There are two treatment types for mental health disorders, which include substance use disorder. The first type is considered a primary form of treatment and includes therapies that have long been proven to treat mental health disorders. An example of this type is cognitive behavioral therapy. The second treatment type is considered to be experiential. These treatments are sometimes called integrative or complementary. One such treatment is music therapy.

Music therapy is often used as an integrative therapy for addiction and mental health disorders. The main reason is that music is considered a universal experience. Many people use music to relax, motivate, entertain and distract. Music has the unique ability to change and regulate moods. It’s no wonder that music therapy is a common form of addiction treatment.

Music Therapy For Addiction

You might wonder why music therapy is an effective outlet for those struggling with mental health problems or addiction. Think about how music changes your mood and modifies your emotional state when you listen to it. Music might help you relax and unwind after a stressful day. Music can also provide a burst of energy or motivation when you’re trying to exercise. When applied by someone trained in music therapy, music has healing powers as a complementary intervention. As an outlet, it can enhance the positive effects of other interventions. Music therapy is a well-recognized treatment program for those in rehab for addiction or mental health issues. Music therapy isn’t simply listening to music. It has fully defined techniques and goals that are utilized by professionals trained in music therapy.

Therapeutic vs. Formal Therapy

Music is often used in areas like physical and occupational therapy during the treatment process. It might also be used in the treatment of those with addiction and mental health issues. In these cases, music is considered to be therapeutic in assisting another treatment. Similarly, if a person in treatment or not in treatment uses music in a way that benefits them mentally or emotionally, it is not considered formal music therapy but simply therapeutic. Music therapy can only be formally considered as such if it is guided and conducted by a trained professional in music therapy. It’s important to remember that all personal experiences have the potential to be therapeutic, and this includes music. However, formal therapy of any kind is structured with specific goals and techniques. It is also conducted by a licensed therapist.

General Music Therapy Benefits

Plenty of empirical evidence exists to show how music therapy can benefit a wide range of different conditions. Some of these conditions are very difficult to deal with and present significant challenges to treatment providers. These conditions include the following:

People with these conditions are typically quite responsive to music therapy treatment. Sometimes they respond to music therapy when other integrative treatments haven’t worked. For example, people with ASD benefit from music therapy through enhanced communication and the development of social skills. For people with dementia, music therapy can decrease agitation and slow some aspects of cognitive decline.

For depression and anxiety, music therapy treatment helps patients relax and develop a more positive outlook. It often also increases responsiveness to other primary forms of treatment. For addiction treatment, music therapy works in a similar way. It often helps the effectiveness of primary treatment. It can be helpful during recovery to enhance positive thought patterns and elevate mood.

How Does Music Therapy Help Those With Substance Use Disorder?

Music therapy for addiction can be applied in nearly any treatment context. It can be used for inpatient treatment, outpatient, in groups, or during aftercare treatment in recovery. The flexibility and effectiveness of music therapy for addiction is part of why it’s commonly used in both the initial treatment process for substance use disorder as well as during recovery. It has the following benefits for those with a substance use disorder:

People in recovery don’t necessarily have to take formal music therapy in order to benefit. Music can be used outside of treatment as a form of entertainment, relaxation or distraction. The benefit can come from both playing an instrument and simply listening to music played by others.

In formal application, music therapy is a complementary treatment program. The therapist conducting the treatment will be in close communication with the primary treatment team for an individual.

Treatment goals might vary depending on individual cases, but some examples of goals include the following:

Music therapy does not require any knowledge or formal education on music. Patients only need to respond to music and enjoy music. This allows music therapy to be applied in a number of different ways.

Patients in addiction treatment and recovery might use music in the following ways:

Benefits of Music Therapy For Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery

Music therapy is often particularly helpful for those in recovery from addiction. In the early stages of recovery, people often feel overwhelmed with the journey ahead of them. Music therapy can help those people cope with overwhelming stress and emotional extremes.

Music therapy can also help people cope with triggers like boredom, stress, self-doubt, anxiety and loneliness. These triggers can cause relapse if not properly dealt with. Sometimes people in recovery feel like there’s a large hole in their life without substance abuse. They may feel like they will never enjoy anything again. Music therapy can be very helpful in correcting this.

Using music as therapy can also challenge negative emotions in a positive way. Issues like depression and anxiety can cloud your thinking and give rise to self-doubt. Music can help you think more clearly and make better decisions as a result.

Music therapy works well with other types of motivating interventions. These integrative therapies can encourage positive change in your life. It might help you gain interest in exercising, socializing and volunteering in your community.

Other Considerations

The only potential downside in using music as a therapy for those struggling with addiction is if music played a large role in their substance abuse. For example, some people engage in drinking or drug use at clubs where a certain type of music is played. In these cases, music could possibly trigger relapse as well as negative emotional states.

Integrative Therapies at New Method Wellness

At New Method Wellness, we offer a number of holistic and integrative therapies along with primary treatment strategies. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, we often treat patients with co-occurring disorders that require individualized treatment plans. A comprehensive treatment plan should include a complimentary program as well as primary programs.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health issue or substance abuse, get in touch with New Method Wellness today and find out how music therapy for addiction can help.

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