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Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery - drumming

There’s an old saying that music soothes the soul. It has the power to calm the mind, bring back memories, and stir up emotions.

Music provides an outlet for the release of a full range of feelings. It affects the brain and influences human behavior. The power of music is beautifully described in this quote by Debasish Mridha, an American physician, philosopher, author, and poet, “Music can touch and heal that secret wound of the soul which nothing else can reach.”

What Is Music Therapy?

When the planned use of music influences the way the brain functions and human capabilities are enhanced, it is called music therapy. According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship.”

What Does a Music Therapist Do?

A music therapist is often part of an interdisciplinary team. Their role is to do an assessment and design an individualized program of music experiences that will benefit the individual. The music therapy sessions could be for the person alone or for inclusion in groups based on the specific needs of the individual.

The assessment includes the following areas:

  • Emotional well-being
  • Social functioning
  • Communication abilities
  • Physical health
  • Cognitive skills

The music therapist guides the individual through the sessions and performs ongoing evaluations throughout treatment.

The Benefits of Music Therapy in Treating Addiction

Music therapy is generally used in conjunction with other types of therapies and is a nonthreatening way of helping people suffering with an addiction uncover deep seated issues and get rid of destructive emotions. The power of this dynamic medium helps to improve emotional self-awareness, increase self-esteem, and build confidence. It helps relieve and reduce stress while enhancing feelings of positivity and success. It can relieve depression, reduce anxiety, and ease the feelings of loneliness and boredom.

Additional benefits of music therapy include:

  • Helping to express thoughts and feelings
  • Improving interpersonal skills
  • Building problem solving strategies and coping skills
  • Strengthening relaxation techniques
  • Enhancing mindfulness
  • Increasing concentration, focus, and attention

Music therapy helps individuals to tap into their needs and emotions in a way that they may not be able to express in other forms of communication.

Music Therapy Activities to Facilitate Recovery

A person does not need to have a musical background or musical knowledge to benefit from music therapy. Music therapists use many different types of music strategies, both vocal and instrumental, when working with individuals or in group settings. Some strategies provide an active music experience while others provide a passive one.

  • Drumming – Whether you drum alone or in a drum circle, the benefits are numerous. According to the article “Drumming Out Drugs” in the American Journal of Public Health, drumming enhances theta-wave production and brain-wave synchronization which helps recovery through inducing relaxation and increasing expression in a nonverbal way. It produces feelings of a pleasurable experience, helps to release emotional trauma, and creates a connectedness within the individual. Drumming in a drum circle enhances feelings of cooperation and being connected to others.
  • Writing songs and composing music – Music composition and songwriting help to build self-esteem and self-confidence. It offers a means of emotional expression in a way that may be difficult or impossible to express in words. The music that is personally created can be used for meditation and guided imagery while teaching coping skills to help manage anger, anxiety, and fear.
  • Improvising music – Creating impromptu music in any way, such as singing, playing a musical instrument, humming, or any other form, that is based on emotions stimulates creativity and taps into deep emotions.

Other examples of clinical musical therapy include:

  • Relaxation training including meditation, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery
  • Discussing and analyzing music lyrics and how they relate to the problems of substance abuse and treatment
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Dancing
  • Developing a playlist of relaxing music to help control personal stress while reducing feelings of fear and anxiety
  • Musical games

Music Therapy – One Tool in a Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Program

Music therapy is a powerful tool that can help a person suffering with an addiction to overcome their problem and become sober and healthy. It helps facilitate a positive change in the individual’s mood and emotional state as a sense of control over their life is gained by participating in successful experiences. Research studies at Harvard Medical School showed that music has the ability to heal certain areas of a person’s brain of the damage caused by addiction.

Although music therapy alone is not enough to help overcome substance abuse, it does play an important role in the treatment of addiction. At the Canyon Vista Recovery Center, music therapy is offered as part of an individual’s recovery process along with traditional therapies, advanced holistic practices, nutritional guidance, exercise, and educational programs.

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