Paths in recovery: healing with music

Early sobriety can be difficult. You learn from others how to take uncomfortable steps that help you stay sober until it begins to feel more natural. It is truly a new way of living life and the more support you have, the better. Luckily, there are many tools available to help you in the early weeks and months when you are recovering from a substance use disorder.

Music therapy is one tool that can help heal those difficult, sometimes overwhelming feelings of early sobriety in ways that feel safe and at times, even fun! Traditionally, music therapy uses music to help people of all ages address physical, emotional, and social needs. When used in addiction recovery, you might analyze lyrics of a song, write your own song, play a drum, relax with soft music, or dance to an upbeat song. Whether you are an experienced musician or can’t carry a tune, it doesn’t matter…it can work regardless of your musical background!

Music therapy, together with peer support groups, traditional therapy, and/or medication-assisted treatment, can have many benefits. Evidence shows that creating, listening, or dancing to music can help you:

  • Steer emotions and create feelings of happiness and relaxation—especially useful since stress and anxiety are both common relapse triggers
  • Release overwhelming or difficult feelings without needing words to define them
  • Relax the body and help overcome feelings that could lead to substance use such as irritability, anger, and shame
  • Create community and connection—something many people lack when using alcohol and other drugs

A wonderful example of music therapy in addiction recovery happening here in Massachusetts is the organization Right Turn, Inc. Located in Watertown, Right Turn was founded by musician Woody Giessmann. The organization provides intensive outpatient treatment, extended care for addiction, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and intervention services with the opportunity to weave music (and art) therapy throughout. They host a Sober Café called Right Turn LIVE! which provides a safe and welcoming performance venue for people in all stages of recovery. Right Turn has created a musical space for a community of creative individuals who share a common commitment to recovery.

The integration of music into traditional recovery treatment can support and increase your motivation to stay on your path of recovery.

Learn more about Right Turn and other recovery supports that can be helpful to you by calling the Helpline at 800.327.5050 or finding help on our website.