Music therapy for substance abuse treatment.

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The Healing Qualities of Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment


Music therapy for substance abuse treatment.

The Healing Qualities of Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

Music therapy for substance abuse treatment.

Various types of therapies have proven to be useful in alcohol and drug rehab programs, but music therapy is a tool that many individuals seeking treatment may not understand fully.

Studies have shown that music therapy provides significant healing, emotionally, physically, and mentally, and it may end up being an important aspect of your own substance abuse treatment.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is very different from music in the form of entertainment. It is a clinical and evidence-based therapeutic practice that utilizes music to accomplish goals within an individual’s therapy program.1 Each client’s music therapy program is designed specifically around their needs and preferences.

Music therapy provides physical, emotional, social, and cognitive benefits within a number of therapeutic settings, such as a rehab center, and has been found to be advantageous when used with specific populations who are suffering from the following issues:

  • Crisis and trauma
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Mental health problems
  • Pain

Music therapy is also often used to treat military populations, individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease, students with special needs, incarcerated individuals, and young children.

Contrary to popular belief, clients do not have to have any musical talents or abilities to benefit from this type of therapy. Nor do they have to listen, create, or move to any specific type of music. All types of music have beneficial qualities within a therapeutic setting.

Music Therapy in Trauma, Substance Abuse and Depression Treatment

Music therapy sessions are led by a qualified musician who has successfully completed an approved music therapy program. Treatment may include having the client create, listen to, move to, and/or sing to a musical selection. Song selections are modified and changed based on the client’s preferences and needs.

Over time, the client’s participation within the therapeutic setting can strengthen his or her abilities, transferring that strength to other areas of life, such as decision-making, coping with cravings, and managing stress.

Research has shown that music therapy interventions are especially beneficial for individuals who are dealing with trauma, substance abuse, and depression. In fact, music therapy has proven to effectively reduce muscle tension and anxiety while also improving relaxation and openness within interpersonal relationships.2 In many instances, a client may not be willing to verbalize how they’re feeling (or they may be unable to) but music may help the therapist connect with the client on an emotional level, opening the door to effective and non-threatening communication. Additionally, musical bonding experiences, such as composing and singing, can help groups of individuals in alcohol and drug rehab settings hear and understand each other more deeply, which strengthens the group culture and encourages healing.3

Because individuals struggling with substance abuse problems are often using drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma of some kind, music therapy can be particularly useful in helping them acknowledge and process negative emotions in a healthy way. Music therapy has shown positive results in treating individuals who are survivors of violence and programs such as these are specifically designed to help survivors process the traumatic experience, reduce the stress associated with it, improve coping mechanisms, and relax.3

Many individuals with substance abuse problems also suffer from depression, which should be addressed alongside the addiction for effective treatment. Although several other types of therapies may also help treat depression, music therapy has also been used to improve the mental health of people with depression. A 2011 study published by The British Journal of Psychiatry found that the purposeful precision of moving to music, the satisfying aesthetic of creating music, and the relational engagement and interaction with others while making music, all provide a pleasurable and meaningful result for clients.4

Benefits of Music Therapy Interventions

While it is true that an individual’s personality and coping style will impact his or her response to music therapy, music as a therapeutic tool can still provide a number of benefits in drug and alcohol rehab, hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, and more. Some of the main benefits of music therapy are as follows.

  • It provides an avenue of communication for those who have trouble communicating with words.
  • It helps clients express themselves and connect with others.
  • It increases motivation to participate in treatment.
  • It provides emotional support for clients and their families.
  • It improves physical rehabilitation.
  • It reduces stress and anxiety.

Is Music Therapy Right for Me?

Music therapy is an effective tool for many types of therapeutic settings and may enhance healing during your own substance abuse treatment at a rehab center. If you’d like to explore the benefits of music therapy for your own treatment, talk to your counselor today.


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