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How to Help an Addict: TED TALK 3 - Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment

How to Help an Addict: TED TALK 3


Speaker: Itay Talgam




Itay Talgam’s TED bio says the conductor and organization behavior analyst “[Imagines] music as a model for all spheres of human creativity, from the classroom to the boardroom.”


Talgam’s TED talk looks at different conductors, their leadership styles in conducting symphonies, and how each conductor’s approach impacts the cohesiveness and capabilities of the musicians.



Relation to Addiction:


Talgam’s talk is significant on multiple levels and relates to many facets of our lives. But we thought it was particularly useful in considering the different treatments for drug addiction, specifically how people recover from addiction based on different types of treatment and how it is implemented.


Itay Talgam TED talk


Whether it is cognitive behavioral therapy, dual diagnosis, or Christian and holistic rehabilitation, the unique traits of each treatment impact each individual in a particular way. This is because they have different levels of control, interaction, giving responsibility, structure, etc.




For example, conductor Riccardo Muti style of conducting is very “commanding” (i.e. controlling). He does not give any room for the players to express themselves or interpret the music for themselves. In fact, 700 musicians signed a letter that asked Muti to resign because of his style.


Muti TED Talk


In addiction treatment, control over an addict’s recovery is dictated by a number of people, processes and plans: the treatment center, counselors, other addicts, family, friends, psychological and clinical theories, the addict him/herself, etc. Talgam says, “Does [Muti’s control] work? Yes, it works… to a certain point.”


Control from all sides, who has it, who doesn’t, and how that impacts the addict, is a huge element treatment that should be considered in recovery.


TED talk

Screen shot from TED video


Play by the book


Strauss’s way of conducting was to let the music happen by itself. However, he expected the musicians to play “by the book”.


Drug addiction and alcoholism recovery is hardly the same every time for every person. Structure is often one of the most fundamental elements in treatment to take drug abusers out of their chaotic patterns. However, the expectation that once they follow x, y, and z step, they will get better is often constricting and can prevent to real change. Allowing room for an addict’s own interpretation of treatment and recovery is often easy said than done.


It’s all in the face


Talgam goes through several other conductors, arriving at Leonard Bernstein who does nothing to physically conduct the orchestra, but responds to the ensemble and the music with his facial expressions. This creates gives full control in the musicians’ hands, while at the same time guides them with his emotion and responses to the beauty of their work.


If you are a counselor, work in a treatment center or have gone through a program with an addict, when he/she makes progress and begins making the beneficial choices for his/her life, do you sit back and smile and revel in their accomplishments?




To be clear, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and treatment absolutely need a certain amount of control, structure, and purpose in treatment plans and schedules for those recovering from substance abuse. However, within the structure, it is important to consider where the addict becomes a part of his own treatment so that partnerships are created and harmony is heard.

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