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Benefits and limitations of combining cannabis and art therapy

Published May 23, 2023 09:00 a.m. ET
Unsplash / Elena Mozhvilo

Psychotherapy is often used to help patients learn how to more effectively communicate, explore themselves, and express feelings or emotions that may be difficult to verbalize. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy and a powerful tool that promotes healing through art. Recently, it’s become a popular choice, since there are no risks and so many great benefits, but there is still controversy surrounding the idea of combining this therapy with cannabis.

In order to make an informed decision both patients and therapists must first understand the benefits, limitations, and risks associated with this kind of layered approach.

The benefits of using cannabis in art therapy

First, we’ll explore some of the potential benefits of using cannabis in combination with art therapy.

Enhanced creativity

Cannabis has been known to offer a creative boost, which may make it easier for patients to more comfortably express their feelings and emotions through artwork. This is excellent for anyone who struggles to communicate with words.

A deeper sense of relaxation

Cannabis is a potent element that delivers an intense sense of relaxation, and that’s great for individuals who are stressed out or anxious, as it facilitates a calming more comfortable environment conducive to art therapy sessions.

Improved mood

Certain cannabis compounds are able to put patients in a better mood by triggering a release of dopamine in the brain, resulting in happier more positive feelings. This may make it so individuals are more willing to fully participate in art therapy sessions.

Relieve pain

Cannabis is famous for its pain-relieving properties and humans have relied on its power for centuries, so we know that it’s effective, which is especially good news for patients with physical limitations due to chronic pain, or other conditions that may make it difficult to perform and engage in art therapy.

A unique perspective

Cannabis can at times be helpful for those who could benefit from seeing the world through a different lens, as it makes it easier to shift perspective promoting a more in-depth exploration of experiences and emotions in new ways through therapeutic art sessions.

Limitations and risks of adding cannabis to art therapy

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Now that we’ve highlighted some of the different ways cannabis may help both patients and therapists during art therapy sessions, it’s time to touch on a few of the limits and potential risks associated with implementing this unique blended practice.

Legality

Cannabis is still illegal in far too many parts of the world, which may create both legal and ethical issues for art therapists who wish to use it in their practice.

Lack of research

There is plenty of reliable evidence to suggest cannabis could benefit patients in art therapy, but there are still so many unknowns making it difficult to entirely comprehend the potential risks of taking this approach. More scientific research is needed before patients and therapists will be able to understand and effectively weigh the pros and cons of adding cannabis to the mix.

Adverse side effects

Many side effects are associated with cannabis some of which may not be helpful for patients in art therapy, such as impaired motor function, dizziness, and increased heart rate, all of which may negatively impact the quality of this treatment, as well as the safety of all parties.

Personal beliefs

Though the public perception of cannabis has significantly shifted in a positive way over these last few years, some people aren’t going to be willing to use cannabis, and it’s crucial to respect the personal beliefs and preferences of both patients and therapists, especially at a time when we have so little scientific evidence in terms of its effectiveness in psychotherapy to fall back on.

Dose and strain can make a huge difference

The dose administered and strain chosen will have a major impact on the outcome of art therapy sessions, and it may take some experimenting to figure out what works for each patient. For that reason, it’s important for therapists to work in tandem with professionals who are educated and trained to provide safe and effective recommendations.

In conclusion

It’s impossible to say for certain whether or not cannabis is an appropriate addition to art therapy since each patient’s needs, preferences, biology, tolerance, and medication regimen is unique. However, with help from a professional and the utmost caution, it could be a safe way to enhance the effectiveness of this form of psychotherapy. In many cases, it may even be the key to helping individuals achieve a healthier state of mental and emotional well-being.

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