Music Therapy at The Oaks

The Oaks at La Paloma offers a unique music therapy experience.

Our facility is located on a beautiful property in Memphis, Tennessee – the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and the home of blues – and incorporates a distinctive music therapy program, complete with its own studio: The Blue Door Recording Studio.

Don’t let the recording studio intimidate you – it is provided on an optional basis for those who are interested. The rest of our music offerings actually don’t require you to be proficient in music at all. A wide range of instruments are available for all who participate. Everything from guitar to African ankle bells can bring joy and togetherness to the recovery process.

Music therapy at The Oaks can range from creating a new song with an experienced songwriter to simply sharing a recording of a popular song that touched you in some way.


The Healing Power of Music

Rachel Pinter, MT-BC, serves as a board-certified music therapist at The Oaks. She understands the benefits of music therapy and adds that she has seen firsthand how music therapy helps each participant develop skills in forming relations, self-expression, creative thinking and affect communication – instead of isolation and denial.

Pinter describes music therapy at The Oaks as an inclusive experience.

“Music therapy guides patients as they learn how to recognize feelings and behaviors associated with stress and how to manage emotions with positive, appropriate methods. It helps each person develop skills in forming relationships, self-expression, creative thinking and communication, while pulling people out of isolation and denial.”

She notes that music impacts the levels of dopamine in our brains, just like drugs and alcohol. Except music actually regulates our brain chemistry and distributes dopamine in a healthy way. Tying music into treatment and the therapeutic process makes perfect sense because it helps solidify the important work each participant is doing in all aspects of recovery.

Music therapy can also provide a touchstone for the future. During a challenging period in recovery, former patients can return to musical recordings made during a time of tremendous growth and be reminded of the deep work they did and all they’re capable of. In this way, the music program’s benefits live on long after The Oaks’ treatment program is finished.

A Word from Rachel Pinter

“At The Oaks, different elements of music and music therapy are integrated into the program schedule throughout the week. Some interventions we use are drum circles, lyric analysis, songwriting, active singing and studio opportunities to jam with peers and record original songs related to recovery. Weekly Crossroads ceremonies and monthly variety shows provide opportunities for our patients to showcase their musical talents as well.

I see positive responses every day with all of the interventions I use. I see increased self-esteem and confidence, improved social interaction and more participation from those who normally don’t participate.

I have observed and have had reports of improved mood, positive self-awareness and distraction from intrusive thoughts. I’ve also seen responses from patients that displayed pride from their accomplishments in the music therapy group.”

– Rachel Pinter, MT-BC, board-certified music therapist at The Oaks at La Paloma


What Is Music Therapy?

In a way, music therapy has been in existence as long as mankind has been able to gather and create rhythm and sound. Music is a powerful, healing force that works with our brain and our body to build storytelling, culture and community.

Modern music therapy is a bit more scientific. When we look at mental health care, music therapy is an evidence-based use of specific activities and interventions that are used in a clinical setting to help people of all ages accomplish goals, heal from trauma and process new ways of thinking.

Nurse holding ukuleleMusic therapy is a health profession, complete with certifications and necessary licenses for therapists. It is often used with mental health treatment and is designed, much like art therapy, as a creative way for people to express and understand their own behaviors and motivations so that they may increase coping skills and reach their goals. Music therapy for drug addiction recovery is also a creative, but effective, path to positive change.

How Music Therapy Can Help

The American Music Therapy Association cites research that demonstrates what music therapy can do.

Music therapy can:

  • Increase motivation toward healthy change
  • Increase engagement in treatment
  • Encourage physical rehabilitation after conditions such as stroke or substance use disorders
  • Provide emotional support for individuals and families
  • Foster creative, healing community
  • Provide an outlet for expression and healthy communication1

Music therapists must have specialty training and experience before they can treat clients. Most music therapists are also licensed counselors, social workers or psychologists.

All certified music therapists must hold the following qualifications:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from an approved college program with a preference for a master’s degree or doctoral degree
  • A MT-BC credential the Certification Board for Music Therapists, a board that ensures all members complete continuing education and follow a strict ethical code
  • Career experience in psychology and music1


Is Music Therapy Effective for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment?

Music therapy for addiction and mental health treatment is highly effective as part of an integrated treatment program like the one at The Oaks. Our music therapy for drug addiction program includes a variety of other evidence-based treatments, such as medically-supervised detox, counseling, trauma treatment, group therapy and family therapy.2

Music therapy treatment for addiction can be difficult to find, but a comprehensive, qualified program can make a big difference, especially for people who love music and have an interest in the arts.

Music therapy is proven to increase treatment participation and interest, which makes treatment both more enjoyable and effective.2


The Blue Door Studio at The Oaks

The Blue Door Recording Studio at The Oaks at La PalomaAs part of The Oak’s music therapy program, The Blue Door Studio was created by local designers to be a place that is both beautiful and functional. As a modern, yet compact, recording studio, it includes all of the amenities that songwriters and performers may need.

This includes walls that are angled to produce exceptional sound, a comfortable recording booth and a room complete with music-themed artwork from international artists and local musicians alike.

The Blue Door Studio also offers a visiting musician program that takes advantage of the national and international talent that passes through Memphis on a regular basis. Along with local musicians, artists are invited in for presentations, concerts and even jam sessions with the patients. The music room’s recording capabilities allow for capturing the moment digitally as a keepsake for all involved.

The Blue Door Recording Sessions

Check out some of our Blue Door Recording Sessions below:


1 American Music Therapy Association

2 Aletraris, Lydia et al. The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. Journal of addictions nursing. 2014.