Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Substance abuse-Treatment, Music therapy, Music-Psychological aspects, Substance abuse, Self-regulation, Transitional phenomenon, Qualitative research, Transitional objects (Psychology)


This exploratory study considered the questions 'what is the relationship between music and substance abuse?', and 2) 'what is the role of music in treatment for/recovery from substance abuse?', through analysis of spoken interviews with 11 people in recovery from substance abuse—how they describe music's functioning in their lives and how they experience substance use/abuse, and recovery, as connected to music. The findings of this non-generalizable study suggest people seek out music as an outside object to alter, augment, or otherwise regulate self-states within changing environmental contexts, and that such a relationship becomes a continuity across descriptions of relationships between music and substance use/abuse, between music and processes of recovery, and in how people talk about their relating to music currently—outside of a substance abuse/recovery context. Music's adaptive functionality, in this way, seems made available through its personal and cultural significance in people's lives—its impact in identity formation. Music appears able to function—like substance—as an external phenomenon, to soothe, to excite, to distract, etc., but that the continuity of its use in people's lives creates the possibility for its becoming a support for recovery. This study considers a theoretical understanding of music as alike Winnicott's (1954) transitional phenomena, offering an implication for substance abuse treatment: that clinicians may seek to explore clients' individual relationships with music in therapy in order to bring greater attention and awareness to how music functions as a site for validating and regulating self-states.




iii, 67 pages Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-63)

Limited Access until August 2020