Tag Archives: Art therapy

History of Art Therapy

Healing Through Self-Expression: The History of Art Therapy

While “art therapy” may sound like a distinctly new-age concept, it is anything but. Humans have always understood the therapeutic value of expressing themselves creatively. Some researchers place the earliest known intersection of medicine and the arts as far back as the cave-dwelling cultures of 40,000 years ago.1 Unless you happen to be a brontosaurus, that doesn’t qualify as “new age” by any means.

The History of Art Therapy

Art therapy can be defined in a number of ways. In a modern context, art therapy is usually a structured program where someone engages with an artistic process (e.g., a painting lesson or learning a musical instrument) with the deliberate intention of treating some mental or physical condition. Art has always been therapeutic, however. As a result, the story of art therapy begins long before any research experiments or scientific journals.

Art Therapy Pre-History

Pinpointing the origin of art therapy is impossible. Humankind has been communicating through drawing, dancing, storytelling, and the creation of aesthetically pleasing objects since before written history was a concept. This artistic expression has always been deeply linked to spiritual and therapeutic uses.

Today, the boundaries between art, medicine, and religion are very well defined, even to the point where these seem like entirely separate concepts with no meaningful overlap. For many ancient cultures, however, these distinctions were blurred to the point of nonexistence. A particular statue, for example, might be carved for use in a healing ritual that also had a deeply religious element to it. These early connections between the creation of aesthetic objects and the healing of the body, mind, and spirit may seem ancient and distant, but this tradition is still very much in line with the function and purpose of today’s more structured art therapy.

Art Therapy in Europe’s Tuberculosis Sanatoriums

Art Therapy in Europe’s Tuberculosis Sanatoriums

Art therapy as a formally structured medical practice began in Europe in the mid-1900s. The term itself is most often attributed to Adrian Hill, a British artist, who is believed to have coined the phrase “art therapy” in the 1940s.

Early use of art therapy occurred while treating tuberculosis patients. Tuberculosis was rampant throughout much of the era. In those days, treatment most often involved locking the infected (and contagious) patient in a sanatorium. These facilities existed as a combination of a modern medical quarantine center and inpatient hospital. In fact, art therapy sees continued use in tuberculosis cases today.2

People noticed that tuberculosis patients who expressed themselves through drawing and painting seemed to suffer less overall. By engaging in an artistic process and expressing themselves through a visual medium, they experienced a level of freedom and interactivity that their lonely, confined circumstances did not otherwise allow. It was obvious to observers among medical staff and patient families that the creation of art provided a healthy emotional release that was beneficial to the recovery process.

These theories and practices were adopted and formalized by mental hospitals and other institutions throughout Europe at a fairly rapid pace. By 1964, the United Kingdom was home to a professional organization calling itself The British Association of Art Therapists.

Art Therapy Comes to America

Art Therapy Comes to America

The American Art Therapy Association was not far behind, being founded five years later in 1969. Educator Margaret Naumburg was instrumental in popularizing art therapy with American patients and institutions. Naumburg’s work was deeply psychological and focused on expressing unconscious and subconscious thoughts through free association forms of art. Popular American artist Edith Kramer was another early proponent of art therapy in the United States.

What Does Art Therapy Do?

As with art itself, your therapeutic relationship to art can be a deeply personal and subjective thing. Just as art can be used and understood in almost unlimited ways, there are also nearly limitless health and wellness implications for art therapy. Psychology, emotional wellness, cognitive development, and even cardiovascular health are just a few of the areas in which art therapy might improve your overall health. It all depends on what sort of art you’re doing and how you’re going about it.

Specific applications for art therapy treatment include:

  • Expression of thoughts or feelings for persons with limited vocabulary/nonverbal persons.
  • Psychotherapy related to trauma, abuse, grief, and related issues.
  • Anxiety reduction.
  • Treatment of eating disorders.
  • Connection to subconscious or unconscious thought patterns.

Art Therapy in Action

You don’t need a medical diagnosis to benefit from art therapy.

