Can Music Help With Addiction Recovery?

5 Potentially Deadly Myths About Recovery
July 8, 2021

It’s no secret that music can have a profound effect on our mood. Ever so often, you’d hear people say that music “saved them” or that it somehow changed their life for the better.

Music has, for thousands of years been considered to have some mystical or spiritual qualities. It is part of the worship and contemplative practices of cultures from all over the world. As part of general health practice, it is a popular supplementary therapy, used to enhance other aspects of rehab, including those related to addiction care.

Below we’ll explain what music therapy is, and why it might help with substance use disorders. Call our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to find drug rehab programs in New England that use music therapy.

What is music therapy?

While the term “music therapy” is often applied in a casual, haphazard way, it is a practice that requires licensing and certification. Music therapy is a structured practice that is intended to supplement rather than replace mainstream rehab therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy. When implemented correctly, it can strengthen gains made from these other therapies, helping produce better outcomes for the recovering individual.

Music can be used to evoke specific emotional responses. For example, a person who has trouble with emotional regulation may find that music is useful for helping them calm down or focus. This can be great for aiding meditation practices or dialectical-behavior therapy. Conversely, someone with low mood or depression may find that music helps them better concentrate and harness the gains from exercise therapy.

There’s much more to music therapy than choosing the right mood music. It’s worth noting that music therapists need to be trained and licensed before they can start working in this field for addiction treatment or other types of rehabilitative work. Aside from being knowledgeable musicians, music therapists also understand how to use music in aid of specific therapeutic approaches and patient scenarios. If you’re interested in music therapy for any purpose, it’s important to make sure that your therapist is duly qualified to perform this service.

Why does music therapy work?

While further study may need to be done, it’s likely in how music stimulates different connections in our brains. It’s likely the music predates the evolution of modern humans as a species, and the parts of the brain that process speech and other communication seem to be mostly the same ones responsible for our appreciation of music. The use of rhythms and pitch as communication may even predate modern speech and vocalization as we know it.

This means that music likely plays a very fundamental role in our being human. The deep emotional reactions elicited by music can be in some ways, more basic than the same reactions we have to regular speech.

In some studies, actively playing music has even been linked to brain growth and benefits similar to meditation, which makes sense as this type of activity also involves focused active thinking in addition to movement.

This has implications for addiction treatment, as substance use disorders are associated with the creation of defective brain pathways. Trauma is also associated with increased drug use and altered brain pathways as well.

Initial research suggests that using music therapy in this way can stimulate the growth of new connections that bypass the ones linked to substance misuse and trauma, which can shorten recovery times and also provide significant cost savings.

How is music therapy implemented?

The way music therapy is used for treating substance use disorder is all contextual. It may be as simple as active listening to certain types of music.

Singing, rapping, and poetry can also be used to help recovering individuals better come to terms with emotions they have not yet fully processed. Dancing and other forms of exercise could be set to music to allow recovering individuals to maintain a tighter focus on the activity. Meditation sessions could also be set to music for much the same reason.

Learning an instrument as therapy

One less-used but potentially important way music therapy could be implemented is through learning a new musical instrument. While rhythm instruments like drums are often preferred because of the low barrier to learning, any instrument can work.

Because playing an instrument is a neurologically complex activity that engages different parts of the brain, it is especially useful for stimulating the formation forming new connections. This can potentially help individuals to heal from substance use disorders faster than they normally would.

Find rehab programs that offer music therapy

Compared to other supplemental therapies, music therapy has a lot of concrete evidence supporting it. It also has no serious drawbacks. As a result, its principles are almost universally used in addiction rehab, even in cases where formal music therapy is not readily available.

If you’re in the New England area or are interested in being treated here, Boston Drug Treatment Centers makes it simple to find residential and outpatient programs that offer music therapy. We’ll make it easy for you to find all the therapeutic approaches you need to heal. Good luck, and stay sober!