How Music Can Be Used to Help Those in Addiction Recovery

addiction recovery

Addiction recovery can be painful and lonely. It’s a physical and emotional process that involves a lot of inner struggles, guilt, and processing. Though it’s a personal journey, it also involves an effort repairing relationships. It’s a process that’s taxing and challenging. Addiction recovery is not just about ending substance abuse; it’s also about getting to the bottom of a person’s need to use and exploring their mental health and happiness.

Recovery is a long road, and each person will need different things in the process. Many recovery centers provide a variety of different treatment programs to determine the specific needs of each individual. For many in recovery, music has been paramount to their success. Music therapy is a process that uses music to help a person through their recovery process. Music has many therapeutic attributes that can aid a person in their quest to find sobriety.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is not just a process that can help those in addiction recovery. It’s also been used to help those receiving cancer treatment, senior citizens, and those who have mental disabilities. It’s even been used to help those with physical disabilities, such as Cathy Flowers, who used music therapy to learn to speak again after suffering a stroke. In tandem with medical treatment, the power of music can alleviate many health issues and ailments to help a person recover.

Music therapists must complete a very specific curriculum in order to provide sessions to patients. Those participating in music therapy might play, listen, dance, or sing to music when completing music therapy sessions. An aptitude for music is not even necessary for those undergoing therapy, which makes it a viable choice for patients with or without musical talent.

Interacting With the Brain

The reason why music therapy is such a great treatment option for many different people is that music affects the pleasure center of the brain. For those who are battling an addiction, the pleasure center of the brain has been manipulated by substance abuse. In order to feel the rush of pleasure in these neurotransmitters, addicts seek their substance over and over again. For many, music helps to fill the void left by sobriety on that pleasure center.

There is an urgent need to resolve these issues, especially when dealing with current drug problems in society. In cases such as the ongoing opioid epidemic in the U.S., nurses, counselors, and social workers should leverage every tool at their disposal to create optimal recovery plans. For some, music therapy can play a major part in recovery.

Even the most addictive substances can be helped with music therapy. For instance, methamphetamine is extremely addictive and doesn’t have any medical intervention treatment available like some other substances have. Methamphetamine use also stimulates the release of dopamine, only amplified, which can create a dopamine flood that damages receptors in the brain. This makes recovery a difficult process, though not impossible. Music therapy can help to release dopamine in a safe way, which can lead to long-term recovery.

Improving Mental Health

Mental health struggles often cause or are a result of substance abuse. Many addicts find themselves self-medicating for mental health issues. For other addicts, mental health issues result from a lifestyle of addiction. Things like depression, anxiety, and PTSD can often go hand in hand in the world of addiction. It’s not uncommon for addicts to receive a dual diagnosis when in treatment for conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or a variety of different mood disorders.

Thankfully, music therapy is also helpful to improve mental health. Music can improve mental health in terms of a person’s mood, stress levels, confidence, and focus. Different genres can even offer different types of healing. Music therapy takes the feelings we all get from listening to certain types of music and harnesses them to decrease anxiety and improve mood. Patients can feel more relaxed and optimistic while feeling less restless and tense. By integrating music therapy into a person’s recovery, they will learn how to recognize and cope with emotions, become more self-aware, and have increased self-esteem.

Providing a Creative Outlet

Music is the sound of our emotions. Certain types of music therapy hone in on writing music, playing instruments, dancing, and singing in a way that helps a patient with self-expression. Addicts often find it hard to communicate certain struggles and feelings associated with guilt, triggers, trauma, and loneliness. Music therapy provides them with a creative outlet to reach these emotions, communicate them, and then cope with them.

Even if a person isn’t knowledgeable about how to create music, a music therapist can help teach them this skill, which can become a lifelong coping mechanism.

Finding this creative outlet can be the key to long-term sobriety. For people like substance abuse counselors and social workers, a patient finding a healthy hobby to cope with their addiction is a big moment. Their job is not only to keep an addict accountable, but also to provide them with support and resources to keep them healthy and sober. For addicts who find comfort in music therapy, their counselors and social workers can work to find music therapy resources to aid them in long-term success.

Music is a powerful medium that many rely on as a part of day-to-day life, whether they are musicians or not. For this reason, it probably comes as no surprise then that music is used as a therapeutic tool for healing and growth. While the benefits of music therapy are many, it can be a particularly useful tool to help people overcome addiction.

Indiana Lee is a writer and musician from the pacific northwest who has a particular interest in covering the arts, social justice, and health. You can follow her work on Contently, or email her at

Leave a Reply