Music in Recovery

La Ventana has been treating substance abuse for over a decade and one common denominator we find is that our client’s need to get in touch with their deepest emotions which are often a root cause of their addiction: family relationships, interpersonal relationships, sexual identity and relationships, past trauma experiences, failures, successes, and uncover these deepest emotions.

Music in Recovery does just that as our clients move into an emotional state to deal with these deep emotions through music. Getting in touch with our deepest emotions is a big step towards providing the mindset and emotional state to acknowledge, respect, and defeat the disease of addiction.

The science

Music has been a part of the human spirit since the beginning of mankind and is usually associated with celebration, community, self-expression, joy, and an overall feeling of life that is positive. 

Music is enjoyed by people of all ages, races, religions, and cultures as a form of creative self-expression that encourages the user to communicate in a non-conventional manner. 

Studies show that when music enters the human brain, it triggers the pleasure center that releases dopamine, the “happiness” neurotransmitter. 

Additionally, studies show that music helps with brain development. Learning to play an instrument is believed to increase gray matter volume in certain areas of the brain which results in improvement of brain function such as auditory processing, learning, and memory.

Many recovering addicts and alcoholics are often filled with shame and guilt while having years of built up blockages that prevent them from positively expressing themselves. By engaging music, users are aided in identifying and coping with past emotional trauma. 

When I drummed with the other people I got this overwhelming sense of wellness and a feeling of hope and support from the other people in the group.
– RD
Photo by Oleg Ivanov on Unsplash

Music and meditation

One of the hardest things for addicts to overcome is the quieting of the mind. In practicing active listening, the mind is quiet. When playing in a drum circle, the mind is quiet, there is only the music. Music is a form of meditation.

 Research has documented some of the changes that take place while playing music and or drum circles and has found reduced blood pressure, increased immune function as well as increased white blood cell counts.

 In the field of addiction we often see clients unable to embrace their emotions while setting up defense mechanisms which hamper their emotional growth. Rationalizing, lying, stealing, manipulating, denying are just a few of these defense mechanisms. Music in Recovery  helps our clients to acknowledge, recognize, and eventually break down these defenses.

It also increases self-awareness as clients take responsibility for destructive behavior they have done in the past. This leads to raising awareness of community and allows our clients to connect to others and engage in life through friendships, family, intimate relationships and community.

Isolation, a characteristic of addiction, is attacked in our Music in Recovery program and a positive and healthy self-image emerges to continue the path to recovery.

Photo by Alice Moore on Unsplash

The process

Clients do not have to be musically inclined to explore a creative outlet. Using the right brain, clients overcome barriers and build self-esteem, confidence and induce a healthy release of dopamine while having fun.


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash