While in rehab, I was given the opportunity to try music therapy to help with my addiction. But I had a few misgivings.
Since I was young, music has been my creative outlet. I always loved singing, and I learned to play both guitar and drums. Even when my skills were unrefined, I was writing songs and I never lost the thrill of finding a cool riff or getting some wordplay just right.
However, my songs tended to be pretty dark. Throughout my years of drug use, my music either reflected my despair or played off it. I sometimes even used it to glorify my depression and substance use.
What I’d learned from making music was that expressing something didn’t magically make it better. On the contrary, playing some of my favorite songs often made me feel sadder or more hopeless. Which is why music therapy seemed like it would be misguided at best.
Nonetheless, I still loved music and decided to give it a try.
Using Creativity To Heal
Music therapy was not what I expected. I didn’t just pick up a guitar and play some sorrowful tunes. Rather, I was guided by a therapist in using my music to help understand what exactly it was that I was feeling. Instead of letting the feeling get subsumed by the creative expression, I connected with it. What I had lumped together as “sorrow” turned out to be a mix of sadness, anxiety, guilt, shame, and more.
In the same way that I could use music to express those feelings and wallow in them, I learned to use music to bring about transformation. I didn’t stop playing through the difficult feelings, ubt I started allowing myself to include a sense of resolution. I widened my repertoire to include a much more diverse array of emotions.
Creatives like me often get caught up in the poignancy that emerges from the difficult feelings. However, learning that happiness is as poignant gave me the ability to connect to myself in a more honest, mature way.
I think a lot of artists go through this. I know Sam Smith has recently embraced the more self-affirming aspects of his creativity, introducing a new energy to his music that complements the sadness he has managed to portray so beautifully.
Music therapy was effective for me because there was finally someone to help me work through the emotions I was expressing in my songs. I learned to use creativity to heal rather than to simply indulge in my own gloom.
Music Therapy In Rehab
Music therapy is a very useful addition to therapy. It is one more way of holistically progressing along one’s own emotional journey. It refocuses the importance on the process of music, rather than just the end product. It is a truly affirming way of using creativity.