The Healing Effect of Music Therapy

As therapies and methods of treatment have evolved in the medical community over the past few decades alone, treatment methods that may at one point have seemed a bit unorthodox have become increasingly popular and effective. Aside from homeopathic and spiritual or cultural practices that are still considered to be taboo, one type of therapy that has proven to be effective in medical treatment is music therapy. 

There has been a lot of scientific research linking music to a number of different benefits for individuals. For example, classical music has been shown to improve the development of the brain as well as the ability to retain and recall information more successfully. Music has also been shown to improve a person’s overall mood, helping to treat illnesses such as anxiety or depression. 

To learn and understand the healing effects of music therapy in treating addiction, it’s important to first understand the effect of music therapy as a whole. 

Positive Effects of Music Therapy on Children

Much research has been conducted on the effectiveness of music therapy in pediatric healthcare. Music-based treatment and interventions have been frequently implemented as a way to clinically treat children and adolescents throughout the world. The journal Medicines has researched music therapy in pediatric health. While we need more research, many of the findings have seen a positive response to music therapy, music medicine, and music-based interventions in treating both autism spectrum disorder and neonatal care. 

The great thing about music therapy is that it’s safe. Treatments that require medication can often cause adverse effects on the body. Especially for children, fewer physical symptoms from side effects can make it easier on the child. 

Additionally, it can be difficult sometimes for therapists or counselors to get children to open up. According to the research, music therapy offers an alternative route to treatment that has been a “well-accepted intervention in pediatric health care to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.” 

Music and Your Mood

Frontiers in Psychology has published research on the psychological functions of listening to music. Some of that research has suggested that there are three “distinct underlying dimensions” of why people listen to music: 

#1. Regulating arousal and mood

#2. Achieving self-awareness

#3. Expressing social-relatedness 

The music we listen to can often be an extension of who we are, and as a result, a deeply personal aspect of our lives. Music has been linked to an increased amount of help to those struggling with depression. This link is due in part to the self-awareness dimension that the research describes as a “clear awareness of one’s own feelings, emotions, and behaviors,” which functions to help us identify what’s bothering us and how we can fix it. 

The Frontier’s article on using music to regulate mood references a study that showcased when people listened to sad or nostalgic music, their feelings of depression increased. Listening to upbeat and positive music can often have a reverse effect, while our choice of music can also directly correlate to our feelings at the time. 

Treating Addiction with the Arts 

Using music therapy to treat addiction and substance use disorders (SUD) is fairly new, only going as far back as the 1970s. The Journal of Addictions Nursing tells us that, similarly to art therapy, the goal of music therapy is to “help patients tap into emotions and needs that may be difficult to express through more traditional forms of communication.” 

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy can be effective regardless of a person’s musical background. Some of the examples of clinical music therapy include: 

  • Lyric analysis
  • Relaxation training 
  • Songwriting
  • Musical games
  • Improvising music based on emotions/topics relevant to the treatment 

Songwriting and lyric analyses have been shown to have “positive emotions change in patients.” Drumming has been shown to help patients relax and deal with recent relapses. Activities such as dancing to music have been shown to reduce overall feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress among patients being treated for addiction or SUD. 

Though more research is needed on the subject of music and art therapy, in combination with more traditional forms of treatment, they have shown to be very effective. There are, of course, always factors that affect those benefits. 

For years, music therapy remained relatively uncommon in the United States, resulting in its usefulness being continually investigated. However, patients have been open and receptive to the idea of trying music therapy, and in terms of treatment, the absolute worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work. 

To experience the healing benefits of music therapy, you do not have to be a musician, artist, or even be able to hold a beat. The music we listen to can be an incredibly personal and intimate aspect of who we are. It’s no surprise that music can have the ability to regulate our mood and feelings of overall well-being. Music allows us to communicate the complexities of our feelings and emotions in a way that words can not always do. You may have never considered music therapy, but if your way of distressing is listening to your favorite songs on a car ride, then you’ve already been exposed to its benefits. If you are struggling with addiction, SUD, or other co-occurring mental illnesses, we encourage you to reach out for help today. Call the Lakehouse Recovery Center at (877) 762-3707. Let us help you on your path to recovery today.