I am an art therapist working at an outpatient addictions treatment agency in Canada. Our population might best be described as semi-rural. We see a broad spectrum of client, from farmer to University professional. I agree whole heartedly that we are seeing an increase in this clientele. I question whether this is due to cutbacks in mental health, the worsening of the human condition, or whether we, as professionals, are beginning to see past the social stigma of addictions as a personal weakness and beginning to see it more as a symptom of "something else"...call it psychological pain if you will.
As far as running groups for this population...it can be rewarding and frustrating. It also might depend on your agency's focus. Ours (somewhat unfortunately at times) is to focus on the addiction. Fortunately, our director also sees that one cannot treat a person's symptoms in isolation. What I have found in my five years at the agency is that art therapy can be quite threatening for this population which is at odds with the general perception of art as safe. I have come to understand that this might be because art therapy 'is good at' accessing emotion and underlying psychic conflicts - alcohol/drugs 'are good at' quieting those conflicts or at least altering the client's perception. Therefore I have found that introductory work using collage materials and non-threatening or more general topics have met with some success. Also, as I consider, art often will be referred to by clients as being something they did in childhood and this is also where the damage has occured.
I frequently am frustrated and was surfing for input on the field when I came across your message. Let me know how its going. I'd be curious to see if our experiences are similar... I can be reached at email@example.com.
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