Music Therapy, Depression, and Withdrawal


By: Jessica Schlabach, MT-BC

There are many challenges a person can face when receiving treatment for an addiction. One of these challenges may be facing depression. Music therapy can be a positive means to deal with newfound emotions, depression, and the struggle of alcohol withdrawal.

Depression often accompanies drug or alcohol dependence. Michael Silverman found in his 2011 article “Effects of Music Therapy on Change and Depression on Clients in Detoxification” in Journal of Addictions Nursing that music therapy songwriting groups had slightly lower depression scores than a typical verbal processing group. In this study, the researcher conducted music therapy songwriting groups focused on change. Most of the people in the study attended one music therapy session due to the length of stay at the facility. Results of the music therapy sessions were compared with a “typical” treatment verbal processing group (also focused on change). People participating in the music therapy group also enjoyed the group more than the typical treatment group.

This study shows that music therapy groups may be as beneficial as typical verbal processing treatment. Perhaps this is because people participating found that music therapy was more enjoyable and pleasing than the verbal only group.  Some people participating also found it was easier to talk about “tough” subjects (for example: triggers to use, grief, their depression, etc.) in music therapy, perhaps because music therapy often seems like “therapy in disguise.” Music (especially preferred music) can often be easier to talk about and create a safe place to discuss feelings and emotions. Music therapy is unique because the group not only helps a person process and deal with problems, but some interventions (like songwriting or music discussion) model a positive coping skill clients can use when they leave the facility.

While they may not be a music therapist at your or your loved one’s facility, listening to music can be a positive coping mechanism when attempting to lift a person‘s mood.  It is important to avoid songs that could trigger drug use, but listened to preferred music can help lift you or your loved one’s mood and decrease anxiety. For more information about music therapy, depression, or addictions please visit or contact us at Central Ohio Music Therapy.

Silverman, M. J. (2011). Effects of music therapy on change and depression on clients in detoxification. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 22(4), 185-192.