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Addictive Behaviors and Music Therapy
There are many treatments for addictive behavioral addictions that psychologists employ. For example, individuals are sometimes given antidepressants or medications that affect the reward centers in the brain, thereby discouraging and lessening the pleasurable effects of the drugs or addictive behaviors that they are engaging in. Another treatment method is to wean themselves off a drug (eg. Nicotine in cigrettes) gradually, and use cognitive behavioral therapy to help them develop alternative coping strategies.
If I had the courage, I would have studied music overseas, in particular music therapy. As a psychology student with a special interest in music therapy, I can’t help but wonder how music therapy could fit into the world of addictions. Although music therapy is a very small and new field in Asia, it is a widely recognized and growing field in the West. I have read how music therapy is used with children with special needs, dementia, halfway homes, prisons… but after some googling, I was delighted to learn that there are music therapists in the field of addictions who have employed music therapy to successfully achieve their treatment goals!
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One inspiring study I read told of how the formation of a drumming group to complement current addiction therapies successfully prevented relapse in clients - social connectedness, positive sensations that emerged during drumming were some of the ingredients that helped to eliminate emotional distress and even create inroads into the spirituality (Winkelman, 2003).
In fact, a more recent study by Baker, Gleadhill and Dingle (2007) reported how substance abusers experienced the emotional highs gained from substance abuse during music therapy sessions. Perhaps in the near future, clients will not need treatments like methadone if music can effectively mimic the effects of these other drugs. Music therapy is versatile – it is non-evasive and speaks to people of all different ages, the combinations of groups of people that it can be conducted with are endless ie. With individuals, groups, spouses…
I find it really exciting that music can be used so powerfully to help people in their different places of need, especially now that I have discovered several new domains for music therapy, including those who are struggling with addictive behaviors. Whenever I read stories of how music therapy has made a special change in someone’s life, it really makes me wish I could be a music therapist. This is such a promising field and one day, I hope that more countries will be more receptive and welcoming to alternative and creative therapies.