Some examples of simple, everyday ways art therapy can have positive manifestations on anyone’s overall well-being include:

  • The artistic process is deeply meditative for many people, and meditation has a variety of positive effects.3
  • A dancer regularly engages in exercise and reaps all the health benefits that come with it.4
  • A sculptor working in heavy materials will develop muscle tone and endurance.
  • Creative writing can be a great way for someone to work out psychological and emotional issues at a distance by projecting them onto fictional characters
  • Regular daily journaling is a great practice for people who are equipped to confront their issues in a less abstract way.
  • Emergent forms of modern art (e.g., multimedia experiences, narrative video games) often involve teams of artists sharing highly specialized skills while collaboratively solving problems to create a piece of interactive art. The social and technical elements of such art forms can have a positive impact on many aspects of cognitive and emotional health.
  • General non-medical applications can increase mindfulness and help achieve personal growth.

These are just a few specific examples. The ways in which art can be therapeutic to you are only limited by your imagination and your willingness to engage with the artistic process in a healthy and open way.

Is Art Therapy Scientifically Proven?

 Is Art Therapy Scientifically Proven?

Some people mistakenly see art as being at odds with science, but art therapy is a beautiful and powerful intersection of the two. There is serious ongoing research into art therapy for a variety of applications, treating everything from AIDS to Parkinson’s.

Research conducted by the American Journal of Art Therapy found that people with mental health issues can benefit from the presence of art, and from art therapy.In fact, one study examined 27 reports on this subject to determine the effectiveness of art therapy and found that the following clinical populations experience significant positive impact:

  • Cancer patients
  • Individuals coping with trauma or PTSD
  • Those with a mental health or substance use disorder
  • Prison inmates
  • Elderly populations
  • Others who face daily challenges

In general, clients who have experienced emotional trauma, physical violence, domestic abuse, anxiety, depression, and other psychological challenges find that art therapy helps them cope.

Art therapy is a recognized profession, with its own master’s level training program. However, science is still studying the full benefits. For example one belief, not yet proven by science, is that different art media activate different brain regions. Some researchers have noted that media such as watercolor or clay helps the individual tap into more emotional centers. Whereas more technical activities that require measuring or building something 3D instead use more cognitive processes.

Some mental health professionals believe that a patient’s work often contains symbolic meanings, and these reflect memories and emotions that are difficult to access with words alone. Case studies do suggest that these treatments are effective.
However, because art therapy engages many different parts of the brain, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which part to focus on for an isolated study. A study that could untangle all of the various aspects of seeing, thinking, or doing (visual, cognitive, or motor skills) would be a big challenge.

Is Art Therapy for Me?

You can get lost in a self-guided art-for-therapy project, such as art journaling, or find a more structured class with an art therapist depending on your needs and personal style. If you require serious medical or psychiatric intervention, many modern in-patient programs for common issues like addiction now offer alternative therapies, including art therapy.

Whatever your specific needs, experience and science tell us that art can help. For a person who is struggling with the symptoms of trauma or stress, for example, learning to express your feelings in a soothing and supportive way can be extremely helpful.

Nearly 23 million Americans struggle with mental health and substance use disorder issues every day.6 Only a small fraction of them will ever receive the expert care and consistent support needed for a successful, lasting recovery.

Support Art for Recovery

Support Art for Recovery

At ECHO Recovery, our mission is simple: to help as many people as possible find effective addiction treatment, education, sober housing and access to supporting mental health services, such as art for therapy classes, events and workshops. We believe in the power of art and want to make free therapeutic art activities accessible to all that need them.

Donate to ECHO Recovery today. Your donations will be used to support our Art for Recovery initiative. For more information visit our Art Corner and be sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on future events, featured artists and merchandise for our Art Cart. Every effort, small or big, helps!


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Art Therapist Megan Mitts Shares How Art Helps With Recovery

Art Therapist Megan Mitts Shares How Therapeutic Art Processes Help With Mental Health

Art Therapist Megan Mitts

Megan Mitts is an art therapist that focuses on transferring creative coping coping skills for people who may benefit from alternative support for their mental health and recovery. After receiving a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Miami University and wading through existential dread through her 20’s, Megan pursued a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. This education empowered her to start using art in a practical way of both working through and supporting her mental health and how to share this insight to support others.

She started Art From Anxiety on social media as a way to be open about ongoing struggles with her mental health, as well as how she uses art to feel better in hopes it will empower and inspire others to get creative and feel better. Through her professional experience working with kids, adults and families with a wide range of emotional needs and in various stages of recovery, she started focusing primarily on developing programming around low-risk, high-reward therapeutic art activities to help others help themselves while giving them tangible reminders of their ability to work through daily stress or setbacks. Megan believes you don’t have to be an artist to create art from anxiety.

