What Our “Guilty Pleasure” Songs Can Tell Us about Music Therapy
Recovery Unplugged often hears prospective patients tell us that they don’t think they’d benefit from our program because they “don’t play an instrument” or they’re “not very musical”. They don’t think music therapy is for them because they believe the “music” part to be a loaded word that dominates the clinical elements of the treatment program. Many people think the pre-requisites to music therapy include things like mastery of a musical instrument or writing an award-winning catalog of songs or performing live around the world.
This misconception has led to thousands of addiction sufferers getting frozen out of a universally beneficial clinical resource. For those who are in serious need of help for addiction or substance abuse, and who continue to voice concerns that music therapy is “not for them”, Recovery Unplugged would to clarify matters and offer help.
Embracing Our “Guilty Pleasure” Songs
Think of how you feel when you listen to your favorite song. Think of the inexplicable and essentially primal joy or melancholy you feel when you hear a key-change or chord progression. This is not a feeling confined to accomplished concert pianists or Grammy-winning pop groups. This is a feeling that all of us experience, and a feeling that’s been driving the modern music industry for decades. It’s a feeling that goes beyond lyrics and practically transcends cognitive thought. One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the concept of “guilty pleasure” songs and how they make us feel versus how we’re conditioned to react to them on a logical level.
Guilty pleasure songs: we all have them. Whether it’s a bubble-gum pop song we don’t believe anyone our age has any business liking, a relic from our past that we refuse to take off rotation or anything else, guilty pleasures can be considered one of the great musical equalizers. In some cases, our attachment to these songs can lie entirely in the outside context in which we hear them. Did we hear them with our first love? Were they playing on the radio when we first got our driver’s license or during a particularly memorable summer? Did we used to enjoy them with our families? Context and memory can be powerful guilty-pleasure creators, but the real power of these songs usually lies in their production, instrumentation and melody…in other words, the songs, themselves.
Matter Over Mind
Anyone familiar with music, at even a superficial level, knows that sometimes attachment to certain songs can defy logic. This is because, in its purest form, music isn’t supposed to be logical. It’s supposed to make us laugh, cry, sing, dance…and heal. It picks up the emotional slack where words or “logic” leave off. It’s a universal force with which anyone can connect, whether they’re a conductor or a car salesman. Now, a question: What better clinical tool can there be to help someone access dormant or suppressed emotions? What better or more accessible resource can we have in getting reacquainted with our true selves?
While Recovery Unplugged teaches patients the fundamentals of songwriting, production and performance, the inherent value of our program lies in how patients feel when they’re able to connect with music on that primal level. Whether we realize it or not, music is mean to elicit more emotion than thought (that’s what books are for). While we may, on some level, enjoy what our favorite songs make us think about, we enjoy how they make us feel even more. Recovery Unplugged has taken that deep emotional connection, and leveraged it toward helping patients overcome their drug and alcohol abuse, regardless of their musical background prior to treatment. Even if you’ve never picked up an instrument, this program is more “for you” than you realize.