Do you remember the first time you and your friends pretended to be Care Bears, sticking out your tummies to do the Care Bear stare, breaking dark spells? Or when you tied a blanket around your neck and flew through the living room on your way to save the universe from the evil Dr. Death?  The creative imagination of a child is home to many wonderful things, a magical place where everything is possible.  Playtime is an important aspect of a child’s physical, emotional and social development where they learn critical thinking and how to navigate the world.  These are important qualities they will need when they become adults. Adults on the other hand, oftentimes forget we were ever children; our lives revolving around work, errands and family commitments.   Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we lost our zest for fun, for imagination, for play.  This type of stress can leave us feeling burnt out, lacking balance and wreak havoc on our mental health and well-being.  American psychologist and author of, The Therapy of Play, Dr. Charles E. Schaefer said, “we are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.  Here at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire, we believe that play or recreation is just as important for adults and we believe that it is beneficial for those in recovery.  

What is Activity Therapy

Activity or experiential therapy is a form of therapy where expressive tools, activities or various forms of recreation are used. The object is to focus on the activity and through that experience explore and identify emotions that can help you cope with anger, hurt or shame attached to past experiences.  This type of therapy is used to treat a wide variety of disorders and challenges including anxiety, depression, stress,  grief,and substance abuse.

Types of Activity Therapy

There are several types of activity therapy,  with the aid of your therapist you can find one that is right for you.

Animal Assisted – a therapy animal may be in the session just for support or the individual may be able to groom/walk them.  This can be very therapeutic while building trust.  

Art Therapy – the artistic process is used to foster self-esteem and awareness, enhance social skills and cultivate emotional resilience.  This can be done through painting, drawing or sculpting to express yourself.

Drama Therapy –  the individual recreates and reenacts a past distressing event in a safe space.  This allows them the ability to process and let go of the negative emotions associated with it as well as develop ways of  responding to similar situations in the future.

Music Therapy – music is used to explore a current conflict or create positive behavioral changes.

Play Therapy –  mostly used with children to work through difficulties they may not be able to express with words. 

Outdoor Therapy – a combination of wilderness and adventure activities where there is a specific goal.  Since the focus is on physical activity people tend to become more comfortable with their vulnerability to access and address the issue. 

The benefits of Activity Therapy in Recovery

In recovery there are many types of activity or recreation therapy that can be used based on what appeals to the individual.  The goal is to help them overcome their addiction and heal while reinforcing the fact that life can be enjoyable without drugs/alcohol.  Some great options to get started are;

Arts and crafts Meditation

Cooking classes Journal writing

Dance Music

Gardening Yoga

Because these sessions are custom-tailored to the preference of the  individual, most times they don’t realize they were participating in therapy because they were having fun.    Some other benefits may include; 

Reduced stress, anxiety and depression Boost self-esteem

Improve social skills and communication                        Team building skills

Recovery is hard work but taking time to rediscover and reconnect with the childlike mind where laughter is medicine can be very beneficial to your healing.  Joy and balance will better equip you to take on the challenging times that you will encounter on this journey to sobriety.

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