Grab a guitar or write a song — music therapy is proven to help you get and stay sober in addiction recovery.
Music is a powerful medium that many of us rely on as a part of our day-to-day experiences. It is no surprise then that music therapy has taken the power of music and applied it in specific ways to facilitate healing and growth. While the benefits of music therapy are wide ranging, it can be a particularly useful tool to help people overcome addictions.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the use of music as a tool within a therapeutic relationship to help facilitate physical, emotional, cognitive, and social change and growth. Qualified music therapists design interventions that are based on an individual’s needs, which may include creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.
Research supports music therapy as an effective method to help increase people’s motivation and engagement in treatment, provide emotional support, and provide an alternative outlet for expressing feelings. These benefits, along with many others, are what makes music therapy an effective tool to help people recover from addictions.
How can Music Therapy aid Addiction Recovery?
For addiction treatment to be most effective it should be holistic, which means it should address the biological, psychological, and social factors that have contributed to the disorder. Music therapy can provide an adjunct to other therapies traditionally used to treat addiction. By integrating music into therapy clients can experience a wide range of benefits that support their overall recovery, including the following:
Improves ability to recognize and accept different emotions.
When actively addicted to drugs, alcohol, or processes, people build up defense mechanisms such as rationalizing, minimizing, denying, and lying in order to continue their behavior and hide from their emotions. The creative nature of music therapy contrasts these fixed ways of thinking and can help addicts break through their rigid thinking patterns.
Music also has a powerful impact on our emotional states and can provide indirect access to different emotions. Music therapy, especially listening to and discussing music and its lyrics, can help people safely explore emotions and identify a wider range of emotional states. Accessing emotions indirectly through music can provide a more comfortable starting point for discussing and accepting a variety of different feelings.
Promotes self-expression and self-awareness.
Self-expression often precedes self-awareness and both are necessary for entering long-term recovery. Making music, song writing, or choosing to listen to different songs can help clients express the emotions they are beginning to feel once they get sober, instead of trying to escape from these feelings through the use of drugs and alcohol.
Having a means of self-expression in turn helps develop self-awareness. This can lead clients to a better understanding about how the disease of addiction impacted their lives, and the choices they have in taking responsibility for their own recovery.
Low self-esteem is something many addicts struggle with long after they embrace sobriety. Finding ways to increase feelings of self-worth will significantly enhance a person’s recovery and help prevent relapse. There are many ways music therapy can accomplish this. One is by giving people an outlet to creating something they feel good about. Music can also contribute to feelings of contentedness with others, which lets us know we are not so different and alone.
Facilitates relaxation and stress reduction.
Stress can be a recovering addict’s worst enemy. Lack of stress management and coping skills is one reason people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place, and why many people relapse. When people listen to music, it can help calm their nerves and de-stress, but the trick is finding music that is relaxing for you. Singing, writing, or learning to play music can also become a healthy hobby that you can use to keep your life balanced, as well as a creative outlet to turn to in times of stress.
Making music with the help of a music therapist while in an alcohol and drug rehab can provide the therapeutic benefits described above. There are also many practical ways that recovering addicts can get involved with music to enhance their recovery.
Ways You can use Music to Enhance Your Recovery
While music therapy is a specific type of treatment that is facilitated by trained music therapists, many people use music as a way to bring joy and healing into their life even without professional assistance. Many famous musicians such as Macklemore have used their music as a way to keep themselves motivated in their sobriety and express their thoughts and feelings surrounding addiction.
It is important to note that not all music will be helpful for your recovery. Because music can stir up powerful feelings, songs that remind you of drinking or using drugs can be triggering and should be avoided, especially in early recovery. With that being said, here are a few ways you can incorporate music into your life to help you stay sober in the long term:
Drumming is one way to make music that has been shown to provide many benefits to recovering addicts, including stress reduction and providing feelings of pleasure. Joining a drum circle can help you feel connected to others and give you a positive way to spend free time.
Create your own motivational playlists.
Creating playlists is fun and now easier than ever. Create playlists of songs you enjoy around certain themes, such as songs for relaxation and songs to motivate you to exercise.
Meditate with music.
Meditation has been shown to help people in recovery, but it can be difficult to do at first. Listening to certain music can help you calm the mind and act as a buffer for meditation practice when first starting out.
Write a song. (Even if you do not share it with anyone.)
Keeping a journal is another recovery practice that many people find helpful to get out their thoughts and feelings. Try using your journal as a place to experiment with writing your own poems or songs.
Many people have used music and music therapy to help them work through their addictions and achieve long-term recovery. Whether with the help of a music therapist or through using music on your own, there is no doubt that music is a powerful tool for growth and healing in addiction recovery.