How Music Therapy Can Help You Overcome a Drug Addiction

How do you conquer an addiction?

For many people, drugs, alcohol and other forms of addictions have become part of their lives.

And they have no idea how to stop it.

Music therapy is an emerging alternative to help addicts see a new life for themselves outside of their destructive behaviors.

But what is it and how can it help you?

Music Therapy = A Guide

According to the American Musical Therapy Association, music therapy is used in a therapeutic setting to advance cognitive, emotional and social needs of each individual patient.

After ruminating over the needs of the patient, the music therapist will assign treatment along with a form of creating, singing, dancing to or listening to music.

So how do you know if this kind of therapy is effective?

Michael Winkelman a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, published a study about it in 2011, specifically about drum therapy.

He discovered drumming, "enhances recovery through inducing relaxation and enhancing theta-wave production and brain-wave synchronization".

In more detail, Michael Winkelman found out:

-Drumming activates the brain's frontal lobes, the part of the brain managing decision making and impulse control. Meaning, drumming may help addicts stay off drugs when they're on the verge resuming their addictive behaviors.

- Drum circles, along with therapeutic methods, counseling and community programs help addicts express their desires in productive ways, enabling them to learn new forms of dealing with stressful circumstances.

-Drumming stimulates the brain to produce more theta waves and is more in harmony.

-Drumming is great activity helping recovering addicts to avoid complacency and boredom, which can often lead to relapse.

-Drumming helps keep you present and creates an opportunity to make friends and support each other.

-Levels of concentration, peace and health increase over time if drum on a regular basis

Outside of drumming therapy, Anci Sandell a music therapist who'd been practicing her craft for over 35 years, spend her entire career confirming the effectiveness of the treatment in 2013.

Anci Sandell discovered the positive attributes through hospital patients suffering from psychiatric dysfunction, cancer, and dialysis.

She also focused on the results on small children with cancer and severe psychological issues.

Anci Sandell found that when using both recorded and spontaneous music sessions along with art therapy such as drawing pictures helped patients relax and cope more effectively.

"It is not surprising that music therapy has proved to have such positive effects. Music can lower the pulse, the blood pressure, and the levels of stress hormones, as well as improve breathing", Anci Sandell explains. "Music has been used as a healing power since antiquity, but it is an underused treatment method in modern care. I hope that my research findings will contribute to music therapy having a more significant role in the future."

How Does Music Therapy Affect The Brain?

There are four types of brain waves that help people manage everyday life.

Alpha waves help people manage stress and anxiety.

Beta waves cultivate proper mental functioning, emotional stability, mental capacity, alertness, and concentration.

Gamma waves aid in learning and perception

Theta waves promote the improvement of the mind, body through relaxation

And lastly, Delta waves cultivate healing through the means of rest and sleep.

An addict will have the majority if not all the brain waves I've mentioned out of sync.

Listening to music helps restore the synchronization.

For example, a woman addicted to anti-depressants practicing will eventually restore her control over the alpha and beta waves aka anxiety and emotional stability.

Same goes for the other 3 brainwave types as well.

So let's say you think music therapy seems really helpful and you might be interested in exploring it.

But where do you go to get proper treatment?

And what does that kind of treatment look like day to day?

What its like to Be in a Program

At Rally Point, a boutique, Florida style addiction recovery program specifically for men, clients learn to stay sober and cope with life through a variety of therapeutic treatments.

While there are other therapies going on at Rally Point, their weekly schedule requires a 2-hour art and music therapy session.

Before the session begins, the therapists interact with the staff and read shift reports on any current issues their patients are dealing with.

They begin with 5-10 mins. of pleasant conversation to get everyone relaxed and prepared to do the day's activity.

Each activity differs depending on the issues of the group.

They work together and sometimes apart, but always share their experiences and insights they've gained together.

For example, the therapists have the patient's practice is writing a song about when hard things to help them cultivate emotional health.

After writing the song, the group shares their lyrics and what they mean to them.

Conducting the songwriting exercise within the group of the other men also creates a sense of community and connection amongst the other members.

Other activities are of course drumming, more philosophical activities such as sharing favorite songs and what they mean to them.

The relationships between each of the patients and how they deal in the most healthy way possible with anger and fear are indicative of early recovery.

Finding things that are consistent and are always there such as music is an essential grounding for each patient to help navigate the roller coaster ride of life.

That's not to say the meaning and appreciation of the music won't change.

But the constant nature of the music is the main point of the therapy and grounding the patients in a reliable form of expression.

How To Get Started!

While there are many different ways to improve your mental health, music adds a captivating quality that sometimes helps patients arrive at places traditional therapies can't always achieve.

It's hard talking and dwelling on painful experiences. The freedom to express the pain and struggle of our lives through song can be liberating.

For more information on overcoming addiction and to find the treatment that's right for you and your budget, check out our website.



Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on April 16th, 2018.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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