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How Music Therapy & Substance Abuse Recovery Work

by | Published on Jul 17, 2014 | Rehab Programs


It’s no surprise that music can be a powerful medium. Many of us tune to our favorite songs for entertainment, soothing, relaxing, and more. Music therapy and addiction have a very intimate relationship that tremendously helps those in recovery. 

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy uses music as a tool to facilitate physical, emotional, social, and cognitive change. Patients create, sing, dance, and listen to music in this form of therapy.

Studies have shown that music therapy can be an effective treatment to improve people’s motivation and engagement. It also gives them emotional support and an alternative, healthy outlet to express feelings. Music therapy offers a wide range of evidence-based benefits that can’t be denied.

How Music Therapy & Substance Abuse Recovery Work

Addiction treatment should be a holistic and comprehensive approach that addresses the biological, psychological, and social factors that play a role in the disorder. Integrating a music therapy program to addiction recovery can help with:

  • Ability to recognize and accept different emotions: The creative nature of music can help recovering addicts breakthrough their thinking patterns and explore their feelings differently. Music can help people explore emotions in a safe environment. Once someone can explore their feelings, they can start to discuss and accept their sympathies with others. 
  • Promote self-awareness: Music is an excellent tool for self-expression, which is critical for long-term recovery. The simple act of listening to a specific song can help patients channel their emotions instead of escaping with substances. Self-awareness helps patients understand how substance use disorder affects their lives and helps them value their recovery choices. 
  • Increases self-esteem: Many recovering addicts struggle with low self-esteem, which places them at risk of relapsing. Music therapy gives patients an outlet to be creative and feels good about themselves. It also improves feelings of connectedness with others, which promotes support and companionship.
  • Promotes stress reduction and relaxation: Stress is a recovering addict’s worst enemy. Listening to music can help people calm their nerves. Singing, writing, or learning to play an instrument can all help reduce stress and promote relaxation. It’s important to note that relaxing music doesn’t have to be spa-like songs. Whatever enables you to feel at ease includes jazz, rock, pop, or country music. 

Benefits of Music Therapy

It isn’t just listening to music that benefits addicts. Creating music is an artistic and emotional outlet. Making music itself can be considered a type of music therapy.

The boredom, which often accompanies early-sobriety and intense emotional ups and downs, can be defeated by actively participating in a musical hobby. The benefits of music go on and on and on. It’s a spiritual outlet; it helps regulate emotions, alleviate loneliness, and provide a creative outlet for self-expression.

Overall, music therapy can be a fantastic solution for people struggling with substance abuse and mental health illnesses.

How to Incorporate Music in Addiction Recovery

While music therapy requires a trained music therapist, recovering addicts can use music in their recovery journey. There are countless songs about addiction that help people stay committed and motivated in their recovery. 

However, not all music will be helpful. Remember that music affects how we feel and sometimes even how we react to certain situations. Because music can stir up feelings, songs that remind you of drinking or using drugs, or trigger painful emotions aren’t the best choice. If you’re in early recovery, avoid as much as possible tuning into these types of songs. 

There are many ways to incorporate music in your life to supplement your recovery efforts:

  • Try drumming: Some studies believe drumming can help recovering addicts. Drumming provides feelings of pleasure and works as a stress-reduction mechanism. Consider joining a drum circle to feel connected to others and motivated. 
  • Create your recovery playlist: Curating a playlist is easier than ever. Create a playlist for different occasions. For example, relaxation songs for when you’re stressed or motivational tunes to exercise, and so on, make as many as you need.
  • Practice mindful meditation: Meditation can be extremely beneficial for those in recovery, but it takes time to adapt. Listening to music you enjoy that helps you disconnect from what’s happening around you can be helpful. Start listening to whatever songs or music styles help you “tune-out” and work yourself up to traditional meditation practice. 
  • Write a song: You don’t need to share it with others, but keeping a journal is an excellent recovery instrument. Try using a journal to write your poems, songs, or thoughts for the day. 

Finding Help

Music therapy can help you work through your addiction and maintain long-term sobriety. Try to incorporate music through your recovery journey to stay motivated and engaged. Ask your therapist about music therapy and substance abuse recovery programs to see if there’s something you can do.

There’s no doubt that music can be a powerful tool for healing in addiction recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, speak to someone today. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our therapists recommend personalized and comprehensive treatment programs designed to address your unique needs. Whether that means attending music therapy sessions or not, our therapists will always guide you and support you in every step of your recovery. 

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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