We asked Megan some questions to get a better feel for how she feels art can help anyone who wants to work on their mental health. Below are her answers and links to her resources. Be sure to check them out!

ECHO: Thanks for doing this interview with us Megan! Let’s get right to it! What made you want to become an Art Therapist?

Art was always a safe space for me growing up. As a child of divorce diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression in Middle School, art gave me space to both distance myself from overwhelm and better understand the world around me. I also struggled with communication, as far as how to put things into words so others both heard and understood me, while art provided validation without verbal communication. I love art therapy because we can skip over the natural limitations of verbal communication to quickly elicit connection and deeper understanding of ourselves and others using art making processes and imagery.

A lot of adults who identify as helpers are oftentimes providing the support they didn’t receive as a child; to be that person for others they wished they had. My goal is not only to provide support for the people who function, feel and see the world differently, but also for them to feel seen, heard and understood without having to put it into words, and be able to provide that for themselves time and time again.

Art by Megan Mitts, Artist and Art Therapist

Art by Megan Mitts, Artist and Art Therapist

ECHO: How long have you been doing Art Therapy?

I graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 2016 and continued my internship opportunity post-grad, working with a residential facility for eating disorders. Since then I’ve worked with kids and adults who are on the spectrum and/or other emotional and intellectual limitations while continuing to work with eating disorder recovery. It was after years of trying to help people in what felt like a helpless system of health care resulting in a “revolving door” that seems acceptable to insurance providers that I shifted focus to accessible and affordable therapeutic art services in hopes of empowering the artist to cope better.

ECHO: How is art therapy different from art-as-therapy?

Art therapy is art processes presented by a graduate professional in a safe environment conducive to the needs of the client. An art therapist is able to navigate particularly sensitive subjects in consideration of trauma, cognitive abilities or physical modifications and can avoid potential triggers due to extensive training and experience using art materials and processes. Art therapists also focus on processing the creation of art and the product with the client in order to provide closure around exposure to sensitive subjects, so the client is less likely to carry over outside of the session. Someone offering art therapy has an art therapy graduate degree or art therapy certificate to support their masters level psychology degree.

Art-as-therapy, or therapeutic art, are things anyone can do without an art therapist. These are safe art processes for people and professionals to use on their own or in support of therapy. Therapeutic art is great for preventative care, coping and as a support for learning outcomes from ongoing therapy.

ECHO: Tell us more about your brand Art From Anxiety

Art From Anxiety is about normalizing and feeling empowered to work better with our mental health struggles. It started on social media as art products that helped me better understand and manage my anxiety and depression. It was scary using my personal experiences and emotions as a way to put my art therapy education into practice while emphasizing the importance of normalizing mental health struggles while promoting alternative coping, but it felt necessary if I wanted to incur change. When I presented these processes to others in various populations,

Art From Anxiety started as my own journey, but once I started noticing how highly adaptable, low-risk, high-reward and people felt better in spite of their initial doubts I wanted to share more. Now, Art From Anxiety specifically focuses on therapeutic art processes (those things that are safe to do without an art therapist) so that others can empower themselves to feel better with what’s available to them while using values needed for resilience including resourcefulness, acceptance, awareness, perspective, persistence and self-soothing.

ECHO: When you heard about the ECHO Foundation and our mission to help artists in recovery, what made you want to get involved?

I believe that more support for reintegration into life outside of intensive treatment and accessible preventative care for maintenance of recovery could prevent recurring crises for individuals that struggle with mental health. I have been developing services in response to this need for the past 3 years, but ECHO Foundation is the first non-profit organization I’ve come across that truly wants to put all the pieces together in order to make that happen. The people who are a part of ECHO have a desire to support those who deserve a little more than what they currently are provided in this world. People in recovery are our teachers, nurses, care providers, friends, siblings, and neighbors who are trying their best to survive with what’s available to them. ECHO and I both want to help people move from just surviving to thriving through their recovery by offering more of what they deserve.

ECHO: In your experience, how does art help with mental health?

