Music Therapy for Addiction

Music has healing properties. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re going through, there’s always some type of music that helps you get by. Everyone has different preferences but there is typically a song or artist to match whatever is going on in your life.

Similarly, music brings people from all walks of life together. It can provide a common bond between groups that might never spend time together otherwise. There is something special about the shared appreciation for a certain musician or type of music.

There is also the power of actually playing or writing music. The wide range of instruments available, from guitars to hand drums, pianos to your very own voice, offers you plenty of ways to express yourself. Musical instruments offer you a unique way to explore your experience even if you aren’t the best at playing them.

There isn’t a part of you that music can’t affect, from your body to your mind to your soul. Music therapy for addiction harnesses the powers of all the different ways you can experience music. It blends these aspects and offers a way to help people heal using the melodies and rhythms of sound.

What is Music Therapy for Addiction?

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is the clinical practice of using music interventions within a therapeutic environment. Music therapists are trained to work with the cognitive and emotional needs of patients through the use of music.

Music therapy can take place on both an individual and group therapy level. Some of the approaches used in music therapy include:

  • Listening to music
  • Creating songs, whether written or improvised
  • Singing along with songs
  • Moving or dancing to music

Music therapy isn’t as simple as sitting around, listening to music, and talking about any feelings that come up, though. Music therapists incorporate a goal-oriented approach to therapy, much like cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s the interactive approach of music therapy for addiction that sets it apart from other methods.

For example, traditional talk therapy requires patients to work through the challenges they bring to their sessions. But a music therapist might ask their patient to write down some lyrics expressing how they feel. This allows for a more reflective approach to treatment, both while the patient writes their lyrics then again when they discuss those lyrics with their therapist.

How is Music Therapy Used to Treat Addiction?

When you first hear about it, you might think that music therapy is just another way for an addiction treatment center to set itself apart. In reality, music therapy for addiction is a great way for therapists to bridge the initial gap with their patients.

Everyone has a type of music they enjoy listening to. Ask someone what their favorite song or band is and it can often tell you a lot about them. A music therapist receives unique insight into their patients through the use of music. They might quickly learn something that takes a traditional CBT therapist longer to uncover.

It also provides people a way to connect in a group setting. One study of music therapy found both a decrease in the group’s negative symptoms and an increase in their ability to converse with each other. Music breaks down the barriers that tend to divide people.

Music therapy doesn’t always directly address someone’s drinking or drug use. It’s helpful for many of the underlying issues that come with addiction or alcoholism, though. Those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD are all candidates for treatment with music therapy.

Is Music Therapy An Effective Treatment Method?

Music therapy for addiction is most effective when used as a part of a treatment plan. Placing too much emphasis on any one method of treatment is not always the best approach. One-size-fits-all treatment plans are not an effective way to work with people in recovery from substance and alcohol abuse.

Instead, treatment plans that incorporate multiple methods give patients the best opportunity for recovery. These plans offer various ways for recovering addicts and alcoholics to connect both with themselves and with staff and often lead to the best results.

Music therapy is also helpful for a reason you might not think of at first: helping people discover a hobby. When you quit drinking and using drugs, you’re left with more free time than you’re used to. It’s a good idea to find hobbies that fill this free time with productive activities that keep you occupied.

If you played an instrument before you started heavily drinking or using drugs, music therapy will help you reconnect with that lost hobby. Or if you never played an instrument, you might find a new love for playing music during music therapy for addiction.