The Role of Music in Therapy? Considerations for Potential Clients

People seek out therapy for a variety of reasons.

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and marital or professional issues are just some of the reasons people may seek out therapy. But one set of issues that remain pronounced are substance abuse issues, or substance use disorders (SUD).

And in a 2017 study researchers looked at the effects of music therapy and music-based interventions in the treatment of substance use disorders and found that such therapies “are increasingly used for the treatment of” such disorders. In the study, researchers identified 42 other studies, and highlighted the potential benefits of music therapy, which include:

  • Better emotional and motivational outcomes
  • Stronger locus of control
  • More social interaction
  • Improvement on one’s quality of life

Finally, researchers make clear how music therapy may “provide different opportunities for self-expression, cooperative group activity, imagination, and synchronized sensorimotor experience.”

The researchers define music therapy as: “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

Many Americans are impacted by substance use disorders.

According to research, “[i]n the United States the estimated 12-months prevalence rates for addictions in 2014 were 3.0% for alcohol and 1.9% for illicit drugs.” With such high rates or prevalence, the consideration of therapy may remain a good option for potential clients.

Apart from music therapy, other therapies for substance use disorders include verbal therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention, and Motivational Interviewing(MI). The type of therapy you choose to seek out for a substance abuse problem may depend on many factors, and it may be best to consult with a licensed professional to weigh your options.

Although the researchers make clear that more studies are needed, it appears that the use of music therapy for substance abuse disorders remains effective for some individuals and under some circumstances. For individuals who may be suffering from substance abuse disorders and who are also considering treatment options, music therapy—as well as more traditional therapies such as CBT—remains helpful, as some of the research indicates.

Moving forward, music therapy has the ability to promote group cohesiveness and creativity as well as increase and individual’s quality of life. Indeed, humans appear to have an innate preference toward absorbing and creating music on many levels. It only seems reasonable, then, that music as a form of therapy can be useful to some people.


Hohmann, L., Bradt, J, Stegemann, T, and Koelsch, S. (2017). Effects of Music Therapy and Music-Based Interventions in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE 12(11), 1 – 36.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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