Art is just one of many creative modes for alternative coping. It’s much more than aesthetics and art skills, which can oftentimes deter the adult from engaging with the arts for fear they may not be “good enough.” To challenge that, I like to inform people of a pivotal developmental shift from being process oriented as kids to product oriented as teens into adulthood. This means we were more likely to engage in interests whether we were good at them or not because we enjoyed them and the outcome didn’t matter when we were young. As teens, we shift to limiting our efforts by only putting time into things that would provide external value such as income or likes. I share this to encourage people to realign with that child self that did things without judgment because it provided them internal value, and find solace in that aspect of ourselves to support the creation of self-care.

When we make art for art’s sake and give ourselves permission to enjoy the process, we can give ourselves a much needed break while challenging perfection, criticism and judgment; those things that we face all too often that inevitably devalue our ability to enjoy life as much as we could. Once we get over what’s holding us back from creating, we can help our mental health by feeling like a kid, as well as offering safe expression of our emotions so we have less carry over. Art can help us solidify our identity as well as validating our experiences while challenging isolation so we feel less alone. Art also provides the opportunity to shift from problem-focused to solution-focused through externalizing emotions, acceptance, awareness, persistence, perspective, resourcefulness and resolution and a slew of other values for resilience. When we practice and play around in art making, we are providing ourselves tangible reminders of our ability to cope that transfer into real life when facing daily stressors or setbacks.

ECHO: What do you think is lacking in traditional care?

Traditional care tends to focus on providing services when a person is in crisis and until they are deemed “well enough,” which is not determined by the person in recovery or the treatment team but rather by an insurance company’s interpretation of documented progress versus cost. This approach perpetuates the stigma around needing to be “helpless” in order to receive the help we deserve to navigate life. This furthermore perpetuates a fear of therapy and mental health practices so fewer people seek out help because they don’t want to seem helpless or they don’t deserve it because there are people who need help more than them.

If traditional care normalized accessible and alternative support for our mental health then that could prevent someone from falling into crisis or falling back into crisis, promote their ability to maintain and increase the potential to thrive. Considering traditional care’s current focus, it doesn’t seem like that’s what they want for us as a society, to be well and happy individuals.

ECHO: What else can we do to help?

Unfortunately, we can’t create lasting change for a better world with people who are barely surviving. To foster change, we need to first help ourselves. 

Prioritizing oneself doesn’t have to be selfish. When we take the opportunity to make space for our emotions, needs and desires, we are supporting ourselves so we can maintain and possibly grow. When we commit to supporting ourselves as individuals, we have a greater ability to not only be a model for others but we also have more time and energy to better support our loved ones and our community.

ECHO: What’s next for Art From Anxiety?

Art by Art Therapist, Megan Mitts

Art by Art Therapist, Megan Mitts

Art_From_Anxiety has a growing angsty artist community for free content and safe expression through TikTok. For those who would like to advance their creative coping skills, they can become a patron of Art_From_Anxiety to access more in-depth therapeutic art considerations and inspiration based on monthly themes such as mindfulness and gratitude. Art From Anxiety will continue to grow by aligning with like-minded organizations such as the ECHO Foundation, who prioritize the people in recovery by providing more accessible and alternative support.

ECHO: How can the ECHO Foundation partner with Art From Anxiety to bring more events and awareness of the arts to the community?

I want to invite others to create recovery-focused coloring pages to make available for the ECHO Foundation community. Creation of black and white drawings helps release tension while feeling more in control and promoting mindfulness. Scanning those images and making them available online for others to print off and color in offers a starting point that can be less overwhelming than a blank canvas. Coloring promotes mindfulness, while coloring other people’s imagery offers validation for the original artist and the colorer through different perspectives of a shared experience, all through one image. It’s a low-key way to foster a sense of connectedness while creating self-care and it is an exciting starting point for this budding relationship. I’m excited to see how else I can help others create art from anxiety while supporting ECHO’s mission to support those in recovery.

Get Megan’s free Art for Anxiety downloadable coloring pages here:

Download and Print: Look What I Can Do & Where’s My Mind Coloring Page

ECHO: Thanks again for sharing your story with us, Megan. We appreciate you and all you do!

Discover More From Megan and Follow Art for Anxiety: 

Website: https://artfromanxiety.com

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@art_from_anxiety

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/art_from_anxiety/

Look What I Can Do Color Page - Art For Anxiety

Want to share your own coloring pages or do an interview for our site? Contact us! 

