Music Therapy – So Much More Than A Catchy Tune

For many an individual, music is interwoven into the tapestry of life. For the runner on a quiet morning, they rise early, lace up their sneakers and pop in their earbuds with a pumping playlist to keep them on pace. For the weightlifter, a solid metal rock groove to drives them to push harder. For the writer, it depends on the piece – what genre matches what they need to feel. For the child, its generally whatever makes them dance.

Whether we like it or not, music is a trigger in every aspect: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. How many of us have ever heard a song and were instantly transported back to a significant night – a Polaroid moment in our memory timeline?  With the strike of a chord, you find yourself busting out moves your body hasn’t attempted in years!

Every time that song hits our brainwaves, it’s like we instantly feel every emotion connected with each note. For some, the nostalgia is romantic and sweet, while others experience laugh-out-loud emotions. {That song you heard on your first date? And remember how awkward that was!}  For another, they may turn to wipe the tears, as that song is a direct catalyst for instant pain and regret, connecting that song to a moment of attack or personal agony. Whatever the emotion – the gift of music is that it is designed to help humanity feel. Music often reaches when words fall short.

As society in general becomes more open about the effects of music, we can also acknowledge more clearly the holistically healing benefits Music Therapy can offer. According to the American Music Therapy Association, “Music Therapy is the clinical and music therapy for drug addiction treatment evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” Clinical music intervention can be designed to:

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation

What Does Music Therapy Look Like?

Credentialed music therapists have been known to do extensive work in the field of mental health, specifically in the areas of mental trauma, memory and communicative struggles. Music, when used in a clinical environment, can be used to unlock areas of memory, identify triggers and promote healing to areas of a client’s brain that were previously unattainable. Music therapists are trained to assess an individual’s physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and communication abilities through music. Sessions are then crafted from an individual or group lens, to ensure the Client receives the correct stimulation for the healing they need or the emotion they are working to reach. Music therapists also provide ongoing evaluations of client progress and are involved in multidisciplinary treatment planning.

At American Addiction Centers, we offer Music Therapy at several of our facilities – specifically Oxford Treatment Center, Recovery First and Sunrise House. Since we know that music is a powerful communicator, our music therapy program will pair our clients with a licensed therapist in order to articulate past traumas and work past them, all through the medium of music.

A Music Therapy session at an AAC facility can vary – based upon the trauma, needs, levels and even culture of the participating client. The key is finding the right combination of composition to safely awaken and unlock the trapped portions of the mind. Music Therapy allows clients to listen to recorded music, play instruments, write songs, create lyrics, and use expressive movement to release their trauma. Because Music Therapy is powerful without being invasive, it allows clients and therapists to find a shared space of safe connectivity, allowing the client to open up and share their struggles.

Music in Recovery

Music Therapy can also be a successful part of a patient’s after care plan, taking a client from anxious and reactionary to conversationally contemplative.  Once client and Therapist have been able to identify patterns, they are empowered to create a self -care plan, allowing the patient to regain their coping mechanisms.male group therapy session discussing treatment in florida

Music, in a sense, gives them a place to go to safely communicate. It can walk the patient through their anxiety and depression to a deeper place of self-understanding. It’s a path they can also use to communicate to loved ones where they are emotionally, gradually welcoming them into their safe mental space, crafted in treatment and extended in recovery. Where a client used to turn to drugs, alcohol or other substances to cope with feelings, now a client can safely use learned practices in Music Therapy to process through the feelings at their full-face value.

Everyone has a playlist that creates emotional connection for their soul. Whether those connections are positive or negative depends on the individual. By utilizing Music Therapy as a tool for recovery, clients can be empowered with a resource to function through their triggers and memory stimulus, without relying on substances to cope.

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