Music therapy is classified as a complementary and alternative medical practice, also referred to as CAM. Numerous studies clearly show that CAMs provide real value to people recovering from addiction when used as part of a complete recovery program. While CAMs are relatively new, music therapy began in the 1970s, it is estimated that 40% of recovering adults have some form of CAM as a part of their recovery. Additional studies show that music therapy is especially effective with women and teens recovering from addiction.
Why Does Music Therapy Work?
Music therapy works for a number of reasons. In short, music makes us feel better by releasing dopamine into the brain. But while the dopamine that is released by drugs is excessive, music releases appropriate levels of dopamine, both when listening to music and by creating music.
It doesn’t matter if the music we create is good or not. The act of making music is a creative act, allowing the music’s creators to express themselves in non-verbal ways. Rhythms (whether rough or gentle), melodies (whether atonal or flowing), embellishments (whether expected or sudden), all allow us to communicate emotions, thoughts, questions, desires and needs all without words. And like art that we see or make, the music can be an anchor or touchstone for where we are right now, or where we hope to be someday.
Music can also simply be an escape from the stresses of life, allowing the recovering addict a few moments away from his or her troubles. Finding an escape in this way is much healthier than an escape through substance abuse.
How Does Music Therapy Compare to Other Types of Therapy?
The best way to describe music therapy is to compare it to talk therapy or psychotherapy. In both cases, you have a therapist, a person seeking relief from some addiction or other affliction, and desired outcomes in terms of improved quality of life for the client. Psychotherapists are trained to help their client achieve their goals through talk and conversation. However, it is not the act of talking that produces therapeutic results. Otherwise, you could talk to anyone. It is how the therapist uses talk that matters.
A music therapist is trained to help their clients achieve their goals using a musical experience. Just as with the talk therapist, it is not the music that provides the benefits. It is how the music therapist implements the musical experience that delivers the results. Merely listening to music on your own will not produce lasting therapeutic benefit.
What Does a Music Therapy Session Look Like?
Music therapy is experiential. This means it is more than a passive listening exercise. Music therapy involves the patient in the creation of music using a variety of instruments such as drums, keyboards, and stringed instruments. The session may include rhythmic drumming, using a keyboard without any sheet music, strumming a guitar, and more. In addition to actively making music, Music therapy can include:
- Listening to music
- Discussing music
- Music games
- Analyzing lyrics
Music therapy does not require any musical skill or training on the part of the person recovering from addiction. The patient is shown how to use music as a creative means of expression. This enables them to express themselves in unconventional, non-verbal, yet beneficial ways. Participants in music therapy programs often experience better results than those they gain in more traditional programs.
The type of music may be traditional, current, pop, rock and roll, or entirely improvisational. The music therapist will decide based on what they want to accomplish and the personal preferences of the patient.
What are the Benefits of Music Therapy?
Music therapy provides emotional, social, and physical benefits. It is this wide range of benefits that makes music therapy so beneficial for certain people. As a CAM, music therapy is most effective when it is part of a total recovery program. The therapy can be delivered in a patient’s home or settings such as recovery and rehabilitation centers, crisis centers, hospitals, and private practices.
Findings reported by the National Institute of Health document an impressive number of benefits provided by music therapy. These include:
- Understanding negative emotions and their causes.
- Improved self-esteem.
- Creating and enhancing a positive outlook on life.
- Reduced chances of relapses.
- Improved self-awareness as part of using music.
- Increased attention and concentration.
- Gaining coping and problem-solving skills.
- Developing mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
- Improved skills such as impulse control.
Also, music therapy is useful in reducing depression, anger, anxiety, and stress, all the emotions that can trigger a relapse.
BeWell Recovery Tarzana Can Help
Music therapy can be a powerful and beneficial addition to a recovery program. BeWell Recovery Tarzana Center has experienced staff capable of making music therapy a part of a comprehensive recovery and rehabilitation program. Contact or call us today at 888-616-9065 and let us help you or a loved one take advantage of the benefits of music therapy.