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

A client of a prominent east coast drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility bounced into group one morning eager to share the arts and crafts project she had been assigned to complete the week prior. Clients were given blank paper mâché masks and access to a supply cabinet stocked to the gills with basic craft supplies and asked to visually represent the face they show to the world on the outside of the mask, and what’s really happening within on the inside of the mask. With her mask tucked safely inside a paper bag, she allowed her fellow clients to show off their designs as they narrated the creative process behind their inception.

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Addiction Recovery

One by one, clients trotted out their creations, some abstract or cartoonish in appearance, others painstakingly crafted in their owner’s likeness, but all with some version of darkness or chaos lining their interiors. One was a study in black and white, unadorned on the outside and caked in globs of black tempera on the inside. One client, instead of painting the mask at all, chose to cut it to pieces that she let flutter to the floor with a dramatic flick of the wrist.

When it was finally her turn, she giddily unveiled her masterpiece – the Mona Lisa of rehab mask projects – hand painted to match her exact skin tone and the muted greens of her irises, complete with adhesive drug store eyelashes and finished with long shanks of blonde hair cut from a $40 wig overnighted courtesy of Amazon Prime just for the occasion. This was the face she had become accustomed to showing the world — one of perfection in the details while she skillfully concealed the 24/7 pandemonium that took place behind the scenes. Thus, in contrast to the flawless exterior, the inside of the mask resembled an elaborate high school science project – the architecture of a brain bedazzled with chaotic bursts of color, sparkling gemstones, and Styrofoam eyeballs projected in 3D by curlicue pipe cleaners.

Art Therapy Reveals the True Self 

Welcome to the world of art therapy, my friends. That client was me, and I unwittingly gave my therapist a treasure trove of information to unpack and process over the following few weeks with one simple display of creativity. Where I may have been unable to express through my command of the English language the existence of my obvious perfectionism, much less its origin, my mask spoke volumes about my state of mind and gave my treatment team a roadmap to my psyche.

How Art Therapy Plays a Role in Addiction Recovery

According to the American Art Therapy Association (arttherapy.org, 2017), art therapy can be used “to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”

When utilized in conjunction with a drug and alcohol treatment program, artistic exploration gives clients the opportunity to express themselves through visual and symbolic mediums and communicate in ways that enhance traditional talk therapy. In its traditional application, art therapy is conducted by a master’s level professional whose training has prepared them for the highest ethical standards and culturally proficient work with diverse populations.

How Art Therapy Plays a Role in Addiction Recovery

Creative expression has become a cornerstone of modern rehabilitation programs, giving clients a multi-dimensional platform for exploring the more obvious as well as previously uncharted facets of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Using both traditional and unconventional mediums, clients can communicate in a holistic way that enhances their wellbeing by reducing stress and depression, bolstering self-esteem, and providing a creative outlet.

As a bonus, creative expression is often the highlight in a day that is otherwise filled with introspection and the hard work of recovery.

What to Expect in an Art Therapy Session

Art therapy and creative expression take many forms, from conventional paint on canvas and pencil on paper, to song and dance, sculpture, vision boards, graphic journaling, roleplay, and mural design. For many, these sessions will be the first time one has explored the arts in sobriety which can feel both intimidating and empowering.

What to Expect in an Art Therapy Session

While working with clients at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center of which I am the Creative Expressions Director, I am often met with resistance by those who have never explored the arts, don’t consider themselves creative, or whose only artistic frame of reference is inexorably linked to using.

I encourage them to discard their preconceived notions of artistic pursuits and lose themselves in the process. We begin with an open mind and ask that they allow the process to be directed by the same higher power that we ask to direct our recoveries. Often, those who think themselves the most artistically challenged produce the most introspective, insightful pieces.

The Benefits of Art Therapy

The benefits of art therapy and creative expression far outweigh the client’s initial discomfort at having to reach beyond his or her safety zone.  These sessions help to:

  • Improve self-management by learning to focus and work within a discipline.
  • Alleviate depression by lowering the heart rate and bolstering dopamine levels.
  • Improve communication skills.
  • Enhance problem-solving skills.
  • Build self-esteem.
  • Mitigate pain, stress, and irritability.
  • Provide a positive distraction.

