Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery
Music therapy in addiction recovery can prove to be a wonderful asset in your recovery toolkit. Music therapy is a non confrontational type of therapy and is considered a powerful alternative to traditional talking therapies.
The benefits of music therapy in treating addiction and in aiding recovery are profound. So much so, that many addiction treatment rehabs now incorporate it into their rehabilitation programmes.
The Benefits of Music Therapy in Treating Addiction
When words fail, music speaks. Music has the ability to lift our spirits, make us feel connected, and evoke emotions within us that we didn’t even know existed.
It is no wonder, then, that music therapy has become more widespread in many therapeutic settings today, including in addiction treatment.
Enhancing addiction recovery with music therapy offers many emotional, cognitive, social, and even physical benefits that can be invaluable during your journey in addiction recovery.
What Is Music Therapy?
According to the British Association for Music Therapy, music therapy is a complementary form of therapy that is used as a tool to help manage emotional, cognitive, and physical ailments .
Formal music therapy dates back to the 1970’s , but music has been used as a healing tool for hundreds of years .
Music therapy can be effective in helping to heal many conditions, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.
Music therapy is widely versatile. It helps anyone from young children to older adults. Those that can benefit from music therapy do not need to be musical experts, nor do they need to have a background in music in order to reap its benefits.
Music therapy involves all different types of music for a wide range of individual needs in order to facilitate healing.
The emotionally evocative nature of music therapy can be particularly useful for someone who is in addiction treatment. Music therapy can help people to express their emotions and communicate in a way that they might not otherwise be able to.
Types of Music Therapy Used in Addiction Recovery
Within the broad scope of music therapy, there are many specific types of music therapy to assist in a healthy recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Music Therapy for Treating Addiction:
There are many different forms of music therapy, and they all have their own unique benefits.
Cognitive Behavioural Music Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Music Therapy, or CBMT, combines cognitive behavioural therapy with music therapy in order to change addictive behaviours. This form of therapy can involve singing, dancing, and listening to music. The goal is to help a person recovering from addiction become more aware of negative thought patterns that can lead to substance abuse. This form of therapy is an active way to develop new, healthy thought patterns and coping skills.
Analytical Music Therapy
This form of therapy relies on a person improvising a lyrical song or creating music through an instrument. A qualified music therapist then helps to analyse this with the patient. Analytical music therapy has roots in Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory, and helps unveil unconscious thoughts and feelings. Analytical music therapy is used to explore underlying reasons for ongoing substance abuse or feelings that may be acting as internal triggers.
Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy
This is an active form of music therapy that serves as a medium for self-expression through the use of musical instruments, such as drums. It can provide a wonderful outlet for those in addiction recovery, especially for those who have trouble verbalising or even understanding what they are feeling.
Benenzon Music Therapy
Similar to analytic music therapy, this form of therapy relies on a person pinpointing sounds that align with their internal state of being. This form of therapy is beneficial to those who are having trouble expressing themselves with words. Music and sound act as a bridge to convey what they are experiencing in addiction recovery internally.
Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music
This form of music therapy is a receptive method that relies on a person listening to a piece of music and observing the mental images, feelings, and thoughts that arise. This helps to increase one’s inner awareness, which can serve as a catalyst towards healing. During the journey in recovery from addiction, becoming aware of one’s inner state of being is key when it comes to creating long-lasting change.
Other forms of music therapy include the Dalcroze Eurythmics method, the Kodaly philosophy of music therapy, Neurologic Music Therapy, and Orff-Schulwerk music therapy. The main functions of these types of music therapy are to assist those who struggle with motor skills, developmental delays, and disabilities .
Interventions and Techniques
Music therapy Interventions that are used in addiction treatment fall into two categories: active interventions and receptive interventions.
During active interventions, a client and music therapist sing, dance, or create music.
Receptive interventions are more geared towards the client listening and absorbing rather than creating and can involve activities like lyric analysis or learning music-assisted relaxation techniques .
Music therapy for addiction treatment includes both receptive and active techniques.
Techniques for addiction treatment:
- Analyzing music
- Moving to music
- Writing lyrics
- Discussing the emotions that specific music evokes
- Playing Instruments
- Learning relaxation methods that are facilitated by music 
How Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery Could Benefit You
The process of recovery from addiction looks different for every person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Because of this, different forms of therapy and treatment will work better for different people. Some of the many benefits of music therapy in addiction recovery are allowing individuals to not only communicate, but also to access, understand, and express their emotions.
Often, engaging in substance use can stem from difficulty in coping with negative emotions. Enhancing addiction recovery with music therapy can be an especially effective way of helping those in recovery to effectively express themselves and communicate how they feel when words fall short.
