The Power of Music in Addiction Recovery

Music is a powerful medium for people worldwide – it can transport us into long-forgotten memories, aid us in working through trauma, and inspire us to keep going when times get tough. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this approach can contribute significantly to healing from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Today, we’ll discuss why music is a helpful tool for overcoming a substance use disorder, as well as how you can best utilize it in your own recovery.


How Music Heals

While all addiction treatment should occur in a licensed treatment facility under the supervision of qualified staff, it’s also important that your recovery is holistic. This means that it addresses each aspect of the whole person: the spiritual, physical, mental, and social components of your life. For example, in addition to clinically-oriented addiction treatment, Cumberland Heights offers music assisted therapy sessions, conducted by therapist John McAndrew. Through participation in a songwriting group or utilization of our on-campus studio space, you can reap the benefits of music therapy during treatment.

When used in addition to traditional therapeutic means, music can provide additional healing elements to your recovery. Studies show that it can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, encourage a positive worldview, foster communication, improve sleep quality, assist with concentration, reduce feelings of loneliness, and even encourage a meditative state. Music also contributes to…

Improved Self-Expression

By actively engaging with music – whether by songwriting, playing, singing, or combining favorite melodies into a customized playlist – you create a powerful outlet for self-expression. This can unlock tightly held emotions that would previously have been numbed with drugs or alcohol. By processing these feelings and vocalizing them through music, you will begin to work through difficult events and past traumas.


In recovery, stress is one of the largest obstacles you must overcome. Those who are in active addiction lack appropriate coping mechanisms and stress management skills – instead, they turn to drugs and alcohol when pressure is high. When you listen to music, studies show that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.” Because this tool is something accessible to nearly everyone, it should be one of your first choices to de-stress in recovery. Researchers recommend that you choose songs that resonate with you – when in doubt, a combination of stringed instruments, flutes, and drums is a calming choice.

Boosting Your Self-Worth

Self-esteem is another complex challenge facing those in recovery. Past transgressions that took place in active addiction can create persistent feelings of shame and guilt, which must be overcome for complete healing. By spending time with something you enjoy, listening to uplifting music, or creating something beautiful, you can boost your self-esteem. This mood boost and adjustment of your self-perception can aid you in relapse prevention efforts.


How to Enhance Your Recovery with Music

While true music therapy is practiced by professionals, you can approximate its effects at home. Individuals need not submit to formal therapy sessions in order to benefit from the soothing or motivating effects of music. The next time you need a distraction from a craving or relief from stressors, try the following.

First, choose songs that fit your desired mood. Whether you want to work through a period of contemplative thought, boost your mood, or focus on the task at hand, there’s a song that will correspond to that state of mind. Seek out an appropriate playlist on your favorite streaming service, or build your own out of old favorites.

You can also try to play music yourself. Whether you’re already proficient (at singing, strumming, or drumming) or a total novice, don’t be afraid to experiment – you never know when a bolt of inspiration may strike. When you leave behind a life of substance use, you create space for new passions and activities. Consider spending your time taking lessons or practicing at home. You won’t regret it.

Finally, try a mindful listening exercise. Put on a song, close your eyes, and focus. Think about what you’re hearing – what are the lyrics saying? How do you feel? Is the song creating any new emotions? This type of reflection can be helpful in getting in touch with your emotions.


Recovery is Within Reach

Nestled in the heart of Music City, Cumberland Heights is the perfect choice for any music lover to begin their recovery journey. With two 12-Step immersion campuses, twelve outpatient recovery centers, and four sober living homes, we support you throughout the full continuum of care. Call 1-866-416-2213 to learn more about which treatment option is right for you.