I personally witnessed the transformation of a client who had, prior to entering treatment, never touched a guitar without first getting high. She was a songwriter who penned dark tales of woe while under the influence and was petrified to unlatch her guitar case in front of her fellow clients. With a great deal of positive encouragement, she plucked through her first song sober and immediately burst into hot, fat tears. She did it!

The Benefits of Art Therapy

She performed in front of a live audience without spontaneously combusting, and at that very moment she created a new, sober frame of reference in her chosen art form.

Music with Maddie* was born and became a regular addition to the weekly schedule. Maddie wrote several original pieces about the journey from addiction to recovery, and after she successfully completed treatment, she flew to California to audition for a nationally televised talent show.

I’ve seen clients pick away at the edges of repressed trauma through guided painting projects.  I’ve watched the most introverted clients blossom like May flowers during an improv session.  I’ve seen wishes manifest into reality after a client enthusiastically shared the vision board that she was loathe to complete with the group.  Clients have prepared entire meals for their housemates after serving as sous chef during one of my cooking demonstrations.  There are those who have changed the trajectory of their recovery, their education, and their career based on projects we embarked on during our Friday afternoons that are entirely devoted to creative expression.

Art Therapy has a Lasting Impact

And that brings us back to the aforementioned mask project. That client explored her perfectionism through group and individual therapy, worked the magic of the 12-steps on it, and is proud to say that she now finds both growth and comfort in imperfection. It’s also what makes her a true believer in the transformative properties of creative expression in all its manifestations.


*name changed to protect anonymity

Painting on Easel

Art in Recovery: Laura Mechling Revisits Roots, Gets Personal

Artist: Laura Mechling and her Mom

Artist: Laura Mechling

Instagram: @lalala____scribbles

Medium/Style: Pen & Ink, Simple Lines, Black on White, mixed media and collage work

Not everyone is an artist, or so it is that many people believe. True art, not only lies in the beholder, but is also a direct manifestation of each person’s authentic self. What we, as humans, can keep emotionally hidden will often cry out through detailed etchings and the brush strokes of time. Our painful truth and resolve come to life through art in recovery.

Why Laura Mechling

This is a featured interview on artist Laura Mechling. Although she is not in recovery her works are inspired by those close to her, friends and family who fight the disease of addiction every day. Mechling is a voice for many aspiring artists yet to be discovered, until they find themselves doing art in rehab. One of the many benefits of artistic expression during addiction treatment is the reconnection with the subconscious self.

Laura - Art in Recovery

Pushing Beyond Fear during Art Therapy

I would tell someone not to be intimidated to try something new,” Mechling mused during our interview. “I think people are scared of the unknown because we never know the outcome of taking risks. Testing out a new form of expression might allow room for growth and a sense of awareness of themselves and others,” she continued.

She also draws a correlation between creating art in rehab and the recovery process as a whole. Mechling explained, “Many people would rather stay in their comfort zone of living in old habits, however, allowing themselves the time to work through the process, there comes the opportunity for awareness on the other side.”

Greater awareness is one of the many aspects that can be both alarming and restorative to a person in recovery. In fact, it’s one of the essential life skills that support healthier decision-making during sober living.

Laura - Art Therapy

Inspiring Imagery Creates Healing in Others

Using visualization is a key component of the practice of mindfulness, a valued resource for those seeking ongoing and consistent refuge from the negativity that permeates the world. Mechling delivers visualization of thought in the places she’s been, the people she’s spoken with, and the moments that defy logic. To her, there’s beauty in them all.

Her mind’s eye is shared through articulate expressions through pen and ink, simple lines, black on white, mixed media and collage work.

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.” Henri Matisse

Although art is meant to be seen and savored, for the artist it is merely an outpouring of either emotional release or thoughts channeled from a source unknown. Artists, like other creatives such as writers and musicians, can attest to their work as coming from divine intervention or another world.

Mechling reflected back on her earliest memories as an aspiring artist, and cites a special person near and dear to her as being a source of inspiration and support. “My mother was an art teacher and she would have mixed media available and allow me and my siblings to experiment at the kitchen table. But art really hit me in high school. I used all my free time to be in the art rooms.”

