Music Therapy for Addiction Treatment and Mental Health Recovery

Music Therapy in the Continuum of Care

Although music therapy is not a standalone addiction therapy, it is an alternative therapy that can supplement other treatments. For example, two main forms of addiction treatment may be cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. The purpose of the two therapies is to help people identify and modify behaviors or triggers related to their addiction.

As people learn how to identify and modify behaviors, they also learn how to express themselves. Music therapy is one way to realize emotions and promote self-expression. It is commonly used in behavioral therapy for people with depression and other mood disorders, and research shows promising findings. Since mood disorders are common among people who use substances, music therapy can be useful for many of them.

Today, many addiction treatment facilities utilize music therapy. However, its main limitation is that it may trigger negative feelings associated with past physical abuse or substance misuse. Since another limitation is that it is a supplemental therapy and not a standalone treatment, professionals use a multi-therapy approach whenever they do use music therapeutically.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy for addiction involves listening to music for sharing feedback or other specific purposes. According to research, music has the ability to inspire, reveal and evoke emotions. To some people, a song can cause goosebumps or chills. It can bring them from feeling down or sad to feeling elated. To another person, that same song may not have that effect, but a different song might produce it.

Some people prefer a specific genre of music, such as opera, classical, rap or rock. Others may enjoy multiple genres. Finding music that speaks to a person and improves self-expression abilities is one goal in music therapy. As people go through recovery, it is important for them to be able to effectively express themselves. It helps them become stronger emotionally, stay in touch with their thoughts and express their needs, concerns or boundaries to others.

How Powerful Is Music on the Brain?

Research shows that people who listen to music and respond to it emotionally on a consistent basis have improved white brain matter. This means that there is better communication between different areas of the brain. In music therapy, that improvement is a positive outcome that therapists try to help people achieve. Music therapy should be pleasurable for the person receiving therapy. It is also beneficial if it has surprise elements to the listener, and it can help stimulate memory.

The evidence of memory power in music is apparent in people with dementia and some stroke victims. Many people who cannot speak a sentence after a stroke may still be able to sing part of a song, and many people who cannot remember words or phrases with dementia may be able to sing along to a song they hear. Those songs can also trigger positive memories or feelings associated with them.

For therapeutic purposes, building positive memories and thoughts can be a powerful tool. In addition to other methods that help people improve communication, music therapy can help them become more effective communicators and be more alert. Those qualities can all be beneficial to people in the future as they continue their recovery journey. The benefits apply to them individually, and they can apply to family, personal, romantic and work relationships as well.

How Is Music Therapy Performed?

There are several ways that therapists may approach music therapy. The chosen approach often depends on the needs or preferences of the individual receiving therapy. Also, it may depend on the preferences of the group if the therapy is in a group setting.

Activity

Some forms of music therapy involve playing a musical instrument. Another active form of music therapy is composing music. Even if a person does not have the ability to outline specific notes, it is possible to write lyrics for a song. Singing is another option. The type of activity that people use depends on their abilities in some cases. For example, if someone already knows how to play a violin, a therapist may suggest expanding on that and trying to create self-expressive songs or lyrics.

Listening

Listening to music is another approach. A person may listen to music to achieve a mood boost. A therapist may ask a person to listen to specific musical pieces to study reactions and discuss how they feel about the songs. Listening is a common approach since music tends to evoke feelings that people can often express in words. Even if they cannot fully express their emotions in words, a therapist encourages them to try.

Group or Individual Therapy

Group collaborative music may be an approach for people who know how to play different instruments. Singing in a group can boost self-esteem and confidence. Another approach is listening to music and discussing the emotions or affects it creates with a group of people. In individual therapy settings, people may discuss how music affects them personally with a therapist.

Who Can Benefit From Music Therapy for Addiction?

Music therapy and mental health recovery go hand in hand. Based on the evidence and points in the previous sections, it is easier to see how music benefits the brain and may boost a mental health recovery plan. Addiction treatment involves components of behavioral and mental health therapy. Although addiction has been poorly understood in past decades, today more medical professionals are gaining a better understanding of how it affects brain chemistry.

Substance use and addiction can lead to long-term or permanent changes in the brain. Because of this, a person with a substance use disorder can benefit from therapies that support or improve healthy brain function. Even short-term use of a substance can alter brain chemical responses since many habit-forming substances have specific actions that they change in the brain. The effects can still last after a person rids their body of the substance.

This is why music therapy can be beneficial during inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and throughout a recovery journey if it is not a negative trigger for someone. The therapy approach is enjoyable for most people. It can be especially helpful for people with co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Benefits of Music Therapy

Someone who is in a treatment facility for addiction may experience multiple benefits of music therapy and mental health recovery. These are some of the top benefits of music therapy:

  • Improves mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Helps alleviate stress naturally.
  • Makes it easier to emotionally adjust to surroundings.
  • Boosts the development or improvement of specific cognitive functions.
  • Can help people develop healthier communication tactics.
  • Improves social function and confidence in group settings.
  • Aids in identifying stressors, triggers and other sources of fear or anxiety.
  • May help people deal with cravings or cope with negative feelings.
  • Enhances mood, relieves boredom and helps with motivation for many people.

Music Therapy Vs Medication

How useful is music therapy vs medication? This is one of the most common questions people ask. Although music therapy does have plenty of benefits, it is not necessarily a replacement for medication. Certain types of addiction may require the use of regular medication. One example is when a person needs suboxone or another medication to avoid relapse. In that case, music therapy could not replace the benefits of medication. Addiction is a complex brain disease that requires a comprehensive and individualized treatment approach.

Many people have a co-occurring disorder, such as PTSD, anxiety, major depression, BPD, or something else. The disorder may develop as a result of substance misuse, or it may develop before the addiction. When a disorder develops before an addiction, it is often a contributing factor in a person using a substance. People often seek substances to treat unpleasant symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another disorder. When this happens, treating the underlying issue with the right medication or combination of medications is part of the equation of beating addiction. Music therapy is alternative and supplemental in such a case.

By treating the whole person and not just one issue, therapists can help people get out of the addiction cycle. Therapists who use music therapy for addiction always consider other issues, and they do not replace necessary medication with it for a chronic mental health condition. Treatment facilities perform comprehensive and full evaluations to make sure that all members receive the best quality of care.

Finding Music Therapy for Addiction in Missouri

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Sana Lake Recovery Center is here to help. Our recovery program may include music therapy and other enjoyable supplemental therapies into personalized treatment plans for our members who will benefit from them. We believe in providing a supportive and nurturing environment where our members learn the most effective ways to overcome addiction and experience a healthy solution to recovery. Please contact us to learn more about our addiction treatment facility in Ditmer, Missouri.