release your inner thoughts and feelings without rules and restrictions. However, you may want to consider setting yourself some basic boundaries, especially at first, since getting into this process can feel overwhelming. It is easy to overthink your art journal, essentially putting it on hold before you can even begin.

To help, you may want to make some decisions before you start, such as what medium you prefer, which colors you want to use, and even how large your project will be.

Find a Topic

Specific art journaling ideas aren’t always necessary. Oftentimes, you’ll find inspiration from daily experiences, persistent thoughts, or familiar feelings that you want to express. However, some days, finding a topic can be more of a challenge. On these days, a great list of potential journal prompts can come in handy. Prompts are a great way to ease into the practice of art journaling and could offer a source of inspiration you wouldn’t consider on your own.

Get Creative

Once you have all the materials you need, a prompt or focus, and have set boundaries on how you want to create, you are ready to get creative. There are endless possibilities when it comes to art therapy. Your journal is designed for you, so use it as you need.

Art Journaling Prompts for Addiction Recovery

Art Journaling Prompts for Addiction Recovery

To get you started, we have compiled a list of prompts that have helped others get the most from their art journal. Prompts are a great way to explore topics you might not consider yourself and can be great to have handy on days when inspiration feels lacking.

  • Draw a place you feel safe – Especially for people in recovery, safe places, and people can feel limited. Drawing a place where you feel safe, whether it be real or imaginary, can help in moments of fear or anxiety. Identifying a place that is safe is the best way to improve your ability to get vulnerable with yourself and others.
  • Use colors to express your current emotions – Sometimes, words fall short when you’re trying to express deep or confusing emotional states. As mentioned, too, in early recovery, emotions can be intense and difficult to navigate. Instead of trying to write out what you’re feeling, simply choose a color that you feel best represents that emotion. Your canvas could have one or many colors that represent what is going on at that moment.
  • Where are you today compared to six months or a year ago? – Art journaling can also work as a great tool for self-reflection in the future. You can revisit this prompt, taking note of the control and understanding you may have developed toward your emotions since that point. In this way, journaling can be a marker of your progress.
  • Create a collage that represents your journey – Collages can be a great way to express yourself artistically without stressing about your ability to draw or paint. You can use photographs you already have, print out pictures from the web, or even flip through old magazines to find inspiration. Collages are a great way to create a work that represents where your life is now, as well as create a vision for the future.
  • Create a self-portrait – This is another great prompt that can be revisited throughout your sober journey. You can draw how you see yourself now, how you saw yourself in the past, or how you would like to see yourself in the future. You can choose to be realistic or get creative with your appearance.

Tips for Art Journaling

To get the most out of journaling, it is recommended to make creating in your journal part of your regular routine. Journaling on a regular basis is beneficial for self-reflection and dealing with the various emotional triggers you can face on a daily basis. It also provides an outlet when you need it, whether you’ve had a great day or a difficult one.

We also suggest that you consider keeping your art journal private or being careful about who you choose to share it with. The purpose of an art journal is to allow you to explore difficult, deep emotions and struggles you may face in your healing journey. Even individuals with the best intentions could make a comment that strikes you the wrong way, opening the door for regression when it comes to honesty and vulnerability. Like a diary, an art journal is designed for your eyes only.

You should also consider experimenting with different mediums. Working with different mediums presents a healthy challenge and can prevent feelings of repetition and boredom. You may even discover you have a knack and passion for a certain previously undiscovered medium.

Suggested Reading: Art Journaling Ideas

Creativity Supports Addiction Recovery

Skilled artists and interested beginners alike can find healing and a sense of self through art journaling. While any type of journaling is personal, confidential, and judgment-free, art journaling can be more accessible than written journaling for many people. It also allows people to explore their deepest emotions, navigate triggers, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. See our Art for Recovery resource for more information and support.

If you’re in recovery, consider art journaling as a way to get creative while exploring yourself in your new life, expanding beyond the written word to truly express yourself on a whole different level. The best part? You don’t have to consider yourself artistic to benefit from art journaling. All you need is a willingness to try, a few tools, and a commitment to making it part of your daily routine. Visit our Art Corner to find artists, classes, and more.

How Creativity Aids in Addiction Recovery

How Creativity Aids in Addiction Recovery

As children, we’re shown how to color and paint pictures in ways that show off our creativity. Many people stop drawing or creating art as they get older, and unfortunately, we’re no longer encouraged to use creative expression in our daily lives. However, art can be an effective tool in helping those with substance use disorder (SUD) reach and maintain recovery.

SUD can feel debilitating and can be one of the most challenging situations you’ll ever navigate, but it doesn’t have to continue to negatively impact the rest of your life. Art, in its many forms, can make the experience of recovery more fulfilling and enjoyable. Whether you like to paint, write music, or doodle in your journal, art may be the tool you need to bolster your recovery journey.

ECHO Recovery is a community filled with people who once felt they had no direction. For many of us, artistic expression provided the key we needed to unlock new ways to improve our mental state. Recovery lasts a lifetime, and it can thus be a lengthy journey, but it’s a journey worth taking. Art is just one of the powerful tools you can use to improve your recovery journey and prepare to move forward into a life free from substance use.

Art Therapy and Recovery

Art Therapy and Recovery

Art therapy is a research-backed treatment method often linked to a psychotherapy practice that helps people use creative expression via the visual arts to demonstrate their thoughts, emotions, and more. For those with SUD, art therapy can be a way to freely express their ideas and emotions surrounding both their experiences with SUD as well as any underlying issues that contributed to SUD. In a formal art therapy session, the drawings, paintings, sculptures, or other works produced can be discussed so both client and therapist can develop a better understanding of the issues at hand.

Art can be therapeutic on a less formal basis, as well. The thoughts you’re having can be difficult to say out loud, and you may be unsure how to accurately depict how you’re feeling, but art therapy makes the process easier while still reaching the intended goal. Even if you’re simply creating art solo or as a small group, the healing power of art may be exactly what you need to express your own feelings.

You may be asking, “How does art help addiction?” While SUD is something to be managed rather than cured, using art therapy can help those struggling to refrain from using harmful substances.

Suggested Reading: Benefits of Art Therapy

Addiction Recovery and Creativity

Addiction Recovery and Creativity

Art therapy isn’t designed to make you the next Picasso, but it can help you express yourself and learn more about who you are. In fact, one of the most significant advantages of participating in the creation of art is the ability to illustrate your emotions.

You may feel ashamed that you’re meeting with a nonprofit or a treatment center. You may have experienced isolation from your family that is difficult to discuss. These situations can be hard to put into words, but rather than talk it out and risk giving inaccurate descriptions, you can draw it out. If drawing doesn’t do it for you, you can use paint, sculpture, or even dance to depict your emotions. No matter the feelings, experiences, traumas, or mental state, you have the ability to express them through art.

Art can also help those who feel tied down or unsure of who they are. Many people with SUD experience denial, and many who complete treatment are unsure regarding the work they need to do to maintain recovery. However, art can be reflective of who you are as a person. If you notice your drawings contain imagery of darkness and loneliness, this may help you realize how you feel about yourself. By creating art frequently, you can see the progress in your works as time goes on, and not just in the quality itself.

