Music Therapy in the Treatment of Drug Addiction: The Experience of the Detoxication Unit of the "18 Ano" Psychiatric Hospital of Athens

Maria Apostoliadi-Le Bouder


In this paper I present the application of music therapy in the intervention and support of people with drug addiction problems in the framework of the Detoxication Unit of the Psychiatric Hospital of Athens, called "18 Ano", during the period of 2004-2008. Music therapy, as a form of art-therapy forms a 'bridge' of communication between therapist and patient through the use of musical improvisation as a basic therapeutic tool. Based on international research and bibliography, music therapy in the treatment of addiction aims to recognise common identity and problems, while at the same time opens channels of communication which are essential both for personal change and group interaction. Having as a basis two of the most basic characteristics of drug addiction (i.e., psychic deficiency and negative body image of the drug addicted people) and in alignment with the holistic and humanistic philosophy of the Drug Addiction Unit "18 Ano", a combination of music therapy activities was applied. These activities included the following: A) Body-movement music therapy activities: These activities included rhythmical improvisational movement accompanied with percussion instruments, exploration of the body as a musical instrument, as well as games of pantomime / imitation / trust. The use of mainly percussion instruments during these activities, activated their body and their movement, released blocked energy, and as the group members stated it took them out of their passive behaviour and activated their imagination and spontaneity. Primary goal of these movement activities was the direct contact with the experience, but also the creation of a safe environment. In this context, the music accompanied and motivated the activation of the body as a medium for expressing senses, feelings, and will. b) Song writing: Through this activity, self-expression, self-knowledge and realisation of the reasons of their addiction, as well as the desire for change were reinforced. c) Instrumental music improvisation: Primary purpose was to unblock anger, to re-awaken repressed feelings, as well as to confront their resistance to the therapeutic process. The use of musical instruments and voice in the group helped them to step out of their introverted behaviours, breaking the addictive patterns of isolation, criticism and withdrawal - significant characteristics of people suffering from addiction. d) Creation of a music performance: The creation of a music performance through a fairy-tale or story that the group members created and enriched with narration, music and movement proved to be the integration of all the above activities. The goal was the collaboration, discovery of un-explored sides of the self, enjoyment through their efforts and sharing their members expressed various dimensions of themselves away from the drug use. In this way, they gave meaning and value to what was created by them, which encouraged them not only to realise and accept their personal history and present progress through the treatment, but also to plan their dreams for their future. Through these activities, as well as the co-operation with colleagues of the therapeutic team (psychotherapists and other art-therapists), the self-confidence, imagination and creativity of the patients were reinforced and a healthy re-connection with their body self-image was achieved. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]