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How Does Music Therapy Help In Addiction Treatment?

Among the alternative therapies offered by addiction centers is music therapy. Music therapy is part of a holistic approach to treating addiction. It utilizes both the meditative powers of music as well as the potential for self-expression through music creation and dance.

Music Therapy

What exactly does music therapy entail? And how does music therapy help in addiction treatment?

Here is what you need to know.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy can take many different forms, often depending on the music therapist. Because music therapy is a supplemental part of holistic addiction treatment, it does not need to pursue quick results, instead allowing space for recovering addicts to explore.

In the music therapy space, a number of approaches may be taken. The music therapist may play meditative music while the participants play a passive role. They may play more upbeat music that the participants can dance to, together or alone. Alternatively, they may play music which opens the space for participants to contribute.

If they feel comfortable, a participant may sing, drum, or play an instrument of their own.

Let’s go into how this impacts a person’s therapy journey.

  • One-Mindful Listening

  • Most people listen to music in a very passive, by-the-by way. It is on while they drive or do work. Sometimes, they dance to music in a club and occasionally go to live performances and join in with songs they know. However, it is rare that someone simply sits and listens to a song.

    Listening to music while doing nothing else is called a one-mindful activity. One-mindful listening gives the individual the chance to observe how they react, physically and emotionally, to the music. Music provides a safe space in which to simply exist. While the recovering addict may still struggle to sit in silence, alone with their thoughts, music provides a sense of comfort.

    The music therapist may play meditative music for this purpose, guiding the participants in letting their thoughts come and go. However, the individual can take the skills learned with them, and spend time lying on their bed, simply listening to their favorite songs.

  • Creative Self-Expression

  • Many recovering addicts grapple with the question of who they are. They may struggle to separate themselves from the person reliant on drugs and alcohol. They may fixate on where they “went wrong” in life, unable to see the value in who they are.

    The best alternative holistic therapies give people space to discover who they are without judgment or past associations. They take the approach that existence in and of itself is beautiful, and every individual deserves love just as they are.

    Music therapy gives recovering addicts the space to drop all of their associations and react to the music. They can join in by dancing or by contributing to the music by clapping, drumming, or singing along.

    This facilitates creative self-expression that is risk-free. There is no product or result necessary at the end of it. They can just let their body take them wherever it leads.

The Role of Music Therapy in Addiction Treatment

There is evidence that music therapy is an effective method of achieving therapeutic goals. It involves music use, such as listening, creating, or singing, in a structured and intentional manner. In addiction treatment, music therapy serves as a complementary approach to traditional therapies, offering unique benefits that enhance the recovery process.

Music therapy has been recognized as a valuable tool in addiction recovery. It offers a unique approach to healing by incorporating music into the treatment process. Here are some ways music therapy can benefit addiction recovery:

  • Emotional expression: Music can evoke deep emotions and provide a safe outlet for expressing feelings that may be difficult to put into words. It allows individuals to explore and process their emotions related to addiction, facilitating emotional healing and self-awareness.
  • Stress and anxiety reduction: Addiction recovery can be a challenging and stressful journey. Music reduces stress and promotes relaxation. Listening to calming music or participating in activities like drumming or singing can help individuals manage stress and anxiety, leading to improved overall well-being.
  • Self-reflection and self-discovery: Engaging with music can encourage introspection and self-reflection, enabling individuals to gain insights into themselves and their addictions. Songwriting or creating music can be particularly powerful methods of self-expression and self-discovery.
  • Enhancing motivation and focus: Music can motivate and uplift individuals. Listening to inspirational or empowering music can increase motivation during recovery. Additionally, music therapy can improve focus and concentration, helping individuals stay engaged in their treatment and recovery goals.
  • Building coping skills: Music therapy provides opportunities for individuals to learn healthy coping mechanisms. It can teach relaxation techniques, promote self-soothing strategies, and provide a healthy outlet for emotional release, reducing relapse risk.
  • Social support and connection: Group music therapy sessions can foster a sense of belonging and connection among recovery patients. Collaborating on musical activities, sharing personal experiences through songs, and engaging in music-based discussions can create a supportive and inclusive environment.

Integrating Music Therapy into Comprehensive Treatment Plans

Music therapy works best when integrated into comprehensive addiction treatment plans. It should complement other evidence-based therapies, such as counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and support groups. A multidisciplinary approach ensures all aspects of addiction are addressed, maximizing treatment effectiveness and promoting long-term recovery.

The Future of Music Therapy in Addiction Treatment

As research continues to explore music’s therapeutic potential, the future of music therapy in addiction treatment looks promising. With advancements in technology and a better understanding of music’s neurobiological effects, new interventions and approaches may emerge. Integrating music therapy into standard addiction treatment protocols could become more widespread, enhancing recovery outcomes.

The enjoyment in this kind of therapy is beneficial to recovering addicts, who have learned to associate pleasure with substances. Instead of an experience fraught with associations and memories, music provides pure, unencumbered pleasure.

Music therapy can be very beneficial as a supplemental treatment in addiction recovery. It is a rewarding component of a holistic approach to substance abuse treatment.


Music therapy is a powerful tool in addiction treatment, offering unique benefits that address the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of recovery. By utilizing music intentionally, individuals can enhance self-expression, manage stress, develop mindfulness, and build supportive connections. Music therapy becomes an effective and holistic approach to addiction recovery when integrated into comprehensive treatment plans.

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