When you put your art out into the world, your shoulders may feel less heavy. You don’t have to carry your emotions with you forever, and releasing your negative energy through art can help you feel free from it all.

How Can I Be Creative?

How Can I Be Creative?

A profound realization many of us have when utilizing art as therapy is that you can express yourself in many different ways. You’re not limited to pencil and paper. While art therapy typically incorporates visual media like drawing, painting, and sculpture, art can take many forms. If you like to sing or play an instrument, you can compose songs that illustrate how you’re feeling. If you’ve always dreamt of being an actor or actress, you can write your own script and create characters that represent your struggles. Art therapy has no limits.

Here are some ideas to consider if you’re thinking about practicing art therapy:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Photography
  • Charcoal
  • Pastels
  • Papier mache
  • Origami
  • Creating music
  • Dancing
  • Acting
  • Mime
  • Writing (journaling, poetry, fiction, etc.)

All art forms have the ability to not only help you express how you feel but help you free yourself from any emotions or experiences tying you down.

Suggested Reading: Is Painting a Form of Healing?

Recovery, Mindfulness, and Distraction

Recovery, Mindfulness, and Distraction

One of the most trying aspects of recovery is the stressors and triggers we experience that may have us wanting to return to substance use. Relapsing occurs when people return to using substances, often to numb themselves from these common stressors and often under the false belief that once the stress has passed, they can return to sobriety. Through art therapy, you can learn new, healthier ways to cope with both stressors and triggers. Art therapy teaches new skills and enables you to focus on a creative, productive task that is both distracting and fulfilling.

Art therapy can be a great way to marry the mindfulness practices often taught during SUD treatment with a focus on a healthy outlet for your feelings. For example, if you have the urge to reduce stress by returning to drinking alcohol, this is where art therapy can become involved. At your next opportunity, you could illustrate how you felt when you wanted to drink, as well as any emotions or concerns you had at that moment.

Whether you want to draw a comic depicting the situation or simply create an art piece that represents your feelings at the time, you are staying focused on the moment and how you feel in the present. Rather than feel conflicted when wanting to turn to a substance, you can instead turn to your preferred art form and express yourself.

Suggested Reading: What Is Mindfulness

Is Distraction Okay?

Is Distraction Okay?

When we say distraction, we are referring to your ability to shift your focus from the urge to use substances to release your energy in another, healthier way. Distraction is not always effective or desirable; for example, distracting yourself with TV every time you’re stressed isn’t productive and can actually impede you from getting work done. However, if you’ve been considering picking up a substance again, turning toward art is healthier, both physically and mentally.

Taking your mind off triggers and stressors isn’t always easy, but it can certainly be effective. In fact, a study from 2010 showed that distraction can be an effective means of coping with difficult circumstances. Rather than focus on the thought of relapsing, you can instead turn to your preferred art form. The distraction keeps you away from harmful substances while furthering your recovery journey with artistic expression.

Connection to an Addiction Recovery Community

Another advantage of art therapy that often gets overlooked is the ability to form bonds with others in situations very similar to your own. Art brings people together, and whatever you choose to create will bring in new connections who can have whatever role you want them to in your recovery. These people aren’t here to judge but can help you interpret what you’ve expressed, share their own artistic works, and more.

There are several other ways art can be beneficial in terms of community and connecting with others.

Creating a Safe Space

Creating a Safe Space

Taking the first step in asking for help can be daunting for many. However, when you finally do meet with others who understand what you’re going through, it becomes easier to express yourself and discuss how you feel. Using art can be an effective tool in helping you communicate your feelings without words.

For example, let’s say you had a painful experience during your time using substances. This experience has held you down for years, and it was difficult to get through it and seek help. Others around you may have had similar experiences, but no one will have yours. Still, this can be a great opportunity to share your art with others and discuss it together. Others on the path toward recovery are looking to provide support to their peers, and art therapy can be a tool that prevents those from feeling ashamed of their emotions and experiences.

Group Art Project

Group Art Projects

Many people recovering from SUD are hesitant to work with others out of fear, but the end result of a group art project may be worth it. Taking part in a group project at a treatment center, peer group, or even an informal get-together not only helps you express your own personal feelings but allows you to connect with others in a similar manner. Others who see this art will wonder what the inspiration was, and you can either communicate your thoughts to them or leave it up for people to interpret.

Dedicated Art Therapy

Art therapy sessions with a trained art therapist in your community, whether solo or in a group setting, can be a valuable way to reflect on your SUD, its causes, and your recovery. When a trained individual is there to facilitate the project and the creative process and guide you as you explore what you’ve created, you can once again begin making connections between your emotions, your inner self, and your experiences.

If you’re in a group setting, you, the therapist, and your group members can begin to understand the conflicts or triggers that are leading to your current emotions. Together, you can draw on shared experiences to tackle these issues and suggest ways to resolve them productively.

Creativity for Addiction Recovery?

Unfortunately, many people believe art only serves to entertain, but this is patently untrue. In fact, studies have shown that art as a way to recover from SUD can be incredibly effective. For people with mental health issues and SUD, art can be a critical component of a recovery toolkit. It can also help your mental health professional better understand you and help you navigate toward a brighter future.

Art has existed for millennia, both as an essential form of communication and as a means of creative expression. Today, it can still be found anywhere and everywhere. People with SUD who have previously felt defeated and isolated from the world can reconnect with it once again through art.

For example, consider how the brain can only hold so much information, and it can be difficult to process it all internally. For many people, jotting down a note on paper can not only serve to help them remember the thoughts occurring at any given time, but they may also interpret them differently after viewing it on paper. The same concept applies to art; expressing what’s going on in your brain visually, whether via ink, paint, clay, or something else, allows you to show others your mental state and better understand these emotions yourself.

Find Creativity and Recovery at ECHO

Find Creativity and Recovery at ECHO

Find Creativity and Recovery at ECHO

ECHO Recovery is a nonprofit foundation and education organization intended to provide tools and resources to those struggling with SUD. We are proud to offer a housing program for those who wish to seek recovery and continue our efforts to help people find healing through the power of art.

Our Art Corner can serve as a way for art teachers, art therapists, and people in recovery to find art classes, participate in or organize community events, and even browse art created by people just like you. Art can be used as a healthy tool to both express your inner thoughts and reflect on who you are, so you don’t have to rely on the substances that once harmed you. Use our resources and the power of art as a means of managing this challenging situation and find joy in the process.

Empowering Families: A New Approach to Addiction Recovery

Empowering Families: A New Approach to Addiction Recovery

Empowering families and loved ones helps those dealing with substance use disorders find their own sense of empowerment in recovery. Millions of people nationwide and around the world are dealing with substance use disorders. Substance use negatively affects multiple aspects of a person’s life, including their physical, mental, and emotional health, their finances, and their relationships with others.

There is no doubt that a substance use disorder harms the person who uses substances. However, it also severely impacts their close family and friends. Learning effective ways to protect their health and well-being is essential in doing so. Not only does empowerment help the family, but it can also help their loved ones.

