Music for Recovery and Healing
Jan 31, 2020 01:00AM
By Cat Carrel
By Joseph Gorordo
Often, we are transported to a different time and place when we hear the first few notes of a forgotten favorite song. Or, we find ourselves tapping our feet or bobbing our heads to the subconscious rhythm of the universe. Music is a powerful force that impacts humans on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. This makes it an extremely powerful tool for facilitating recovery from addiction and healing from all sorts of emotional traumas.
Our brains treat music like a Google search engine. Attached to any particular piece of music is a genre tag, emotional tag, contextual and temporal tag. That’s why we see such amazing results when Alzheimer’s patients are exposed to music from their youth—beyond memory, music directly impacts the neurochemistry of our brains. Listening to music that we care about generates dopamine and serotonin, helping us to feel secure and content while simultaneously decreasing stress hormones.
Beyond brain neurochemistry, listening to music actually has a direct impact on the physical structure of the brain. Playing and listening to music stimulates more areas of the brain simultaneously than any other activity.
When listening to music our auditory cortices are stimulated, the emotional and memory areas of our brain are activated, the mathematical part of our brain starts looking for rhythms and patterns, the linguistic part of our brain identifies words, while the creative part of our brain analyzes these words for deeper meaning. Tap your foot along to the music and you’ve activated the motor cortex. Think of it as a gentle massage for nearly every area of the brain.
Two very important parts of the brain are also highly stimulated when listening to music: the corpus collosum and the prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are responsible for long-term decision making, impulse control, and the assigning of higher value to things such as family, relationships and faith.
Music’s profound connection with memory and emotion means that, through simple reflection and intention, anyone can use music for personal healing and growth. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that music is experienced on a deeply personal level. When considering what songs have weight and emotion for you, cast aside any preconceived notions of what the song is about. It doesn’t matter what other people or even the person that wrote it thinks. This is about you and your relationship with any particular piece of music.
Let’s look at how music can specifically be used therapeutically (or “as a healing therapy”).
Feelings of depression: Create a playlist of songs connected to the happiest moments of your life.
Anxiety: Create a playlist of calming songs that remind you of moments when you felt completely safe.
Healing a tumultuous relationship: Create a playlist of songs tied to happy memories with that person.
Emotional release and catharsis: Find songs that help you lean into the negative feelings we so often try to avoid.
Motivation: Gather songs that remind you of why you want to achieve this goal and what is waiting for you on the other side.
The applications and benefits of music for healing and recovery are nearly endless. Take a moment today to think about how you can use music intentionally to facilitate healing and recovery.
Joseph Gorordo spent six years severely addicted to heroin. During this time, he bounced in and out of countless clinical and medical facilities, was given multiple diagnoses and placed on countless different medications. Through all of this, Gorordo felt hopeless, uninspired and trapped.
Today, Gorordo is almost 12 years sober from all mind-altering substances. He shares that music played a huge part in reconnecting him to the world around him and learning to love himself again.
Gorordo is a licensed chemical dependency counselor and the vice president of outreach for Recovery Unplugged, a substance abuse treatment center built around the healing power of music. He is a lifelong musician and devoted father of three.