Music Therapy for Addiction

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Effects of Music, Music Therapy | 0 comments

by Steve Rees

Recently, I received an email from Wanda Blair, the main editor at The Grove Estate ( She made note of a recent article I published both in Masters of Health Magazine and my website:
She informed me that her team had just published a comprehensive article on “Music Therapy for Addiction: Emotional Balance, Recovery” and offered to share it with this publication. I refer you to her article here:
Her first paragraph starts out with, “Music therapy emerges as a powerful ally, providing a harmonious blend of emotional support and creative expression. It serves as a non-verbal avenue for individuals to navigate the complexities of addiction, offering a therapeutic space for emotional exploration and healing. This approach, integrating melody and rhythm, plays a pivotal role in enhancing traditional recovery methods, striking a chord in the journey towards emotional balance and recovery.” I will let you link to that article for further reading.
As she made me aware of the Grove Treatment Center and their use of music therapy successfully with their clients, I thought it might be a great idea to focus on some other sources highlighting the importance of using music therapy for treatment of addictive behaviors and substances.
A study published in PubMed: was performed to determine what percentage of treatment programs used music therapy as a viable treatment modality. They determined that approximately 15 % of all treatment programs were using some form of music therapy regularly and this is expected to grow as the effectiveness is demonstrated.
“The idea is to help patients tap into emotions and needs that may be difficult to express through more traditional forms of communication. Furthermore, music therapy also provides a way to motivate patients to receive treatment. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) states that music therapy is useful regardless of musical background, and examples of clinical music therapy include lyric analysis, relaxation training, songwriting, musical games, and improvising music based on emotions or other topics relevant to treatment. In these treatments, patients go beyond simply listening to music to engage emotions, motivations, and barriers to recovery through lyrics and melody.”
An article in American Music Therapy Association’s publication explained some of the science behind music therapy for treating addiction:
“Music Therapy is part of an integrated approach to treatment for addiction. Music therapy for substance abuse recovery is the use of music and therapeutic relationship to promote connection to self and motivation to change while learning to navigate life in sobriety. Active music-making, as well as music listening, has been shown to activate the dopaminergic pathways in a similar manner as many illicit substances. This response may reduce cravings and improve mood. Music listening also calms the parasympathetic nervous system which facilitates relaxation and decreases anxiety.”
There are some cautions, “for the use of music in addiction treatment which include the possibility of music serving as a trauma trigger or as a trigger for use and increased cravings. Therefore, it is helpful, when possible, to have a complete music history when working with individuals and to be aware of how these triggers or traumatic responses can present.”
Interestingly enough, I found a book titled, “Music Therapy and Addictions” by David Aldridge and Jorg Fachner. It is available in most book outlets. The introduction to the book states, “Recent studies show that music can reach the parts of the human brain that are linked to addiction and can function as an integral part of recovery. This research-based, practical book demonstrates how music and music therapy can be applied in a variety of treatment settings to bring about therapeutic change.”
American Addiction Centers has a website that is very informative. Music Therapy & Substance Abuse Treatment ( They indicate that music therapy is useful for many settings including:
· Enhancing the person’s emotional adjustment
· Improving physical health and mental wellbeing by relieving stress
· Developing communication skills
· Focusing on the development of particular aspects of cognitive functioning, such as attention or memory
· Trying to enhance the person’s social functioning by getting them involved with others with similar music interests.
” In substance use disorder treatment, clients may use music in a variety of ways. For example, they might use music to:
· Deal with cravings, to reduce the effects of stressful situations, and to deal with issues of remorse or regret regarding decisions the person has made in the past when they were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
· Cope with negative emotions, such as guilt, anxiety, depression, or anger.
· Develop coping strategies to deal with future situations that may arise.
· Explore inner feelings regarding motivation or self-esteem.
· Enhance current mood or to relieve boredom.”

The website goes on to list treatment centers throughout the USA that use music therapy as one of the modalities for the course of treatment.
I had a note sent to me from one of my YouTube listeners that shared with me his story. He said that he had been under addiction with drugs for years and had tried to stop but without success. Somehow, he found my music and started listening to it regularly for hours at a time. One day he noticed that he didn’t have the cravings anymore. He believed that listening to the calming harp music made all the difference for his successful return to normal life and he was profusely thankful.
As I continue to research the various ways that music plays such critical roles in our lives, I am always amazed. Something so simple, yet so powerful and useful for bringing us back to health and vitality. It’s no wonder that music has been a part of every culture since the beginning of time. Somehow, our mind, spirit, and body know that we need it as well as enjoy it and love it.
One of my friends, Angel Storm, PhD, who operates a coaching practice, recently interviewed my wife and me. She told us that she is using my music to work with people who are stuck in their thought processes when dealing with narcissistic behavior from people they are associated with. It seems that music helps them be able to rewire their reactions and approach their situations with much more clarity and objectivity.
I’m sure there are many more stories out there that would convince us that the use of music as therapy for addictive behavior is a reliable and viable modality. The wonderful thing about using music is that it really doesn’t cost much, and it is enjoyable. Even if you don’t have an addictive behavior, you still can’t go wrong listening to music! It has many known and unknown benefits.


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The Value of Music in Life Applications


This is a compilation of articles from around the internet that discuss the effects of Music in various areas of life. This is a collaborative effort of lovers of music in general and harp music in particular. See an article that you think is appropriate for the improvement in the quality of life of others? Let us know so that we can add it to our collection! Check out the full collection

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