Empowering Family Members Regarding SUD

Loved ones of people dealing with a substance use disorder can often feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and helpless in the face of addiction. While groups like Al-Anon and other 12-step programs reassure family members that they did not cause their loved one’s addiction, nor can they control or cure it, many still face their own struggles even as recovery begins.

Unfortunately, the challenges and mental health issues that families face are less talked about, and families are often expected to find their own support during this difficult time so that they stay safe and protect their own mental and emotional health.

Family members need support so they are better equipped to support their loved ones as they seek treatment and follow through on recovery. While they cannot provide a cure themselves, families can have a significant impact on the recovery process of their loved ones – but this can take its toll. Tips for family members of an addict to find empowerment can help families care for their own health while supporting their loved ones.

Family members need support

Empowering Families for Addiction Recovery

Every family faces unique circumstances when a loved one has a substance use disorder. Some family members have grown accustomed to enabling the behavior of their loved one, others may face unfair accusations, and still others may experience abusive behavior on the part of their loved one. This variety of circumstances can make it hard for families to get the help they need.

Still, while empowerment will look different for each family, the important thing is that family members’ own health and wellness are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, amidst the chaos caused by frequent, persistent substance use, it is far too easy to lose the struggles of family members. In fact, nearly all research about the negative effects of substance use is focused on the individual suffering. While this is extremely important and should not be forgotten, it’s also essential to understand how substance use affects the individual’s closest loved ones.

If you are a family member of someone dealing with substance use, you should:

  • Endeavor to understand more about substance use disorder and the situation you’re facing,
  • Recognize your emotions and your needs, and
  • Determine how to best support yourself and your loved one.
As family members, you play an important part in your loved one’s recovery, but only if you develop essential coping strategies and take care of your own needs during the process.

Educating Yourself About Substance Use Disorders

If someone in your life continues using a substance despite the negative impact it is having on their life, it’s important to educate yourself on substance use disorders. When you research and learn about substance use, you may avoid common misconceptions.

Without a thorough understanding of these disorders, you may make the mistake of believing that substance use disorder is a failing of your family member’s character, that it’s their own choice, or a product of their own stubborn behavior. While the decision to begin using substances is what began the issue, substance use disorder has made simply ceasing the use of the substance physically and mentally impossible for them.

Educating Yourself About Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorder is no longer a choice that your loved one has made but is instead the result of changes in the brain, often spurred on by trauma or another mental health disorder. Educating yourself about the science behind substance disorders can help you understand how you and your family have been affected, as well. Many families blame each other and are tempted to shame the individual using substances. While it is normal to feel frustrated or even resentful, these feelings can serve to worsen your own situation. Learning about SUD can help you protect your own mental and emotional health.

Look for information from reputable sources like:

  • Books about addiction chemistry in the brain,
  • Online studies about the impact of drugs and substances on the brain, and
  • Trustworthy articles about addiction treatment and recovery.

Connect With Families Like Yours

It’s helpful for many people to connect with peers and other families dealing with similar circumstances. It can be hard living with a friend or family member who is dealing with substance use, and most family members report feeling alone in their struggles. But if you want to help your loved one, you have to take care of your own health first.

Taking time to learn ways to cope with the stress and challenges of living together is key, and family support groups are one way to do that. There are support groups created specifically for families and loved ones of those who use substances. These groups are a supportive and safe place for you and your family to learn about the impact of substance use, the effect it can have on a person, and the effect it may be having on you.

Support groups

Support groups can help you:

  • Learn how to cope with substance use in your family
  • Achieve a better quality of life
  • Understand how to manage and lower conflict with someone who has a substance use disorder
  • Find support in a community
  • Improve your own health and reduce stress
  • Reduce your feelings of isolation and frustration
Programs for family support include:
  • Al-Anon
  • Alateen
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)
  • Families Anonymous
  • Nar-Anon
  • Parents of Addicted Loved Ones
  • NAMI Family Support Group
  • Grief Recovery After Substance Passing (GRASP)
  • SMART Recovery Family & Friends
  • Family Interventions
These support groups can teach you the necessary skills to take care of yourself, your family, and your loved one dealing with substance use.

Attend Family Therapy

Families and loved ones living together can face several interpersonal difficulties when someone is struggling with substance use. An effective way to deal with these issues and communicate with each other is by attending family therapy. These programs are created to help family members understand each other and work through resentment, anger, distrust, and guilt in a guided and healthier environment. Family therapy can help loved ones understand each other and set essential boundaries.

It’s also been shown that family involvement in treatment and recovery programs can positively impact:

  • The health of each individual family member,
  • Overall family functioning,
  • Relationship satisfaction between family members, and
  • The willingness of family members to change.
Therapy can equip a family to better handle the process of recovery well into the future.

Get Yourself Private Therapy

Substance use disorders in individuals have been shown to have negative emotional and behavioral effects on their families and especially their children. Family therapy is a great way to work through interpersonal family conflicts, and peer support groups can negate some negative effects. However, you and other individual members of your family could benefit from professional counseling or therapy.

If you are frequently caring for your family member, it can be exhausting. Professional help can help you cope with and understand your unique circumstances. Therapy can provide several benefits, including:

  • Having a judgment-free space to talk through your feelings
  • Discovering healthy coping methods
  • Learning what you should and shouldn’t feel responsible for
  • Learning methods to handle your loved one’s destructive habits
  • Providing meditation and mindfulness techniques to handle stress
Not everyone has the time or resources to attend individual therapy, particularly if you have other meetings or therapies to prioritize. However, it’s important to look out for your own well-being during this time.

Allow the Time to Heal

If a loved one with a substance use disorder has received treatment and is beginning the recovery process, the situation can lead to high hopes in the rest of the family. Though this isn’t inherently bad, this hope and the expectation that comes with it is a high standard to reach. Recovery is not a straight road, and change will not happen immediately. It’s important to manage your expectations during the recovery process.

If you expect your loved one to break bad habits and unhealthy behaviors quickly and begin a new and completely different life in recovery, you will likely be disappointed. Relapse is a common part of the recovery journey, and even those who do not relapse will not change overnight. It’s important to build a foundation and work to prevent relapse, but your loved one experiencing a relapse does not mean that recovery is impossible.

Families must find a balance between holding their loved one accountable while respecting them and understanding that mistakes are human. Recovery is a much longer process than many families realize. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about recovery is that it is a lifelong journey, as substance use disorders cannot be cured – however, they can be managed.

Communicate With Each Other

It’s essential to keep open communication between you and the rest of your family. Whether your loved one is actively dependent on substances or is working through the process of treatment and recovery, ensure that communication remains strong between all members of the family. If communication between you and your loved ones is strenuous or impossible, consider other steps, such as family therapy or personal therapy.

Communication ensures that you and your family can express emotions, boundaries, and needs during this difficult process. Be sincere and focus on conversations that encourage progress rather than cycling through negative emotions. Remember that your goal is to be there for each other without sacrificing your own well-being.


Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an essential part of communication and a crucial component of recovery for both you and your loved one. You should set boundaries with your loved ones to let them know what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Ideally, a boundary is not a demand or expectation placed upon the person in recovery but instead a statement that lets them know what your reaction will be if they violate that boundary. For example, instead of telling your loved one that you expect perfection and will be angry if you discover they are drinking again, tell them you will remove your children from their presence while they are drinking.

