Music therapy can be an effective experiential treatment method for your patients in recovery from addiction and mental health issues, including patients at drug and alcohol inpatient treatment centers. Nearly everyone enjoys music and can benefit from the healing power of music therapy. You can introduce your patient to music therapy regardless of their skill level at playing an instrument or singing. Depending on your patient’s abilities, music therapy can involve playing an instrument or simply listening to music to discuss emotions.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a form of experiential therapy that helps patients struggling to discuss their emotions in words. Not everyone responds to talk therapy, especially when they cannot find the right words to express their innermost feelings. Some feelings are complex to bring up during individual counseling or group therapy. Music can help your patients express themselves creatively while developing self-esteem and discovering diversionary coping mechanisms.

You can use music in many ways to help your patients. If your patient is not interested in learning or playing an instrument, you can ask them to select songs that reflect their feelings. These song selections could give you insight into their emotional state, especially if they struggle to express themselves. 

Drum circles, singing, and playing instruments can also be a part of music therapy. For patients with self-esteem issues, learning to play a musical instrument or sing can help them develop confidence and find value within themselves. Drum circles can be an effective way of helping patients in recovery bond by creating music together with simple percussion instruments that anyone can play.

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Connecting to Culture With Music Therapy

Music therapy can help patients connect with their culture, which allows them to feel a sense of belonging. Mental health and addiction can be alienating. Your patients might feel alone in their struggles or isolate themselves when they feel like their issues only hurt those around them. Finding new ways to connect with others can help your patients find fulfilling and meaningful coping mechanisms throughout recovery.

Many cultures use music to bring people together and define a collective identity. Music and dance are defining aspects of life in the Hawaiian Islands. Culturally-competent experiential therapy can teach your patients about the connections and unique identity among the Hawaiian people and other cultures to help them relate to other people during their recovery journey.

Most individuals can define aspects of themselves based on the type of music they enjoy. Popular music can be a part of a person’s identity as part of a specific culture, generation, peer group, or ethnicity. By understanding what types of music your patient enjoys, you can learn a lot about who they are as a person and begin building rapport with them.

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Techniques for Music Therapy

Music therapists use a variety of methods to engage their patients during sessions, such as:

  • Active listening and discussion: Patients can select music to listen to during sessions to discuss song lyrics and emotions. You can even use music as a way to build rapport by inviting your patient to discuss what they enjoy about particular songs.
  • Songwriting: You can ask your patients to write song lyrics to describe what they are going through. Lyrics can help them express themselves in healthy ways and could provide a topic of discussion during sessions.
  • Learning to play or sing: Patients can learn a new skill that can help them build self-esteem and confidence. Singing and playing musical instruments can help patients who don’t have outlets for relieving stress.
  • Diversionary activities: Part of recovery is learning to stop obsessive thinking to manage cravings and urges for drugs and alcohol. Music can be a diversionary activity to redirect your patient’s thoughts when they struggle with cravings. They can listen to music, sing, or play an instrument to distract themselves.
  • Group sessions: You can use music to build rapport within a group therapy session. Patients can share their favorite songs with the group, and each person can discuss what they felt while listening. These activities can help those who struggle to speak up find something to talk about during sessions.
  • Bonding among peers: Peers in drug and alcohol rehab facilities could benefit from drum circles, karaoke nights, songwriting group activities, and listening sessions. Participating in a local event, such as a luau, can bring people together to learn about new cultures.

Music therapy and other experiential therapies can be effective at reaching patients who struggle to express emotions, manage cravings, or connect with others during recovery. Using music during your sessions can help your patients find healthy ways of expressing emotions without resorting to harmful behaviors or unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Music therapy is a type of experiential therapy that can involve learning to play an instrument, participating in cultural activities, writing song lyrics, or bonding with peers in recovery. Some patients can struggle to express themselves in words, especially the strong emotions they might feel during addiction and mental health recovery. For patients who appear blocked or unable to dive deeply into their emotional experiences, music therapy can be an effective way of eliciting these complex emotions. You can also use music as a way of building rapport and comfort with your patients by inviting them to share music with you. You can learn a lot about your patient’s emotional state and identity by the types of songs they enjoy. Hawaii Island Recovery believes that culturally competent experiential activities can be effective in treating mental health and addiction. To learn more about our programs at our Hawaii drug and alcohol treatment center, call us today at (866) 390-5070.

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