Take Note: Music Therapy Works

By Carmela Kelly 02/20/12

Music therapists are increasingly employed to help recovering addicts.

Music can succeed where words fail.
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Music therapy is a health profession that—as the name suggests—uses music to attain therapeutic goals. A music therapist may sing with a stroke victim to get them to vocalize, for example. And music therapist Al Bumanis, who is also director of communications at the American Music Therapy Association, tells The Fix that it greatly helps addicts, too: “It appears to be a way of getting at issues in a non-threatening manner." He adds that the aim, of course, isn’t to produce professional musicians. Rather, “When working together, as a group on music, issues do come up. People find out they are in similar situations and have a channel to explore.” And music therapists are in demand.

The Clarity Way Rehab Facility in Hanover, Pennsylvania recently upped the bar by opening its own music studio with drums, guitars and a professional recording booth. The rehab’s founder, Justin Daniels, tells us it was always his intent. Before establishing Clarity Way, he struggled with his own addictions and talked to musicians (whose names he can't mention) about their rehab experiences. One famous musician described his frustration at being offered just a little closet and a guitar as his music therapy. “Hearing other musicians’ stories, it was a no-brainer to incorporate music,” says Daniels. His brother-in-law is a guitarist for Blind Melon—the rock group that lost its singer, Shannon Hoon, to a fatal drug overdose in 1995. “A holistic approach is the wave of the future to treat the mind, body and spirit. When it’s just talk therapy people can only say so much," Daniels explains. "Music is grounding. Recovery is lifelong and music is a great way to deal with stress.”

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Carmella Kelly is a reporter living in the Phoenix area. Find her on Linkedin