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Music Therapy for Drug Addiction

Music has become a popular complementary and alternative therapy (CAM) in substance use treatment.1 A growing number of facilities are using this form of art therapy for addiction, allowing staff to better address the unique issues of each patient.1

Approximately 14.7% of treatment programs offer music therapy for drug addiction.1 Two populations that seem to use this type of treatment therapy with success are women and adolescents.1


What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy has been defined by the American Music Therapy Association as the “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”2

The main goals of music therapy for addiction recovery include:1,3

  • Guide the patient to express difficult feelings through music.
  • Assist patients with tapping into their inner emotions.
  • Motivate patients to continue with treatment.
  • Help patients break through barriers to recovery using music.
  • Help patients nonverbally explore traumatic situations from the past, which could be the root of addiction.

A person who has completed an approved music therapy program and received their credentials will typically lead music therapy sessions.2

The act of using music as an aid to help people in distress dates back to Ancient Greece and the philosopher Plato, who once said, “Music gives wings to the mind.”4 Plato claimed that when music was played in different ways, it would arouse different emotions.4 In ancient times, they related the 7 basic notes with the different moods people experience.4 These emotional moods were love, laughter, compassion, heroism, wrath, fear, disgust, and wonder.4

Music therapy as we know it now got its start in the 1970s.1 It has been used as a tool to help individuals who need healing.1


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Types of Music Therapy

Music therapy for substance use takes several different forms. There isn’t just 1 way to conduct music therapy sessions. Everyone has different needs, styles, and personalities. Music therapy can be carried out through:1

  • Songwriting.
  • Improvising music.
  • Singing.
  • Lyric analysis.
  • Relaxation training.
  • Musical games.

In some instances, the form of therapy may be used to tap into the person’s emotions and reduce anxiety or push past barriers to recovery.1 In other instances, such as in improvising music, the patient is expressing inner emotions.1 For example, during a music therapy session, the patients begin with a topic or theme and then produce lyrics.5 Many times, the themes revolved around addiction or trauma, thus helping the person explore their inner emotions.5


Benefits of Music Therapy for Addiction Recovery

Music therapy has numerous benefits, including:1

  • Creating a more positive mood.
  • Reducing anxiety.
  • Helping with depression.
  • Encouraging to begin or continue treatment.
  • Reducing anger.
  • Decreasing stress.

Does Music Therapy for Addiction Work?

Studies on the efficacy of music therapy for substance misuse show that:2

  • 80% of the results on how music therapy affected patient motivation were high efficacy.
  • 27% resulted in high efficacy on patients with depression.
  • 40% resulted in a high level of efficacy in helpfulness.
  • 67% showed overall positive effects from music therapy.

Studies examining anxiety, anger, sadness, stress, and medical symptoms showed low-level evidence of efficacy.2 Additionally, issues such as withdrawal, craving, and coping skills did not show any benefit.2 These are the only limitations gathered from the studies.2


Finding Music Therapy in Drug Rehab

Some substance use rehab facilities do offer music therapy. It serves as a complementary therapy to regular rehab treatment. You can contact the rehab facility directly and confirm the availability of music therapy as part of the addiction program. At the same time, you can also have the admissions navigator verify your insurance benefits to see if the treatment center is in-network. Reach out to them today for more details.


Music Therapy FAQs

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