Music can sometimes reach people on an emotional level more profound than words. For those in recovery from a substance use disorder, music therapy can help engage people in treatment and cope better with stress. Like other complementary therapies, music therapy is most effective when combined with other modalities for people in the early recovery process.
Music therapy can help reduce stress and have a calming effect on people. For people resistant to other therapy types, this form of therapy may feel more accessible and less intimidating than other modalities. Almost everyone has experienced connecting with music, so music therapy offers a familiar ground people can connect with.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapy serves as part of a holistic approach to substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment. Like other complementary or experiential therapies, music therapy has increased in popularity as a method for improving the efficacy of standard treatments.
For clients with a dual diagnosis who have difficulty engaging in treatment because of their combination of mental health and substance use disorders, music therapy can assist in making treatment more accessible and improve a client’s overall program participation.
Music therapists usually have a certification in music therapy, although many therapists can still use music in their therapy sessions without having the credentialing. Music therapy takes many forms, and in a substance use disorder treatment setting, people may benefit from:
In music therapy, therapists might play music and talk about how it makes people feel, encourage people to play instruments they know how to play, or use simple musical activities like drumming. Participants may engage in dance and movement therapy, which provides both physical exercise and stress relief.
Most people have experienced putting on a favorite piece of music and feeling a change in mood. For people who play instruments or write music, this activity can bring great satisfaction and creative release. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we encourage listening to, playing, and dancing to music as tools for people in recovery to use when they feel stressed or need coping skills.
How Do We Teach Music Therapy?
Music has a powerful effect on mood. At Everlast, our clients can use music to change their mindsets and decrease negative feelings.
Music therapy covers a wide range of activities related to music. A person using music therapy might:
Therapists in individual sessions might ask the client to listen to music when feeling stressed and keep track of how they feel after this intervention. In groups, people might engage in a drum circle which is a way to relieve stress and build teamwork. They might have each participant bring in a favorite song for the group to listen to, then talk with the group about the song’s meaning to them.
For some people in recovery, certain songs remind them of their addiction, and sometimes this can make them feel nostalgic for their substance use. By sharing this song in therapy, the person can reprogram those nostalgic feelings and let the song remind them why they want to remain sober. Other group members might empathize with the person and talk about how the song makes them feel.
For people using music therapy to complement another type of therapy, music may build a bridge to make standard therapy easier to access. Studies have demonstrated that music therapy helps people with a dual diagnosis become more invested in therapy.
Music Therapy and Addiction
People with substance use disorders may become so dependent on a substance to feel good that they forget all the other things that used to make them feel good too. Before addiction, they might have enjoyed music or even played an instrument. Most people associate certain songs with positive or negative experiences, and people with a substance use disorder may forget that they can use these as self-calming tools.
Many people with a substance use disorder also have a dual diagnosis, and music therapy can help treat both disorders. Music therapy may seem less intimidating and more fun than talk therapy.
Music Therapy in Residential Treatment
Music therapy in residential treatment at Everlast is individualized to benefit the clients in our program. This kind of therapy works exceptionally well in groups and often between activities when residents can share music with each other.
At Everlast, our clients can engage in experiential therapies, like music therapy, that they might never have tried before. They might also develop a new appreciation for how they can use music to manage stress or a way to stop associating certain songs with their substance abuse history.
Like other methods of treatment, music therapy should always focus on the positive, helping the client move forward and improve the skills they will need to have a successful recovery.