Never compromise your safety or well-being.

Boundaries should especially address behaviors like:

  • Domestic abuse or violence
  • Endangering children due to risk-taking
  • Financially damaging you and your family
  • Any dangerous and illegal behavior
Determine if these actions cause you and your loved ones harm or jeopardize your safety. If so, you likely want to remove yourself from the situation. Though you may want to provide support for your loved one, you should never compromise your safety to do so.

Partake in Activities

It’s important for a family to engage in fulfilling and enjoyable activities, both as a family and individually. This boosts the mental and emotional health of the entire family and allows everyone to find purpose in life beyond dealing with a substance use disorder.

Family and personal activities that can help recovering families include:

  • Taking hikes
  • Volunteer work
  • Dancing
  • Cooking
  • Baking
  • Painting
  • Yoga
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking photographs
  • Playing with children
  • Listening to music
  • Playing an instrument
  • Gardening
  • Crafting
  • Going to a park
  • Writing
  • Having meals as a family

These activities can provide you with a sense of purpose and enjoyment in life. As a family, these activities allow families to connect each day and can aid the work completed in therapy. These enjoyable activities can help your family feel more united in the face of SUD and other troubles.

Suggested Reading: The Benefits of Art Therapy
Having meals as a family

Advocate on Behalf of Those Struggling

Negative stigma surrounding substance use disorders is incredibly common. Other people in your life may have inaccurate or judgmental views on substance use disorder and the issues associated with it. Just as many family members once did, they may believe it is the fault of the person dealing with the disorder, the fault of you and your family, a minor issue, or even a simple problem to be ignored. Even if they are not making these statements to you or your loved one directly, these assumptions and the resulting stigma can be very harmful.

When you encounter people in your life making insensitive comments or harboring inaccurate beliefs about SUD, you can help by providing the truth and a more accurate portrayal of substance use. You’ve done the research, and you have a lived experience. Conversations with others can not only help your loved one who is struggling but improve your community.

Empowering Families During Addiction Recovery

We’re excited to share that our board director, Jim Haggerty, is also the founder of A Time to Heal: Family Interventions. This revolutionary addiction recovery support service focuses on helping the whole family heal together.

They understand the fear and confusion that comes with grappling with a mental health disorder or addiction. That’s why they’re committed to providing individuals and their families with compassionate understanding, resources, and support needed to help them make sustainable progress toward their goals.

Their personalized intervention and family support services include pre-intervention consultations, intervention planning and facilitation, post-treatment support, family counseling sessions, behavioral health and SUD recovery case management, sober companion services, and more.

Their experienced team of addiction intervention specialists works with clinical providers to provide personalized care tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. They empower families to take control of their lives and provide them with the tools they need to recover, with a focus on building strong bonds between family members during times of difficulty.

We’re proud to have Jim Haggerty as part of our team at ECHO Recovery. Contact him to learn more about addiction recovery family support.

Resources :

The Mental Health Benefits of Art Therapy

The Many Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art to improve and enhance a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It combines the creative process with psychotherapeutic techniques to improve mental health, reduce stress and promote overall wellness. Art therapy is a form of creative expression that allows people to explore their feelings, thoughts, and emotions in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

It’s important to understand that mental health issues can impact our lives in many ways. For example, stress caused by work or family problems can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and headaches. Additionally, mental health issues can cause us to have difficulty functioning in our everyday lives, such as going to school or work.

And these issues can also lead us down a path of negative feelings and thoughts about ourselves, which can lead to depression and anxiety. It’s why it’s important to find ways to manage our mental health issues, like art therapy, and seek professional help whenever necessary to keep us living our best lives.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

The Benefits of Art Therapy

Art therapy has many benefits for mental health, including:

Stress Relief

Art therapy is an effective way to reduce stress and negative emotions. It can help you escape from everyday worries by giving your mind a break from thinking and focusing on your physical sensations while creating art.

Increased Self-Esteem

Art therapy can help build confidence and boost self-esteem by allowing you to explore your creative side and see the results of your efforts.

Improved Communication

Art therapy can help improve communication by providing a non-verbal way to express yourself and connect with others through art.

Coping Skills

Art therapy can help develop coping skills for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help you deal with difficult emotions and memories in a healthy way.


Art therapy can help unleash your creative side and discover new ways to express yourself.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

Art therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression. It can help reduce symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, and rumination for those with these conditions.


Art therapy can be a relaxing experience, especially for people who are stressed out or have trouble sleeping. It can also help you feel more grounded and centered during times of stress.

Improved Mood

Art therapy can improve your mood by providing a sense of satisfaction and pleasure during the creative process.

Increased Energy

Art therapy can increase your energy levels and help you feel more alert and focused by engaging both the body and mind.

Enhanced Self-Awareness

Art therapy can help you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It can also help you understand yourself better and gain insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth. As you can see, this vast list of mental health benefits from art therapy sheds a strong light on why this form of therapy should be used more often. It is an excellent alternative treatment for many mental health issues and can help people cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and much more.

Who Can Enjoy the Benefits of Art Therapy?

Art therapy can be beneficial for anyone who wants to explore their creative side or improve their mental health. It is particularly useful for people who have difficulty communicating verbally, such as children and those with speech impediments. It can also be helpful for people who have experienced trauma or abuse, as it provides a safe and healing environment to express themselves.

Art therapy is also useful for people who are struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, or any other mental health issue. It can help them to explore their feelings and emotions, develop coping skills, and improve their mood. If you are considering art therapy, please consult a mental health professional to see if it is the right treatment for you.

How to Get Started with Art Therapy at Home

How to Get Started with Art Therapy at Home

If you are interested in trying art therapy at home, consider art-as-therapy or therapeutic art. Both are options you can try on your own or, in support of professional therapy, and offer a great way to relieve stress and learn new coping skills.

Here are some art-as-therapy ideas you can try:

Drawing a Picture of a Happy Memory

You are encouraged to reflect on happy moments when life was easier and when you felt more content. This can be a helpful way of reframing your current situation and reminding yourself that things can get better. Sometimes it can be more helpful to draw a picture of this memory to externalize it and make it more concrete. This has the power to shift your focus from the negative aspects of your life and can be very therapeutic.

Painting a Picture of Your Worries

It can be very therapeutic to express your worries and fears through art. This can be a way of releasing them and of understanding them better. By putting your worries down on paper, you can often better see how irrational or exaggerated they may be. This can help you to deal with them in a more rational way.

Making a Collage of Your Hopes and Dreams

This is a way of looking to the future and setting your sights on what you want to achieve. The process of deciding what to include in the collage can be very revealing and can help you to focus on what is truly important. The end product can serve as a reminder of your goals and can be a source of inspiration and motivation.

Performing a Song or Dance

This is a fun way of expressing yourself and can be very cathartic. It can help you to let go of your inhibitions and feel more comfortable in your own skin. It can also be a great way of bonding with others and forming a healthy outlet for your emotions.

