On an average day, most people interact with music in some way. Music is all around us. For many, music is a way to release the anxiety and stress caused by everyday life. Listening to certain types of music can also have a direct impact on the mood of an individual. For example, listening to a song that is upbeat and happy, generally tends to make people have a similar feeling, whereas a song that is sad or upsetting can lead people to feel a sense of dread or despair.
Regardless of the emotion of the music, it is clear that music can help people identify and communicate their moods. This mood identification can be particularly useful for those suffering from addiction. For many, music can help express emotions that are otherwise difficult for them to even understand themselves.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music within a therapeutic relationship to help individuals reach goals they have outlined. This type of therapy usually involves interacting with music in a variety of ways, be it through listening, singing, performing, or dancing. Additionally, many programs have patients write or discuss song lyrics to help them understand their own pain and struggles.
Within the scope of music therapy, music is used in a controlled way to help patients explore and overcome their emotions. A trained music therapist knows how to use music to treat each individual patient. The individual nature of music therapy would seem to make it fit just fine with behavioral therapy for addiction, which is also highly individualized.
General Benefits of Music Therapy
There are great deal of benefits from music therapy. Trained music therapists are able to create a treatment plan that is customized for each of their patients. The treatment can be done in private sessions or in group sessions. Music therapy has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments including:
- Stress reduction
- Treatment of hypertension
- Reduction of depression symptoms
- Management of autism symptoms
- Helping memory for those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease
- Easing pain during childbirth
- Pain management for chronic pain sufferers
Benefits of Music Therapy in the Treatment of Addiction
There have been several studies in recent years that have focused on evaluating the use of music in treating or managing addiction. Findings from a 2015 addiction study completed by Alex Short and Genevieve Dingle published in the Psychology of Music journal found that those suffering from addiction could identify songs that could trigger or reduce urges to use substances.
The most common techniques used by music therapists to treat addiction are music creation and music listening and reflection. These methods have differing effects when completed in individual and group sessions. For many, group sessions are often too personal at first and as such, individual sessions may be more appropriate until a level of comfort is obtained.
Music creation therapy involves helping a person cope with their addiction through the creation of music. This can occur in the form of singing, lyric writing, and even instrumental performance. Should the patient know how to play a musical instrument and have no previous trauma associated with playing said instrument, the music therapist will often encourage the patient to create melodies, harmonies, and even lyrics that help them explain how addiction makes them feel or how they want to feel without addiction. Explaining painful emotions through music is often easier for some who find it difficult without it.
In a group session that features music creation, the music therapist can approach the setting in various ways that make the group work together to create music. This can include songwriting and performance. If the group has members that do not know how to perform, they are often encouraged to sing or play simple percussion instruments to participate in the music making process. According to research by Montello and Coons, patients that participated in group music therapy treatment sessions were better able to control emotions such as anger and frustration, and move beyond those emotions to experience a sense of creativity and self-mastery.
Music listening and reflection involves listening to music and determining the emotions that come to the patient as they listen. Many times, this type of therapy is used to help patients identify what behaviors they participate in that make them have urges to abuse substances. Identifying these behaviors and feelings will help patients avoid things that cause them to feel those urges. This type of treatment can also be adapted for use in a group setting.
How Do I Know If Music Therapy Treatment is Right for Me?
Music therapy has been proven effective in treatment for those working to overcome addiction. Even though this may be the case, this type of treatment may not be effective for everyone. If you think that music therapy might be helpful for you or someone you love, there are some things that should be considered:
- This type of therapy should be performed by a credentialed professional
- Engaging in music therapy doesn’t require ability or experience in music
- There are no age restrictions for this type of treatment
- You may be able to use music to help self-treat, but treatment is much more effective following an evaluation by a licensed professional music therapist
- Each person reacts to music differently and as such, your treatment will differ from others
- Your music therapist may recommend that you keep a journal to track your feelings throughout your treatment
- The more open you are to the different types of activities that are available through music therapy, the more avenues there are for your treatment
Addiction is a challenging health condition, and maybe it has been difficult to find just the right method of treatment. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, music therapy may be an option. For more information on music therapy and how it can help you overcome your addiction, please visit http://www.musictherapy.org.
You can also contact us and discuss all of your options for addiction treatment. We’ll help you find the best treatment options for your unique situation, and connect you with the right place to get it.