From October 2016 - March 2017, with the help of Pittsfield Cultural Council, Lenox Cultural Council, and George B. Crane Memorial Center, Arts in Recovery served twenty one women and their families, as a pilot program designed to address the addictions crisis in Berkshire County. Building a bridge between the arts and recovery, our program provided a safe, creative and therapeutic means of support for addiction, loss and trauma among women and their families.
Some of our women remarked that with the use of art materials, they were able to slow down and focus on themselves for the first time in their sobriety. Others commented that the use of art materials was soothing, relaxing, and empowering. Still others found that through art-making, they were able to share aspects of themselves with other women, that were otherwise hidden or neglected. Our twenty one women learned how to incorporate art-making as a coping skill and to build greater community, benefits lasting well beyond the length of the program.
Using a studio approach to art therapy guided by a trauma-informed art therapist with lived experience, this program:
- served as a gateway between the 12 step model of recovery and an 'all paths' to recovery model.
- incorporated the current trauma-informed initiative in our community.
- promoted the peer recovery movement in Pittsfield, increasing community awareness and involvement, and cross-participation with various organizations in Pittsfield.
- offered new ways of coping to participants through the expressive arts.
The use of art therapy in the treatment of substance abuse dates back to the 1950s. Over the decades, art therapy has been shown to help manage addictions in numerous ways. These include decreasing denial, reducing opposition to alcoholism treatment, breaking down resistance and facilitating acceptance of the disease; providing an outlet for communication; lessening shame; facilitating the exploration of emotions, enhancing internal motivation for change and moving away from reflection and into a state of action.
We are living in a time where substance abuse is a growing epidemic affecting communities and society as a whole. Many treatment centers do not have the funding for an arts therapy program and its clients are unable to benefit from this adjunctive form of treatment. Women and families, in particular, find self-expression and connection with others through art-making.
The Berkshires is known for being a place enriched with the arts. Bridging a connection between the arts and recovery helps reduce the substance abuse epidemic, raise awareness and decrease stigma, and offer a path to productive community membership.
Pittsfield is forward looking in its inclusion of an all paths peer-to-peer model of recovery. Several successful peer recovery centers are now operating in the state of Massachusetts funded in part by its community organizations. These programs are guided by efficacy-based principles through agencies such as the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium, Department of Mental Health and the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
I am both grateful and
honored to have been able to serve Berkshire women and families and to have been
the recipient of Massachusetts Cultural Council grants from both Pittsfield Cultural Council and Lenox Cultural Council. I would also like to thank George B. Crane Memorial Center for providing a safe peer space for our participants. Finally, thank you, Mary McGuiness for your vision, support and commitment to the arts and recovery in Pittsfield and beyond.
For more information about GBCMC, visit: http://www.thegbcmc.org/