Make a Creative List of Things You Are Grateful for

This is a great way of reminding yourself of the good things in your life, even when times are tough. It can help you to focus on what is important and to keep things in perspective. It can also be a source of inspiration and motivation, as you can see how far you have come and what you have to be thankful for.

Leveraging any and all art forms to create something that is uniquely yours can have a profound impact on your mental health and wellbeing. It can be a powerful tool for self-expression and for making positive changes in your life. Art-as-therapy is an approach that is increasingly being recognized and used by mental health professionals as a valuable treatment option with results.


What Type of Art Could You Participate in With Art Therapy?

There are many different types of art that you could participate in with art therapy. This includes:


Drawing is a simple and easy way to get started with art. You can draw anything that comes to mind, from objects to landscapes to people with the use of pencils, pens, or markers.


Paining is a form of meditation and release. Brushing various colors onto a canvas can be a very relaxing experience. You can paint landscapes, abstract art, people, or anything that you desire.


Sculpting is a great way to express yourself and create something that can be shared with others. You could sculpt anything from clay, metal, or wood.


Textile art is a great way to be creative and experiment with different fabrics and materials. You could make quilts, pillows, wall art, or any other type of textile art.


A collage is a great way to combine different materials and create something unique. You could use photos, magazines, fabrics, or any other type of material.

Coloring Books

Traditional or adult coloring books are a great way to relax and de-stress. You can color in any design that you like or make your own.


You can make clothing, pillows, quilts, or any other type of fabric art to express yourself.


Photography is a great way to capture moments and memories in time. You can take photos of anything that you like, from nature to people.


You can create your own jewelry by using beads, wire, and other materials. This is a great way to be creative and make something that is wearable.

Music and Performing Arts

The power of music and performing arts can be very therapeutic due to the emotional connection that it can create. You could participate in singing, playing an instrument, or acting in a play. This is a great way to utilize art as a form of self-expression that can be shared with others and heal at the same time.

These are simply a few examples of the types of art that you could participate in with art therapy. There are many other options available, so be sure to explore and find something that you enjoy.

Can Art Reduce StressCan Art Reduce Stress?

We all know that the mind and body are not separate entities. If you’re physically stressed or in pain, your mental health will also suffer. The reverse is also true. If you are depressed, anxious, or under emotional stress, it will also affect your physical well-being. This is where various types of art can come in as a form of therapy. A recent study has shown the direct impact patients who engage in creative outlets have on their dopamine levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness, pleasure, and motivation. Low levels of dopamine are associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. With this logic, engaging in creative activities can increase your dopamine levels and improve your mood.

Making Art-for-Therapy a Group Activity

Art-for-therapy can also be a great group activity. This is a great way to get to know other people who are interested in art, and it can also be a fun way to share ideas and experiences.

To get started:

  • Find a group of people that you want to do art-for-therapy with. This could be family, friends, coworkers, or anyone else who is interested in expressive art.
  • Decide on a type of art that you want to do together. This could be drawing, painting, sculpting, textiles, collages, music, performance, etc.
  • Get together, pick up your supplies and start creating! Be sure to share your art with each other and discuss the process and what you’re creating.
  • While engaging in your art together, consider opening up about why you’re doing art-for-therapy and what you hope to get out of it. Doing this can help make the experience more beneficial for everyone involved by validating each other’s experiences and feelings. It can also help build a stronger bond with the people doing art-for-therapy with you.
  • Participating in group art-for-therapy truly holds the power to help reduce stress and anxiety in your life. By doing it with others, you can enjoy the benefits of therapeutic art practices while also building stronger relationships with the people around you.

The Benefits of Art Therapy Find All Kinds of Artists

Use Art to Reduce Stress

The next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed, why not turn to art as a form of therapy? As you can see, there are many different types of art that you can try, so find one that sounds interesting to you and get started. This therapeutic self-care tool can be done by anyone, anywhere with just a few basic tools. Sometimes all I need to process my thoughts is a pen and paper.

Knowing that art can help relieve stress and also improve your mental health in other ways as well makes it at least worth trying. Visit our Art Corner and find that art is more than therapeutic, but a hobby or even a marketable skill!


  1. Avison, W., & Gotlib, I. H. (Eds.). (1994). Stress and mental health: Contemporary issues and prospects for the future. Springer Science & Business Media.
  2. Heenan, D. (2006). Art as therapy: an effective way of promoting positive mental health? Disability & Society, 21(2), 179-191.
  3. Lee, J. H. (2021). Effectiveness of group art therapy for mothers of children with disabilities. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 73, 101754. 5. Federica D’Andrea, Victoria Tischler. (2020) “It inspires me and suddenly the ideas come”: exploring the use of cultural venues in mental health care. Arts & Health 0:0, pages 1-17.
  4. Zaidel D. W. (2014). Creativity, brain, and art: biological and neurological considerations. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, 389.
Is Painting a Form of Meditation?

Is Painting a Form of Meditation?

Painting can be a fantastic way to help yourself develop an inner focus—in fact, people often find they lose track of time because they become completely immersed in the painting process.

Painting as a Form of Meditation

Meditating through art is a real and powerful method of practicing meditation. In fact, meditation through artistic endeavors can come in a variety of forms, and painting is just one of them. Painting in and of itself is a process that slows down the mind and body, helping you transport yourself to a place of peace and stability. It takes your mind away from the anxious, repetitive thoughts that you might have and focuses your energy into something much more calming.

If you’re like many people in recovery, it can feel impossible to turn off your anxious and repetitive thoughts. While painting, many people find that the mind slowly quiets as they lose themselves in the calming process. This inspires a state of relaxation and meditation, often without the painter realizing what’s occurring.

How Do You Meditate While Painting?

Meditative painting can be achieved.

To get started:

Focus Your Energy

One of the most important aspects of meditation involves focusing your energy into one area, so that you can then release it and achieve a clear mind. Consider how stressful life can be on a daily basis. It can be all too easy to let your mind run wild with anxious thoughts without becoming aware of how stressed you truly are.

With painting, you can focus your energy and anxious thoughts on the piece in front of you and use it as an outlet for those feelings. This helps to keep away stray intrusive thoughts and allows you to take a moment to calm down and be at peace with yourself. By focusing your energy into one place and working through obstacles through painting, you are meditating.

Slow Down and Find Peace

Slowing down can be difficult for anyone in our busy society. Whether it’s your busy schedule or the pressure that feeling unproductive can put on you, it can be hard to take time to relax. Painting can not only help you take some much-needed time for yourself, but it is an affordable, easy, and fun hobby.

It’s also a practice that helps people with restless minds finally find some peace and slow down enough to reach a meditative state. This ability to slow down and stop overthinking during meditation is a crucial tool to have while you recover. It’s one of many mindfulness techniques.

Clear Your Mind

Painting allows people to clear their minds, many times without even realizing it. This occurs because people often get into what is known as a “flow.” “Flowing” is a term used to describe becoming fully immersed in an activity, to the point where you feel almost mesmerized. This flow is what helps make painting a form of meditation, as some people really struggle to fully immerse themselves and clear their minds from their current thoughts. Actively clearing your mind before beginning can help ensure you find your flow.

