Trauma Informed Approach to Music Therapy in Substance Use Disorder Treatment

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Kathleen M. Murphy, PhD, MT-BC is the Program Director, Graduate Studies in music therapy at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has presented internationally on topics related to music therapy and addictions She has authored book chapters and articles. Her research focuses on the theoretical foundations and clinical applications of music and music therapy in addictions treatment across the lifespan.

This presentation will explore ways trauma informed care can be infused into music therapy treatment in addiction settings. A significant number of individuals in addiction treatment have experienced some form of trauma. In this case, misuse of substances should be considered a coping skill. Music therapy treatment, that takes a trauma informed approach, may help to facilitate recovery and prevent relapse.

Multiple studies have shown there is a high comorbidity between substance use disorder and PTSD. It is imperative that music therapists who work in addiction treatment settings understand how traumatic experiences negatively affect behavioral health and are educated in the principles of trauma informed care (TIC). For the purposes of this presentation the definition of TIC developed by Hopper, Bassuk & Loivet (2010): “Trauma-Informed Care is a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment” (p. 82).

This session will define types of trauma experienced by individuals who have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder including adverse childhood experiences, disaster/mass trauma, domestic violence/intimate partner violence, sexual assault/rape and combat trauma. The principles of trauma informed care will be reviewed. Suggestions for creating music experiences that will help clients develop or strengthen protective factors will be presented. Examples of ways to incorporate trauma-informed approaches to music therapy in a 12-step treatment program will be shared. There will be time for participants to share their experience incorporating a trauma informed approach into clinical practice.