Various types of therapeutic approaches have proven useful in alcohol and drug addiction rehabilitation programs, but music therapy is one that many clients may not fully understand. After all, the words ‘music assisted therapy’ do tend to conjure images more akin to the New Age tribes than robust and effective treatment11.H. Parsons, Definition and Quotes about Music Assisted Therapy | American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), Definition and Quotes about Music Assisted Therapy | American Musical Therapy Association (AMTA).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/. Often clients and their families wonder what exactly is music assisted therapy is, and whether it’s just a ‘rehab filler’ activity to keep clients entertained when they’re not in therapy.
Music Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Music Assisted Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of musical interventions to achieve individual therapeutic relationship goals by a proven specialist who has completed an approved music therapy program. Musical Therapy in a mental health or substance abuse context is a psycho-therapeutic method that uses musical interaction as a means of communication and expression.
The goal of musical therapy is to help people suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and process addictions, by building relationships and solving problems that may prevent them from using words. Music Assisted Therapy sessions include the use of active music creation, listening to music and discussions.
This pioneering therapeutic modality has been proven to aid long term recovery from addiction and provide great relief to those suffering severe mental illness such as Schizophrenia. Additionally, musical therapy can be very successful in a teenage rehab and eating disorder setting, where young adults may find difficulty expressing their feelings with words.
When people are actively addicted to drugs, alcohol, or processes, they build defense mechanisms such as rationalization, minimization, denial, and lies to continue their behavior and hide from their emotions. The creative nature of music assisted psychotherapy contrasts with these fixed mindsets and can help addicts break through their rigid thought patterns.
Music has a strong impact on our emotional states and can provide indirect access to different emotions and brainwaves. Therapeutically, listening and discussing music and its lyrics can help people safely explore emotions, and identify a wider range of emotional states.
What does music assisted therapy help treat?
Musical therapy offers physical, emotional, social, and cognitive benefits22.B. Quimt, What is Music Therapy — Center for Music Assisted Therapy, Center for Music Assisted Therapy.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.centerformusictherapy.com/what-is-music-therapy in a number of therapeutic situations.
Music Therapy helps people who suffer from the following problems:
- Crisis and trauma
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Substance abuse disorders
- Mental Health problems
Musical therapy is also often used to treat PTSD in the military, Alzheimer’s patients33.T. Charge, What is music therapy? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/common-questions/what-music-therapy, students with special needs, and small children.
Contrary to popular belief, clients do not need to have musical talents or skills to benefit from this type of therapy and all types of music have beneficial properties in a therapeutic setting. Treatment may include clients making, listening, moving, and / or singing a musical selection. The selection of songs is changed according to the preferences and needs of the individual.
Musical Therapy Vs Psychotherapy
Indirect access to emotions through music can provide a more convenient starting point for discussing and accepting a variety of different feelings, promoting self-expression and self-confidence. Self-expression often precedes self-knowledge and both are necessary to recover in the long term.
Making music, songwriting, or choosing to listen to different songs can help clients in a rehab setting express the feelings they begin to experience when they become sober, rather than trying to escape, or mask those feelings by addictive behaviors.
Having a means of self-expression in turn contributes to the development of self-confidence. This can help clients better understand how addiction affects their lives and what choices they need to make to take responsibility for their own recovery.
Musical Therapy Increases Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is something that many addicts struggle with long after adopting sobriety. Finding ways to increase self-esteem greatly improves a person’s recovery and prevents relapse. There are many ways that music therapy can achieve this.
One of them is to give people the opportunity to create something they feel good about. Music can also contribute to feelings of connection with others, so we know that we are not that different and alone.
Therapy through music helps relaxation and stress relief
Stress can be the worst enemy of a recovering addict. Lack of stress management and coping skills are one of the reasons why people primarily turn to drugs and alcohol and why many people relapse. Listening to music can help calm nerves and relieve stress.
Singing, writing, or learning to play music can also become a healthy hobby that helps keep life in balance and creative in stressful times.
Studies have shown that music therapy interventions are particularly beneficial for those dealing with trauma, substance misuse and depression44.T. Stegemann, M. Geretsegger, E. P. Quoc, H. Riedl and M. Smetana, Music Therapy and Other Music-Based Interventions in Pediatric Health Care: An Overview – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473587/. In fact, music therapy effectively reduces muscle tension and anxiety, while improving relaxation and openness in interpersonal relationships.
In many cases, the client may not be ready to verbalize his feelings (or disability). However, music can help the therapist emotionally contact the client and open the door for effective and secure communication.
The prevalence of substance abuse and process addiction to mask trauma means that music therapy can be particularly helpful in identifying and processing negative emotions in a healthy way.
This type of therapy has shown positive results in the treatment of survivors of violence, and such programs have been specifically designed to help survivors process traumatic experience, reduce stress, improve coping mechanisms and recover.
Music Assisted Psychotherapy for Depression
Many people with drug problems also suffer from depression, which needs to be addressed along with dependence on effective treatment. Although various other types of therapy may also be helpful in the treatment of depression, musical therapy has also been used to improve the mental health of people with depression.
A study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2011 showed that the targeted precision of switching to music, satisfactory aesthetics of music creation, and the relational commitment and interaction with others during music creation are provide a pleasant, positive, and significant mental realignment55.J. Music, The British Journal of Psychiatry | Cambridge Core, Cambridge Core.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry.
How can Music Based Therapy Support Addiction Recovery?
For addiction treatment to be most effective, it should be holistic, that is, take into account the biological, psychological, and social factors that contributed to the disorder. Music assisted therapy can complement other therapies traditionally used to treat addiction.
By integrating music into therapy, clients can take advantage of a number of benefits that support their overall recovery, including the improved ability to recognize and accept different emotions.
When people are actively addicted to drugs, alcohol, or processes, they build defense mechanisms such as rationalization, minimization, denial, and lies to continue their behavior and hide from their emotions. The creative nature of music assisted therapy contrasts with these fixed mindsets and can help addicts break through their rigid thought patterns.
Choosing a Music Therapist
Music therapists incorporate modalities from different disciplines such as language and language, physiotherapy, medicine, nursing and education.
Some practicing qualified music therapists have completed doctorates in areas other than music assisted psychotherapy and should have the expertise to customize treatment programs for specific areas of mental health and well-being.
Qualified Therapists will plan or structure music therapy sessions to achieve appropriate transitions, simulations, sequencing, energy levels or intensities according to the overall treatment plan. Clinical musical therapy practice requires an assessment of the client and the suitability of this modality in the course of treatment.
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- 11.H. Parsons, Definition and Quotes about Music Assisted Therapy | American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), Definition and Quotes about Music Assisted Therapy | American Musical Therapy Association (AMTA).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/
- 22.B. Quimt, What is Music Therapy — Center for Music Assisted Therapy, Center for Music Assisted Therapy.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.centerformusictherapy.com/what-is-music-therapy
- 33.T. Charge, What is music therapy? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/common-questions/what-music-therapy
- 44.T. Stegemann, M. Geretsegger, E. P. Quoc, H. Riedl and M. Smetana, Music Therapy and Other Music-Based Interventions in Pediatric Health Care: An Overview – PMC, PubMed Central (PMC).; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473587/
- 55.J. Music, The British Journal of Psychiatry | Cambridge Core, Cambridge Core.; Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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