Can They Help Recovering Addicts?
Michelle Peterson, Founder of Recoverypride.org
What is Music Therapy?
Music is powerful. It can change a person’s mood and provoke the best and worst memories. The power of music is so potent that therapists have found ways to use it in order to improve patients’ moods and relieve stress and anxiety. Music therapy can help address a number of cognitive, social, and emotional issues in people of all ages and backgrounds. It can involve listening to music, making music, and analyzing music as a way to explore emotions relating to an illness. Learning to play an instrument can help retrain the brain– something incredibly helpful for people struggling with mental illness or addiction.
Scientists and doctors began exploring the healing powers of music in the 1960s. Over the years, hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, and substance abuse treatment centers began using music therapy as a way to help patients express difficult emotions in a nonverbal way. Music therapy can help with many kinds of emotional issues, including:
● Anxiety disorders
● Emotional and behavioral problems
● Memory loss due to dementia
● Chronic pain
● Terminal illness acceptance
● Addiction recovery
What is Art Therapy?
Like music therapy, art therapy is a remedial activity used to address cognitive, social, and emotional issues. Creating art can help reduce stress while improving self-esteem and awareness. With the help of a professional, the patient then explores the underlying messages communicated through their art. This helps with the healing process as the patient works toward resolving their issues and managing their behaviors relating to their emotions.
Art therapy combines the therapist’s understanding of human development and psychological theories with the healing potential of art. It can be used in various therapies for individuals as well as couples, families, and communities. It’s used in mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, forensic institutions, community outreach programs, nursing homes, and corporate structures. Art therapy can help treat issues that include:
● Trauma recovery
● Anxiety disorders
● Depression and other mental disorders
● Cognitive problems
● Emotional difficulties
● Grief or loss treatment
● Addiction recovery
Addiction and Its Causes
Substance abuse and addiction affect millions of people all over the world. In the United States alone, one in every 10 people over the age of 12 are addicted to drugs or alcohol– that’s an estimated 23.5 million people. The causes of addiction are unclear. While general consensus categorizes addiction as a disease of the brain, some people see it as a condition that requires continued management throughout the addict’s life.
The disease model for addiction recognizes that while the substance abuse began as a voluntary action, after a certain amount of time, it causes changes in the brain that make it difficult to function normally without drugs or alcohol. Over time, substance abuse becomes less of a choice and more of an involuntary compulsion. On the other hand, the continued management theory promotes the idea that the addict is ultimately in control of their condition, and through behavioral changes, they can manage it.
There are various treatments for addiction, and no one option is right for everyone. To be effective, treatment should address all of the various issues that contribute to the addictive behaviors. To do this, many people choose multiple therapies to address their needs. Behavioral counseling is generally considered a good foundation for addiction treatment. On top of that, addicts can also use medication, medical applications like neurofeedback therapy, and alternative treatments including– you guessed it– music and art therapy.
If music therapy sounds appealing to you, consider learning to play a beginner-friendly instrument like the clarinet, which is often touted as one of the easiest options to learn to play. It’s helpful to do some research before investing in an instrument, and there are a variety of buying guides online that can help. If a visually creative venture sounds more appealing, consider purchasing a set of paint and brushes; there are countless free tutorials online via sites like YouTube that can help you brush up on some basic skills, or even teach you how to paint a particular project like a scenic landscape.
One of the things that makes both music and art therapy so effective is how enjoyable they are. Addiction treatment is rarely pleasurable. It involves a lot of emotional conflict and facing mistakes made in the past. By incorporating pleasant experiences like art and music into the treatment, the patient is more likely to stick with it. Long-term follow-up is crucial for recovery.
Music and art therapy use the creative process to tap into difficult emotions. Both treatments can help with the millions of people who suffer from addiction and substance abuse. While no one recovery treatment is best for everyone, using art and music therapy as a supplemental treatment for addiction helps with self-esteem and expression.