The Benefits of Meditation During Recovery

Meditation is a frequently cited recovery tool for a reason—it can not only help you work your way through SUD treatment, but it can also help reduce your risk of relapse. In fact, meditation has many benefits for those in recovery.

Painting Provides a Healthy Coping Mechanism

Building healthy coping mechanisms is an essential aspect of recovery. When you get overwhelmed, it can seem far too easy to resort back to old methods that may have led to your substance use in the first place. Developing healthy coping mechanisms instead, including meditation through painting, can help you fight urges to relapse as well as help you calm down during anxious times.

Painting is Both a Hobby and a Form of Self Care

Painting for Self Care

Self-care is another vital part of your journey to recovery. Simple things like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and investing time in activities that make you happy are all forms of self-care that can help you heal. Painting is something anyone can do, which is why it makes such a great form of self-care for anyone who needs to spend more time on themselves, including those in recovery.

Hobbies are important too, not only because they are a form of self-care, but because they can take your focus away from stressors and put it into something you care about. Painting and meditating are just a few of the ways you can take care of yourself during recovery.

Painting Can Help Increase Self-Awareness

Building self-awareness can be a difficult skill to master. This is because it involves recognizing various aspects of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and other features of the self. Self-awareness is important during recovery because it helps you to evaluate how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. By being self-aware, you take the time to process your feelings and thoughts instead of acting on them immediately. Painting can help you meditate and spend time with yourself, and as a result, you can strengthen your self-awareness skills.

Painting Is a Stress and Anxiety Reliever

Painting is also an amazing stress and anxiety reliever. It’s a hobby that requires no skill and allows you to build a flow with the paint and the canvas or paper. As mentioned, flowing is what makes painting such a great stress and anxiety reliever—this feeling of being in flow with your work can help take you away from even the most stressful of thoughts. Painting is also an activity that doesn’t require a great deal of physical or mental work unless you really want it to, so you can easily paint at times when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

Painting Reduces Burnout

Burnout is the result of feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed. Burnout can happen both before and during recovery, which is why it’s so important to practice self-care. Whether you’re overwhelmed from work, recovery, or life in general, having an outlet to relieve your stress, utilize a healthy coping strategy, and deal with your feelings can help you immensely.

This is why so many people are turning to painting. Sometimes, to prevent burnout, all you need is some time to let your mind become free. Painting helps you focus your energy and calm you down without tiring you out or making you feel worse.

Embrace Art as a Form of Meditation in Recovery

Art and Meditation in Recovery

Recovery can be difficult to say the least, and finding healthy coping mechanisms, activities, and stress-relievers is essential throughout the process. Art is an incredible tool that can help you in many ways. Whether you just began your journey to recovery or you have been in recovery for years, painting can serve as a form of self-care and an outlet for meditation. Show your support of the arts and recovery by reading our Art in Recovery series.


Creative Journaling for Mental Health

Creative Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling is a mentally stimulating activity that can take many forms. Some people journal by writing daily passages while others prefer to write less frequently but with greater length. Still others don’t write at all but utilize a regular journal to doodle or channel their creativity in other ways. In fact, the best thing about journaling is that there aren’t boundaries. It is a boundless opportunity to express yourself.

While creative journaling techniques can be used for several reasons and certainly aren’t exclusively a mental health or relapse prevention exercise, they can be an exceptional recovery tool. Journaling and channeling creativity in the manner you most enjoy can be a marvelous mental exercise, promoting sound health and an improved quality of life.

What Is Creative Journal Writing?

Writing is the mode of creative expression most associated with journaling, so it’s fitting that the most open form of written journaling is known as “creative journaling.” Creative journals are different from a journal used exclusively for one purpose, like charting your thoughts or committing important things to memory. While that kind of journaling can be productive, it exercises different mental reflexes than a creative journal. Creative journaling allows you to add visuals to your writing, including doodles, drawings, paintings, photos, or even just pops of color.

When you’re considering the role creative journaling can play in supporting mental health, a good mindset to have is that every person is creative. Some people don’t enjoy writing while others don’t like drawing or creating visual art, but everyone can find some value in a creative journal. That’s because everyone has at least some creative passion in them somewhere. Finding it and using a creative journal to nourish and express it, can have a significant impact on your recovery.

Art Journaling Materials

Art Journaling Materials

Although you can use all sorts of art material to create, all you really need is your journal and something to draw or paint with. Don’t have paint? You can get creative and use tea, coffee or even vegetables to create a stain.

Other materials you might want to experiment with:

  • Watercolors
  • Markers
  • Pens
  • Charcoal
  • Pencil
  • Different sizes of paint brushes
  • Stickers
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Stencils
  • Scissors
  • Rulers

Scrapbooking and Collages

Scrapbooking and Collages in Art Journaling

Your creative eye may be at its best looking at magazines, newspapers, or other publications and finding ways to arrange the headlines and pictures. This could take the form of scrapbooking certain types of visual content or creating collages to mix images together.


Photography is a form of art and can effectively be translated into an art journal. Find unique ways to capture your interests in film or digital photography. Construct a journal showcasing work you feel particularly passionate about and describe why you feel strongly about the images.

How to Start Your Journal to Support Mental Health

Beginners can start journaling to help refine skills used in everyday life. Whether you have experience with visual mediums, journaling, or neither of the two, creative journaling can be a creative stimulant. If something in your life naturally leads to an idea to sketch or express yourself in written form within the pages of your journal, don’t resist that urge.

Getting started writing your creative journal usually begins one of two ways: by free writing or by using a creative journaling prompt. Most people fluctuate between the two as the need strikes.

Free Writing

Free writing should be simple—just start with a blank page and write or draw anything and everything you think of. The ideas don’t have to connect or make sense together. Eventually, you will encounter an idea you want to expand on. Let your mind lead the way and add art or writing as you see fit.

If you’re having trouble beginning with a free write, try a brainstorming activity. Find your favorite method for brainstorming or try a variety.

Some recommended methods include:

  • Develop a word cloud centered around the first topic you can think of, writing any words that come to mind
  • Look at a visual and write about it while adding creative flair
  • Add parameters to refine your thoughts on a selected idea
  • Remove parameters as you hit dead ends—brainstorming is a time to go wild
Use some of the above tried-and-true established methods of brainstorming or create your own. You can even use your creative journal to brainstorm new methods of brainstorming.

Creativity Journal Prompts

Free writing isn’t for everyone. Prompt yourself with a question you find in a counseling session, peer group, or other source, or browse a list of prompts for one that strikes your fancy. Some of the best questions to explore are ones of self-discovery. Ask yourself questions about your fears, what you enjoy, or something you aspire to achieve.

