Sobriety Through Self-Expression: Art Therapy for Teens in Addiction Recovery

An Interview with Tabitha Fronk, MA, ATR-BC, Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist

An assortment of art supplies are laid out in front of you: colored pencils, watercolors, magazine clippings, clay, canvas. Which materials do you choose? What will be the message of your artwork? Which colors appeal to you? Will you sketch, smear, drip, blend, erase, carve, scratch, rip, or weave in your art-making? In art therapy, all of these choices – and your reasons for making them – can provide insights into your emotional and psychological processes.

What Art Therapy Is – and Isn’t

Tabitha Fronk, MA, ATR-BC, has used art as a medium for therapy and healing with adults and at-risk youth for more than 15 years. With all of the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding this increasingly popular form of therapy, she helps clarify what art therapy is and isn’t.

Art Therapy for Troulbed Teens

To begin with, an art therapy session is not the same as taking an art class or doing arts and crafts, explains Tabitha. Although clients will likely learn new artistic techniques and sharpen their existing skills, the intent of art therapy is different. “The materials may be the same, but the goal of art therapy is to use art materials, techniques, and directives (or “assignments”) for a specific therapeutic purpose,” she says. All of these are tailored to the unique individual who is seeking treatment.

Art therapy also isn’t simply meant to be a distraction from one’s worries. While an art therapy session will often be a pleasant experience, the goal is to use art to facilitate nonverbal and verbal expression of feelings, often with very powerful results. Art therapy has helped individuals cope with illness or stress, address chemical dependency, and work through past trauma.

Finally, Tabitha advises that art therapy is not magic. As with other forms of therapy, clients often gain surprising and useful insights into their thoughts and behaviors, but the experience depends on the individual client and how art therapy impacts them.

Learn more about the therapeutic benefits of art for teens struggling with emotional or behavioral issues >>

Wilderness Therapy Prepares Young Men for Lifelong Sobriety

In today’s high-tech world, it often seems as though we are rapidly approaching the point when the answers to all of life’s most pressing questions will be but a mouse-click or programming trick away.

Yet amid a vast expanse of wilderness in south-central Utah, an innovative drug addiction recovery program is attempting to help young men overcome one of life’s most difficult challenges without computers and cell phones, without text-messages and Twitter tweets, without even (gulp!) electricity.

Stranger, still, is the fact that it seems to be working.

Committing to Recovery

“The wilderness is a great place to get sober,” said Lucy Taylor the drug addiction recovery program described above. “It is the place where people who are struggling with addiction can get in touch with themselves, and with something bigger than themselves.”

Read more about helping young men get sober in the wilderness >>

Therapeutic Boarding Schools Serve Diverse Groups of Teens

If your only exposure to private boarding schools is the evening news or primetime television, then you may have a skewed opinion of these schools. Shows such as “Gossip Girl” and the occasional episode of “Law & Order” portray boarding school students as entitled, privileged teens who are running wild with promiscuity, drug abuse, and other unhealthy behaviors.

But the truth is that many private boarding schools are far from permissive havens for bad behavior run amok. In fact, a number of renowned private boarding schools provide a comprehensive therapeutic and educational experience that helps students end their destructive behaviors and get back on track toward a productive and satisfying future.

The following programs are examples of the great variety of private therapeutic boarding schools in the United States today – schools that are uniquely prepared to treat and teach adolescents with a wide range of academic, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

Overcoming Depression & Aggression

For many young people today, the path to adulthood is strewn with enough obstacles to challenge even the healthiest young person. From peer pressure and bullying to worries about one’s academic performance, appearance, and status within the school’s social hierarchy, the vast majority of today’s teens are beset by stresses that, if not properly addressed, threaten to derail their continued healthy development.

Continue reading about specialty boarding schools that address addiction and other teen health concerns >>