How to deal music? Enhancing coping strategies in music therapy with clients suffering from addiction problems

This article states that music can support clients therapeutically to combat their addiction as well as spark cravings for substances. “This article describes such a music therapy program tailored to clients with addiction problems, to tackle some of their major difficulties and specific impairments,” (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004). It is also worth noting that music is an extremely powerful tool, and is as helpful or harmful to someone’s recovery. “It touches feelings of longing, craving, pain, pleasure,…and shows their coping strategies, (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004). 

This article states that The Dutch Health Care Council reports addiction as an almost chronic illness of bio-psycho-social etiology. This theory combines one’s biology, psychology, and social processes as a multi-dimensional approach to recovery. “If we would use a one-dimensional treatment strategy, we would not be able to tackle their problems,” (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004). But how does music therapy fit into recovery and this bio-psycho-social model? 

“Music therapy offers major possibilities to improve coping strategies…Musical behavior may be compared with non-musical behavior,” (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004). This means that music therapy can introduce productive coping mechanisms that they can use outside of treatment, as well as bring to light negative repetitive patterns that one can work on.

There are five interaction structures addressed in this article; attuning (moving together), taking turns (moving the same way, one after the other), exchanging (adding new movements while alternating), play-dialogue (playing knowing something will happen), and task/theme (performing a task or utilizing a theme). This article states it is important that the therapist helps the client to relate musical behavior to daily situations. 

Music therapy treatment can include percussion/drum based interventions based on five phases…

  1. Introduction; establishing relationships within the group, identifying triggers, conversing about music, and identifying social functioning as well as music preferences. 
  2. Observation and Registration; identifying coping strategies, play music/drums while taking turns (using the interaction structures as mentioned above), and establish group cohesion. 
  3. Recognition; recognize personal strategies by musical coursework, and emotional identification/expression through music.
  4. Experimenting with New Strategies; learn new coping strategies and when to use them, asking for support, and working together.
  5. Termination and Evaluation; help the client acknowledge new coping strategies and how to use them in daily life. 

Overall, “music therapy can help clients suffering from addiction and regain better coping strategies. Music offers a client the possibility to act in a structured, playful, safe environment,” (Dijkstra & Hakvoort, 2004). 

By Gwen D’Amico, MT-BC

Dijkstra, I., & Hakvoort, L. (2004). How to deal music? Enhancing coping strategies in music therapy with clients suffering from addiction problems. Music Therapy Today, 5(5), 1-27.