Our lady of Guadalupe (acrylic on velvet)

Drawing from Personal Experiences Is Artful

In order to get real with your art, you have to get to a place where “freedom of expression” comes from the soul, not your intellect. Mechling provides some of her favorite aspects of being in that sacred space of creating.

Art has always been an escape for me. I love the idea of creating something out of nothing.

When asked about a particular time in her life, when intention and focal points of her work had shifted, Mechling’s excitement was hard to contain. “I would say that my passion for art became strongest within the past seven years or so. I started looking at the world in a new light.”

This new light that Mechling mentioned is something that artists in recovery describe often as the metamorphosis of their healing.

Benefits of Artistic Expression during Addiction Treatment

Although Mechling is not a person in recovery, her message to those who are is resounding and parallels many of the reasons why more and more addiction treatment programs offer art therapy as a method for greater healing.

Once a person begins the recovery process, it can be likened to starting life over. It takes time, patience, and perseverance to remove old, self-destructive habits and replace them with newer, healthier ones.

Discovering how life feels again can be frightening and invigorating all at the same time. As emotions sway from one end of the spectrum to another, having the ability to find balance and inner peace is important. Art in recovery helps people find that balance while cultivating personal tranquility.

Laura - Art Therapy for Addiction

The Eight Ways to Reclaim Your Life through Art Therapy

In addition to the personal enjoyment that one gets by using charcoal, ink, watercolors or oil paint, clay, metal or other materials for the creation of art, the breadth of wellness it brings is astounding.

Art in Recovery provides:

  • Self-reflection
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-discovery
  • Emotional healing
  • Personal breakthroughs
  • Visual communication
  • Positive outlet
  • Relapse prevention

Using art to understand human emotion has been in practice for decades. Many years ago, psychologists and psychiatrists used art therapy in patients who were too young to verbally express their feelings. Known as incident drawing, children could draw pictures that would tell their story of trauma inflicted on them or someone close to them.

For the treatment of substance addiction, art therapy has a similar process from program to program and from person to person. It is in the details of the individual experience that decrees the differences.

Mechling Talks about Her Recent Change in Process

How inspiration comes is often hard to explain in words, though Mechling had no trouble revealing how it comes to be for her.

“I would have experiences and get a desire to recreate a moment on paper or draw a character from an interaction I had earlier that day. I can look at nature and take the pictures in my mind home with me and draw the memories in my own style.” She added, “I am fascinated with the ways children interact with the world around them. I am always thinking of ways I can draw the cycles of life and nature.”

Her strong connection with the human experience blossomed, redirecting her talent to Mother Earth. “This summer I have actually had a shift in my message that I want to convey as an artist,” she recalled attending two retreats, one in the mountains of Colorado and the other in Louisiana. “I now have a desire to create more authentic work that shows the beauty in nature as well as religious-inspired artwork. I feel that I am somewhat going back to the innocence of my childhood roots.”

Bird in Starry Night (acrylic on tree bark)

Get Up Close to Mechling Works of Art at the ECHO Recovery Art Show

Valentine (Acrylic on canvas)

To further showcase the importance of art therapy, ECHO Recovery is proud to continue this Art in Recovery blog series, featuring aspiring artists who found inspiration and recovery through art or who are inspired by those in recovery.

You too can support our featured artists and others by joining us for the first annual ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night this November at the Bel Air Armory. There you’ll find a wide array of artwork to admire and purchase.

If you’re musically inclined, here’s your chance to participate in the Open Mic and share your singing, instrumentals, or poetry in motion. Just an art and music admirer? Attend and help make a difference to the addiction recovery community.

Why We Support Art in Addiction Recovery

Art Show

Event Date and Time: Sat, November 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

Location: Bel Air Armory 37 North Main Street Bel Air, MD 21014

Artists Sign Up: Register to display and sell your work. 30 spaces available $35 Fee for about 10×10 space* *tables for displays available upon request

Musicians Open Mic Sign Up: Day of Event Short run time performances only

Tickets: $5 Donation**, children under 10 years old are FREE **Proceeds will be going to ECHO Recovery for 1st week sober living scholarships.
There will also be snacks, drinks available for sale. Your ticket helps Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community

Purchase Tickets to The ECHO Recovery Art Show and Open Mic Night

Come support Bel Air’s local Artists and the Recovery Community. Together we can make a difference.