Grim Realities – Catharsis and Healing Through Reading and Writing

Exploring the darker side of human nature has been a popular theme in the novel since writing began, and as we move into the 21st century this hasn’t changed. Nor has the platform of writing shied away from exploring and exposing some grim realities of life for those less fortunate than many of us. This has taken the form of political themes, social issues, and others, but one issue that is never far from our minds is that of drugs and drug addiction. This issue and the associated problems it brings to society and people through addiction and crime have been tackled both seriously, with humor, and more recently with a sprinkling of both in the excellent ‘Breaking Bad’. However, recently there has been an interest in how writing and reading can be a part of the healing and recovery process for those suffering from addiction (and other behavioral or mental problems), and the progress is interesting, whether reading or writing is presented as catharsis or a form of educational foresight.

Art Therapy Today

The field of art therapy has grown exponentially in recent years, and has been found to be particularly successful at aiding treatment in a number of brain related disorders and diseases, from Parkinson’s to depression. As underlying behavioral or mental problems can often underlie addiction, it is no surprise that art therapy is increasingly being considered along side more standard forms of treatment. One study, for example, explores the relationship between art therapy and addiction, and how such therapy can work in conjunction with existing treatments to aid the spiritual and mental recovery from physical drug addictions. While the success rate of accepted and standard forms of drug rehabilitation and treatment is certainly good, with facilities operated by recovery.org for example, providing a wide selection of clinics and treatment in most states of the US, often the hardest time for addicts is after treatment. This is where art therapy and writing, in particular, can come into it’s own as both an outlet for difficult experiences and a personal support structure.

Writing as Therapy

Many great works have been written by authors who have suffered very real experiences at the hands of addiction, and while these certainly helped to not only get them through these difficulties, they serve as an important window into the experiences of someone suffering from an addiction. Of course, writing a novel may not be the correct approach for some, but there are many other ways that writing can be used to help recovery. One such form of therapy, termed therap-e-mail, involves contact with counselors via email, and the simple practice of putting ones feelings and problems into words alone can have a very positive effect. Similarly, some recovery centers are now incorporating the practice of writing or drawing into their treatment programs, both as inspiration for others on the same path and as a form of self expression. This form of therapy is generally well received by addicts, with most stating that there are real benefits to performing writing workshops and group activities. It is easy to forget for those of us that might be used to writing as a past time or profession, the sense of achievement and discovery that can be found by those that are not used to writing in their everyday lives. This only goes on to enhance the beneficial effects that therapeutic writing can have, as well as perhaps inspire someone to turn their life around with a new found activity. As it stands, we are still in the formative stages of writing as therapy, but as art therapy in general begins to gain more and more credible evidence in its favor, in the years to come we may well see this practice being adopted as standard for treatment and rehabilitation centers around teh world for substance abuse and addiction. The National health Service in the UK for example, now offers a number of forms of art therapy, from music to writing, which are used in conjunction with a number of more traditional and modern medicine techniques. As other treatments continue to advance, the future certainly looks to hold an ever increasing number of techniques to help recovering addicts, and creative writing looks set to take its place among them.

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One thought on “Grim Realities – Catharsis and Healing Through Reading and Writing

  1. Welcome, Lisa. Everyone, Lisa will be doing the occasional blog posting here, so I hope you will support her with comments, and checking her links.

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