Consider these prompts that relate to your recovery:

  • Write about the progress you’ve made
  • Write about what your recovery journey has taught you about yourself
  • Write a letter to who you were in the past, now, or in the future
  • Write a letter to your substance of choice
  • Write about a skill or hobby you’d like to learn
  • Write about your happiest moment, or your saddest moment
  • Write about your goals
  • Write about mistakes and lessons learned
  • Write about your loved ones, and why they matter to you
  • Write about your biggest recovery-related fear
  • Write about what you are looking forward to the most in your recovery

Art Journaling Theme Ideas

Whether you’ve chosen a prompt or a free write, now you’ll need to add creative art to your journal. Keep in mind that a creative journal need not feature written words at all. It can involve some writing, ranging from bulleted notes to paragraphs of prose or lyrics, but creative or art journaling should also encompass visual expressions. Drawing, painting, cutting, and pasting—it’s all on the table when it comes to art journaling.

Art journaling, just like written journaling as a creative outlet, is an opportunity to experiment. Try new colors, mix colors, take an object you see every day and depict how it would look in a new color or even in grayscale. Silence that inner critic and make mistakes.

If art journaling is a new concept for you, here are some examples of themes and potential projects you could perform in the journal to get started.

Landscape Journal

Go outside. Look at the world around you. Whether you are in a rural setting, an urban cityscape, or a suburban neighborhood, artistically document what you see. If you’re tired of what you see around you, think of somewhere else you’ve been or imagine a new location altogether. How does it feel to be there? What does it sound like? Are there animals, plants or flowers growing? Take a moment to be mindful, then, bring it to life in your journal pages.

Landscape Journal

Dreamy landscapes by artist Merel Djamila

Although you don’t have to use words, a landscape can be the perfect backdrop for a beautiful quote inspired by the scene or your journal entry for the day.

Music Journal

If you’re like me you listen to music all day! Sometimes a song lyric is just so poetic it deserves its own quote art on a page. Think about a favorite artist, song or album. What about this music inspires you? Draw what you feel or find stickers or stencils that use musical instruments to represent the song. You could use sheet music for layering.

Here are some page ideas:

  • Quote a lyric
  • Write down how a specific song makes you feel
  • Create a playlist
  • Illustrate a song with a visual story
  • Create your version of an album cover
  • Journal about how a band or song helped get you through a hard time
  • Dedicate a page to your favorite artist
Music Journal

Music inspired art journal page by Karen Gaunt

Dream Journal

If you remember your dreams, a creative journal is the perfect place to write and draw what happened and how you felt. Your mind may connect dots it wouldn’t otherwise in helping you understand what motivated a particular dream. You’ll also be able to connect a visual medium, your dream, to a written one in your journal.

“Dreaming is the art of the mind. Every dream is intrinsically a creative experience. As the artists of the night, we are co-participants in weaving new creations from the complexity of our entire being.” — Fariba Bogzaran and Daniel Deslauriers, Integral Dreaming: A Holistic Approach to Dreams (2012)

Dream Journal

Dream Journal 2, 2002-2003 by artist Connie Mississippi

Starting a dream journal is simple. All it takes is an open mind, a little creativity and the willingness to experiment. It can sometimes feel incomplete to try to translate a dream into linear form, like writing. Instead, sketch out dream images in your journal upon waking. If you’re inspired to interact with the imagery further, try painting it.

Can’t really remember your dreams? That’s okay, you can still daydream!

A Gratitude Journal

When grappling with your mental health, some people find they can present their feelings better in artwork than with words. Use art to depict how you are feeling. Paired with other treatments, this could prove to be an important part of therapeutic recovery to stay on top of your mental health.

For me, simply using lines, circles and repetitive patterns has been endlessly helpful. However, in order to get the most out of the activity it’s important to start with an intention.

With mindfulness in mind, here are some gratitude prompts you might consider when working to improve your mental health:

  • Make a list of five things you’re grateful for that are found in nature.
  • Write about something positive that happened in your life recently that made you feel fortunate.
  • I admire these three qualities in myself: list at least 3.
  • What is that special person in your life? And why are you grateful for them?
  • Think of the things you’re grateful to have at home and write them down.
  • Write about a trip that you’ve taken with someone else that is especially memorable.
A Gratitude Journal

Art Journal Page by Pink Spark Studio

Travel Journal

A travel art journal is a great way to create memories, while also communicating your feelings. Making art can be tough to fit into your daily schedule, so when you travel, leave yourself some time to be alone with your work.

Here are a few ideas of types of travel journal entries you can try while traveling:

  • Listicles: A photo or doodle paired with a brief description is a good way to document your travels without spending too much time writing.
  • Sketch Notes: Sketch notes are the perfect way to illustrate your memories and review what you learned on your trip. These drawings will help you remember details, key points, and specifics.
  • Studying the Masters: When traveling somewhere with famous artworks, try dedicating pages to replicating the greats. This is a great opportunity to learn from the best while also documenting your trip.
Travel Journal

Travel Journal page from Wild We Roam

You can also create travel journal entries after your trip. Some might want to print photos to include or review sketch notes before creating other pages.

Other items you might include:

  • Ticket stubs
  • Programs, flyers and other printed reminders of events
  • Maps and guidebooks make sure envelopes, backgrounds and pockets
  • Postcards and stamps
  • Stickers and other cutouts that remind you or your trip

Here are some travel journal prompts:

  • I traveled to
  • I love this place because
  • I went here with
  • The people were
  • The food was
  • The culture is
  • The art feels
  • The architecture is
  • The weather was
  • The nature is
  • The place I stayed was
  • The thing I liked the best

The Best Art Journaling Tip? Just Get Started

As mentioned, the most difficult part of creative journaling is getting started. The idea of adding journaling into your schedule can seem daunting, or maybe you remain skeptical that you are creative enough to stick with a creativity journal. Make a conscious decision to start journaling and let the experience guide you to what style of writing and art are best for you. The exercise of journaling regularly in a creative fashion is beneficial on its own, and once you find what works for you the results could be even more significant.

ECHO Recovery is committed to supporting art and creativity as avenues to improve recovery results. If you need inspiration or want to share your own creativity, share it with us by tagging ECHO Recovery on Instagram.

Happy journaling!

 Best Art Journaling Tip

Art Journal on Behance

Is ADHD Medication A Risk Factor For Substance Use

Is ADHD Medication A Risk Factor For Substance Use?

Editor’s note: This article was written by Shannon Freeman who is a ADHD parent coach and the author of the ADHD Parent Supports newsletter.

As a therapist and parent advocate in the field of mental health and substance abuse for the last 30 years, I have been asked many times whether or not stimulant medications used to treat ADHD are addictive. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. The answer is tricky.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that a person is born with. It is characterized by a slow to develop frontal lobe and a difference in the way chemicals (especially dopamine) are released in the person’s brain. The cause of ADHD is unknown. We do know that it is hereditary. There are 25-34 genes that contribute to the disorder, according to Russell Barkley, PhD. There is a 91% chance of passing it to your children.

There are 3 types of ADHD:

1. Inattentive

2. Hyperactive

3. Combined

Symptoms may include:
  • Inability to stay focused
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Mind wandering
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Inability to sit still and/or a lot of fidgeting behavior
  • Not being able to wait your turn/interrupting others
  • Memory issues/forgetfulness
  • Impulsive or risk taking behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Excessive movement and/or talking
  • Inability to complete tasks that the person has no interest in
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Procrastination
  • Difficulty managing emotions

ADHD is considered a disorder of executive functioning skills.

