Music Therapy for Substance Addiction Treatment
Music has the capacity to reach an individual on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. With the guidance of a Board Certified Music Therapist, music can be used as a tool to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, provide an outlet for emotions patients may be experiencing for the first time in a long time, support the development of self-regulation skills, and explore spirituality – and that’s why it’s such a critical part of addiction treatment. It helps reach patients from a different perspective and is motivating to begin the healing process necessary for the journey of recovery.
Most RCA locations have music therapy and use it as a way to emotionally support our patients and get them on the road to recovery.
For me, music therapy is a way to connect with our souls. It’s deep, it’s personal, but at the same time, it’s a unifying feature amongst all individuals. Music therapy, and music in itself, often expresses what can’t be said. We don’t always have the words to capture how we’re feeling, but music does. It allows patients to express various thoughts and emotions and reflect – and at the same time building connections with their peers.”
– Amanda says
Music therapy elicits emotion and helps bring the unconscious into the conscious so our patients can address underlying issues contributing to their addiction. The music provides a safe channel for the emotions to surface, so patients can have a better understanding of what they’re feeling and why.
A patient might come in and say they are feeling calm and content, but when they begin to play the drum during check-in, they strike the drum with intense force and at a rapid pace. This provides an opportunity for the group to reflect back to the patient their perception of the sound and, in this case, it’s incongruence; therefore, it allows the patient to reflect, looking inside themselves to figure out what is going on. The active music making provided the catalyst and space for the patient to express and notice what is happening within them with healthy feedback from peers.”
– Amanda says
Group and individual music sessions also connect music with mindfulness. For example, drumming, improvisation, songwriting, lyric analysis with applications to the 12 steps, and exploring how music can support the relaxation process are some of the techniques facilitated. The beautiful thing about music therapy is that patients don’t need to have any skills in music – simply a willingness to try something new.
Song lyrics are a great way to gain a different perspective and explore potential triggers for patients while they are in a safe environment. One experience patients engage in is developing their “Life Album.” I ask them to pick a song they can relate to their childhood, teenage years, when they first started using drugs or drinking, at the highest point of their addiction, and then when they decided to enter treatment. It helps patients look at patterns in their life, explore memories, and take note of how the music affects them. I take all these songs (if appropriate for the patient) and we create their ‘Life Album.’ It’s something patients can take with them when they leave our facility. It reminds them how far they’ve come and can be a supportive transitional tool back into the community.”
– Amanda says
Group music therapy sessions are twice a week for an hour, while individual sessions are several times throughout the week. Individual sessions can focus on music instruction, exploring music to help alleviate anxiety or depression symptoms, develop specific self-regulation skills, and support the work they are doing in the 12 steps and with their primary therapists.
Music is unique in that it is a ‘whole brain’ process. When we actively make music or process music, it’s like fireworks going off in our brains. Music helps the brain to continue the healing process. I’m trying to help patients find a place where they can not only explore pain and hurt, but also build their confidence and self-esteem and provide a space they can have fun doing so. They are trying something new, something unfamiliar and it’s uncomfortable, but by being willing to wit within the uncomfortableness, they can find growth and recognize they are able to not turn to a substance to help them through it. It’s a blessing to be a small part of their journey to recovery.”
– Bracebridge Hall’s Music Therapist Amanda McEntegart, MT-BC