Using music therapy for addiction treatment can also provide a channel through which a person can explore their inner world and gain a deeper level of self-awareness. Understanding oneself and one’s emotions are invaluable tools that can greatly assist during the ongoing journey of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
The Benefits of Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery:
- Helps express emotions and develop emotional flexibility
- Assists in releasing repressed emotions
- Helps foster communication
- Encourages social connection
- Creates healthy coping skills
- Helps decrease feelings of loneliness
- Provides a safe space to explore triggers
- Reduces muscle tension
- Helps increase confidence and self-esteem
- Helps promote relaxation and reduces stress
- Develops self-awareness and encourages self-expression
- Can aid in improving focus and concentration
- Serves as motivation for engaging in therapy
- Helps alleviate common trigger states including boredom and restlessness 
Music Therapy and Healing the Brain in Addiction Recovery
Studies indicate that there are links between music therapy and healing the brain.
The technique of drumming, for instance, has been shown to enhance theta wave production and brain-wave synchronisation . In a study conducted on patients with dementia, music therapy was shown to increase cognitive functioning . Further studies indicate that music therapy can activate regions of the brain that influence decision-making, reward, and emotions .
The connections between music therapy and healing the brain indicate that using this form of therapy may be able to help repair a brain that has been damaged by long-term substance abuse.
What Music Therapy Can Treat
Alongside the many benefits of music therapy in addiction recovery, music therapy is also used as a complementary tool to help treat and heal many other disorders and ailments.
Music therapy is a useful tool in treating the following conditions and disorders:
- Developmental disabilities
- Behaviour disorders
- Behavioural addictions such as gambling, gaming or sex addiction
- Eating disorders
- Substance use disorders
- Anxiety 
Music Therapy In Treating Anxiety and Depression
There have been many studies on the benefits of music therapy in treating anxiety and depression.
Music therapy has facilitated many positive outcomes when used as a complementary tool to treat anxiety. In fact, those treated for anxiety with music therapy reported feeling decreased levels of anxiety immediately after music therapy sessions. Research also indicates that certain types of music therapy can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, this has an effect on the body’s stress hormones, which can all contribute to lower levels of anxiety.
During early recovery from addiction, and especially during detoxification, it is common to feel symptoms of anxiety welling up. Experiencing uncomfortable feelings can lead to a desire to use or even relapse. One of the major benefits of music therapy in addiction treatment is that it can help to organically mitigate these feelings and alleviate symptoms of anxiety .
Similarly, studies indicate that those diagnosed with depression have better treatment outcomes when music therapy is incorporated as a part of their treatment plan . Listening to music can release dopamine, an important neurotransmitter that contributes to a positive mood. When recovering from addiction, dopamine levels dramatically drop during withdrawal and early recovery.
This is one way in which music therapy can help to alleviate symptoms of depression that result from or contribute to ongoing substance misuse. Using music therapy in treating anxiety and depression can help foster a natural and healthy recovery.
Music Therapy In Treating Trauma
Music therapy has been proven to help reduce symptoms and improve overall functioning in those suffering from:
Post-traumatic stress and exposure to trauma
Studies have shown that the inclusion of music therapy in a treatment programme for individuals suffering from PTSD helps to reduce symptoms, including intrusive thoughts, negative moods, and intense reactivity. Research surrounding music therapy for treating trauma has also indicated that music therapy can help build resilience.
Many people in addiction recovery may have begun engaging in substance use as a means to cope with unresolved trauma. One of the benefits of music therapy in addiction treatment is that it can help to access and work on healing underlying traumas that contribute to substance abuse and addiction .
Music Therapy In The Treatment Of Sleep Disorders
Music therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on sleep and can help those struggling with acute and chronic sleep disorders.
During recovery from addiction, it is common to experience issues with sleep. These issues can have a profound effect on the recovery experience and can even lead to relapse if not properly treated.
Using this form of therapy can be one way to improve sleep quality and quantity. Therefore increasing the chances of sustainable, long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction .
Learn More About Music Therapy in Addiction Recovery
Today, music therapy is conducted in many different treatment settings including inpatient rehab facilities, detox clinics, outpatient treatment, correctional facilities, hospitals, and educational institutions.
Talk to your doctor or therapist if you’re interested in learning more about music therapy and check out our article “Drumming out the drugs”. Remember that music therapy for addiction is best used as a complementary tool and not as a primary form of therapy. Music therapy works best alongside other forms of treatment such as traditional psychotherapy or medication.
Enhancing addiction recovery with music therapy can be an invaluable asset that you can learn to use anywhere and at any time. Music therapy helps reduce the chances of addiction relapse and makes the whole recovery experience more purposeful and enjoyable.
Author - Thurga
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