Music Therapy Facts: Music Therapeutic Benefits For Drug Addiction

Last Updated: July 6, 2020

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Music therapy is a type of complementary and integrative treatment which is used in conjunction with other primary forms of treatment for various mental health disorders. It is also considered an effective form of treatment for addiction and substance use disorders. Read further to find out about the background of music therapy, various types of music therapy interventions, its benefits, and limitations.

Music Therapy And Addiction Treatment Connections

Music is known to play an essential role in the lives of most people. Whether it serves the purpose of relaxation, entertainment, distraction, or some other goal, it helps people in enhancing their motivation and concentration to become more productive and better individuals.
Music treatment in the form of therapy offers a fun and effective way in which patients of addiction can benefit from it in their journey towards recovery. According to this study about the use of music therapy in consultation-liaison psychiatry, it is recognized to play a pivotal role as a complementary approach along with formal techniques of battling addiction.

 therapeutic musicians in park

Music Therapy Facts

Some facts about music therapy are listed below:

  • It is recognized as a complementary therapy for treating various mental health disorders, substance abuse disorders, and addiction cases.
  • It is carried out by licensed, trained professionals who must be certified by the American Music Therapy Association.
  • The professional requirements for these therapists include at least a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from an accredited university, 1200 hours of clinical work completed after graduation, and participation in a supervised internship program.
  • It is catered for each individual in a personalized manner according to their cases and requirements.
  • It can be used in different rehabilitation settings, including inpatient programs, outpatient programs, and residential rehab facilities.

Scientific Background of Music Therapy

Certain neurotransmitters send and receive signals to and from the brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for the feelings of pleasure. It is also responsible for other feelings of emotion, cognition, and muscular movements. Drugs cause a great surge in the production of dopamine which enables addicts to feel the high and euphoria.

Types of Music Therapy

There are mainly two types of music therapy interventions which can further be classified into other types. They are described below:

Receptive Music Therapy

Receptive music therapy involves patients or clients listening to tracks carefully selected by the therapists based on their specific needs and requirements.

Active Music Therapy

Active music therapy is also known as expressive. This type involves actively engaging clients in composing or using musical instruments. Active therapy can further be classified into the following types:

  • Nordoff-Robbins – This approach is primarily used for treating mental disorders in children which include autism, emotional disturbances, learning difficulties, and developmental delays. The core concept behind this approach is the creation of melodies for each individual with the help of a music therapist to find meaning and achieve maximum benefit from it.
  • Bonny Method – This approach uses guided imagery with melodies to help patients with physiological and psychological issues by increasing their awareness level.
  • Dalcroze Eurhythmics – In this approach, clients are taught music while focusing on the rhythm, structure, and movement expression to improve their physical awareness.

patients playing on drums

How Is Music Therapy Used?

Music therapy and mental health recovery are closely related when it comes to providing therapeutic approaches to helping clients with substance abuse and mental health disorders, as well as substance abuse treatment.

It is used in several ways in different scenarios, some of which are listed below:

  • It may be used to help patients in expressing themselves in a way which might not be possible for them because of the fear of verbalizing their feelings.
  • It is also used to reduce stress levels to promote physical and emotional well-being.
  • It may be used to produce a calming effect on patients to help them adjust to the rehabilitation environment.
  • It helps to promote creativity in patients providing them with a positive outlet for venting.
  • It is also used to develop the cognitive functioning of the mind.

Music Therapy And Trauma

This approach has been found to be beneficial in treating patients of trauma and anxiety. It helps patients in developing their communication skills and expressing themselves. The therapist can connect with the client at a level where they are better able to communicate inner feelings and emotions, which encourages long-term healing.

Music Therapy Treatment For Substance Abuse

Patients with substance abuse disorder often have underlying psychological conditions which trigger and fuel their addictions. With this therapy, patients can acknowledge their negative emotions and feelings. It helps them to develop coping mechanisms and reduce their stress levels. This enables them to channelize their emotions and deal with them in a healthy way. This goes a long way in their journey towards recovery. Based on this research about the use of art and music therapy in substance abuse treatment programs, it serves as a complementary approach to other psychosocial treatments, thus improving positive outcomes.

How Is Music Therapy Used In Depression Treatment?

The benefits of music therapy for depression cannot be undermined. According to this study about the use of music therapy for depression, it was concluded that it helps in modulating moods and emotions in depressed individuals. It helps in reducing depressive symptoms and provides short-term beneficial effects in individuals suffering from various depressive disorders. It also helps patients to reduce stress and improve their emotional health and functioning.

having fun in music therapy

Benefits Of Music Therapy For Substance Abuse Treatment

There are numerous music therapy benefits in mental health treatment, some of them are listed below:

  • It offers a therapeutic approach where patients are able to reduce their stress and anxiety and focus on their treatment in a positive and accepting manner.
  • It offers emotional support to patients and their families.
  • Patients are able to connect with each other in a group setting which enables them to voice their emotions.
  • It helps in increasing one’s motivation to continue on the road to recovery.
  • It offers a fun-filled way through which patients can address issues which may increase one’s stress such as loneliness and boredom.
  • Patients are enabled to learn to enjoy life without the use of alcohol or any drugs; thus aiding in their recovery journey.
  • Listening to soothing and calming melodies may help patients in regulating their heart rate, improving breathing, and reducing inflammation.

Limitations For The Use Of Music Therapy

Although there are many benefits and positive outcomes of incorporating music therapy and addiction treatment, there are certain limitations to this approach. Some of these limitations are described below:

  • It should only be used as a complementary mode of treatment along with formal treatment modalities for substance abuse and mental health disorders.
  • It should only be administered by a licensed therapist who has a formal degree in music therapy.
  • Some kind of melodies might be associated with negative emotions, feelings, or agitation for a particular patient. In that case, the use of such therapy may not prove to be effective.
  • It might not be for everyone. This approach may trigger relapse or negatively affect the treatment process in some cases.

How Can One Start Using It?

Music therapy has been proven to be helpful in various forms of addiction treatment and mental health treatment. There are numerous music therapeutic benefits which, when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, help a patient in achieving recovery during short or long-term addiction treatment programs.

Page Sources

  1. Roia Rafieyan, Rose Ries, A Description of the Use of Music Therapy in Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, 2007,
  2. Sonja Aalbers, Laura Fusar-Poli, Ruth E Freeman, Marinus Spreen, Johannes CF Ket, Annemiek C Vink, Anna Maratos, Mike Crawford, Xi-Jing Chen, Christian Gold, Music Therapy for Depression, 2017,
  3. Lydia Aletraris, Maria Paino, Mary Bond Edmond, Paul M. Roman, Brian E. Bride, The Use of Art and Music Therapy In Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, 2014,

Published on: November 5th, 2019

Updated on: July 6th, 2020

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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