Simply put, executive functioning includes:

  • Time management
  • Initiating tasks
  • Remembering things (long or short term)
  • Controlling emotions
  • Planning
  • Knowing how/what to prioritize
  • Flexibility
  • Organizational skills
  • Self-control (eg. managing emotions and behaviors)
  • Self-awareness (eg. Cause and effect- how your behavior affects others)

ADHD symptoms are first seen during childhood, but not always diagnosed. It has been widely believed that ADHD is a disorder that people outgrow. This is not true. About 80% of children who are diagnosed with ADHD will also have it in adulthood. For some, the symptoms will decrease as they get older. For others, symptoms will remain at the same level.

There is a high comorbidity rate with ADHD and other disorders such as Autism (ASD), depressive disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. This fact can make it more difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. Because the symptoms that children are experiencing are often not tolerated in schools, public or at home, these kids find themselves in doctor’s offices where parents are trying to eliminate the symptoms. In Western medicine, the go-to to address unwanted symptoms of ADHD is stimulant medication.

What Does a Stimulant Do to a Child’s Brain?

According to a 2013 study, after one year of treatment with methylphenidate. PET scans show that there is an increase in dopamine transporter levels that may decrease the efficacy of the medication. This means that a higher dose could be needed to get the same effect. In the addiction field, this is called tolerance. There is disagreement in the ADHD field whether or not this study shows evidence of tolerance, however. Some ADHD professionals such as Russell Barkley PhD, believe that the brain increases dopamine transmitters in an attempt to create the proper level of dopamine.

Others state that it is plausible that tolerance is building over time. So here is where it gets tricky. There have been many studies that conclude that taking a stimulant to address symptoms of ADHD does not make that person any more likely to become addicted to drugs in the future. So the stimulant itself may not be a factor in leading a person to substance use. However, there have been many people in my office with ADHD and substance use disorders.

They report that they liked the benefits of the stimulant medication and wanted to feel better. Those people changed the route of administration of the medication ( ie crush, inhale, inject) or took more of the stimulant than was prescribed to get a quick boost. This behavior has been found to lead to use of other substances such as marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines. Other studies indicate that some people who take stimulants for ADHD have a higher rate of addiction, although the reason for this may not be straight-forward. Studies have shown that people with ADHD have a tendency toward addiction due to the symptoms they experience.

Risk taking behavior, impulsivity, a desire to feel more focused, etc can all lead to use of substances to self medicate. Of course there are many people who were prescribed a stimulant in childhood to treat ADHD and have never developed a substance use disorder. The problem is that there is no way to know which category your child will fall into.

Should I Medicate My Child?

 Should I Medicate My Child?

This question is asked every day, in my office. Parents often think that they have no choice but to medicate their child because school officials demand it, the pediatrician recommends it, or another parent medicates their child and says it’s the best thing to do.

Other parents feel that they have done something wrong because they are unable to “fix” their child and think medication is the only option. Still other parents are completely lost. They have read information online that confuses them. Whether or not to medicate a child is a very personal choice for every family. The first thing I talk to parents about are the pros and cons of medications.

Medications can be very helpful at decreasing hyperactivity, improving focus, and improving emotion regulation. Improvement may occur as soon as the initial dose. These quick improvements often lead to some relief at home and school. Medications do not improve a child’s ability to learn nor do they replace the need for behavioral skills training for both the parent and child.

Additionally, the possible side effects of medications can be insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, stomach problems, anxiety, irritability, headaches, itching or picking at skin, tics, “spacey” or” zombie” presentation, mood issues when the medication wears off, and possibly addiction.

What Other Options Are There to Treat ADHD Outside of Medication?

holistic ways to manage symptoms of ADHD

There are many holistic ways to manage symptoms of ADHD.

Here is a list of some methods that have helped people I have worked with:

  • Weighted blankets help decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
  • Dietary changes– including reducing caffeine, sugar processed and packaged foods, and foods heavy in dyes. A nutritionist or integrative mental health professional can help parents learn healthy choices for their child.
  • Supplements can be helpful in managing symptoms. Again, a nutritionist or trained professional can help you choose what is best for your child.
  • A strict daily routine will help your child know what to expect and can lessen emotional outbursts, anxiety, and confusion for both the child and parent.
  • Compression shirts are also great for helping reduce anxiety and emotional outbursts.
  • Chiropractors who specialize in children with ADHD can help to make sure your child’s body is aligned and functioning at its best.
  • Occupational therapy (OT) is useful to help your child fine tune motor skills, learn to problem solve, learn organizational skills, improve physical coordination, and develop the ability to do everyday tasks in a better manner. Contact an OT in your area to see what else they can assist with.
  • Mindfulness practices teach children skills to stay present in the moment. Things like meditation, coloring, using their senses to ground in the present moment, etc can be very helpful in managing symptoms of ADHD.
  • Relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, visualizations, breath work, yoga, dance, Tai Chi, massage, aromatherapy, music or art therapy are powerful ways to teach children to manage symptoms.
  • Biofeedback is a method of learning to control physiological functions of one’s own body. There are trained professionals in your community that can explain how this can help your child’s ADHD symptoms.
  • Create and stick to a healthy sleep routine. Getting enough sleep is extremely important in managing emotions, depressed mood, anxiety, and concentration issues.
    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or other behavioral therapies can help your child learn to manage emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
  • Controlled screen time can help your child improve sleep, focus, mood, attention and behavioral issues. It can also decrease hyperactivity.
  • Parent education is crucial to creating a safe space for children with ADHD. Special needs require special interventions. Working with a parent advocate or coach can give parents the skills they need to understand how best to help their child.
  • Hypnosis is another holistic method that may help your child manage ADHD symptoms. Hypnosis can help with improving social skills, focus, concentration, sleep and anxiety.
  • Physical activity can assist with creating dopamine naturally. Dopamine is the main chemical stimulant medications help to increase.
  • Social skills training for children with ADHD helps improve self-esteem, confidence, and self-control.

Know Your Choices and Child

Child with ADHD

As with anything, knowing how to use these methods and finding the ones that best fit for your child is essential. There are many types of professionals, as suggested above, who are available to help parents and children manage ADHD. Parents need support to learn how to implement the holistic methods that can help their children and to balance their own needs while giving so much to their child.

Parents have choices. Since there are professionals on both sides of the discussion about the use of stimulants and their potential effect on addiction, I believe it is essential for parents to know that there are holistic methods to manage symptoms of ADHD. If a child learns to control their symptoms naturally, they have negated the potential of uncontrolled ADHD symptoms leading them to self medicate with alcohol, marijuana or illicit drugs and the potential to become addicted to prescribed stimulants.

This article was written by Shannon Freeman who is a ADHD parent coach and the author of the ADHD Parent Supports newsletter.

Her facebook Group ADHD Strength Based Support For Parents is focused on providing strength-based support for parents of children with ADHD. If you would like to learn ways to manage your child’s symptoms of ADHD and have found that medication alone does not yield the results you are looking for, this group is for you. This group helps you, as a parent, focus on the strengths ADHD brings to your child and your family rather than focusing on the negatives.