What is Music Therapy? – History, Benefits and How It Works

Music therapy is a type of therapy where people can heal and improve their quality of life through music; humans have used it for tens of thousands of years,

Therapists use it in various ways, such as making people sing, meditate and relax while music is playing, and performing multiple exercises or movements as emotional catalysts.

Music therapy can help improve everything from the patient’s speech to memory to physical balance when played in conjunction with a person’s thoughts or movements. It provides emotional healing, helps people develop a positive self-image, and helps prioritize stress and pain; plus, it helps people forget about physical pain, which can help them cope with several ailments.

What is music therapy?

It is an artistic-creative therapy, which consists of a process by which a music therapist uses music and all its facets, physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual, to help clients improve their physical and psychological health, employs a variety of activities, such as listening to tunes, playing an instrument, writing songs, or creating guided imagery.

Music therapy is appropriate for people of all ages, whether they are good with music or lacking skills, even if they are deaf.

It is a therapy that touches all aspects of the mind and body. Music can provide a distraction for the mind, slow down the rhythms of the body, and alter our mood, which in turn can influence behavior.

Trained and certified musician-therapists * work in various settings, from education to medical settings. They work with people who suffer from emotional health problems, such as pain, anxiety, and depression and help people address rehabilitation needs after a stroke, traumatic head injury, or chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s.

Clinical studies attest to the health benefits. The beauty of this therapy is that it helps people in a physical, mental, emotional, and social way.

Music therapy

History of music therapy

Music therapy comes from Greek mythology, philosophy, and Native American culture. In our recent history, music therapy was a significant resource during World War I and World War II; during these two historical wars, community musicians volunteered their time and played their pieces to the wounded in hospitals. Both patients and nurses noticed a difference in mood and experienced that the positive emotional response to music led to improved and reduced pain. The music was so well received that the doctors began hiring musicians to play for the soldiers.

Apollo is the ancient Greek god of music and medicine, Aesculapius was said to cure diseases of the mind through the use of songs and music, and music therapy was used in Greek temples; Plato said that music affects emotions and could influence the character of an individual, Aristotle taught that music affects the soul and described music as a force that purifies the emotions, Aulus Cornelius Celsus defended the sound of cymbals and running water for the treatment of mental disorders.

Music therapy was practiced in the Bible when David played the harp to rid King Saul of an evil spirit, as early as 400 BC. C., Hippocrates played music for people with a mental health conditions.

In the 13th century, Arab hospitals contained music rooms for the benefit of patients. In the United States, Native American physicians used song and dance to heal patients.

One of the significant aspects of music therapy is individualized from patient to patient. A child can improve by learning a new instrument, while others can enjoy writing songs, singing, or listening to music. Children especially have a keen interest in music therapy because it is not only fun for them but also provides mental and physical relief.

Benefits of music therapy

As the general public becomes more aware of alternative treatment methods, we see an increase in the number of people seeking natural remedies; However, there is a pill for almost everything; medications also come with potential side effects.

For most of us,  music is a vital part of our daily lives,  from putting clothes on to exercising. Music increases overall enjoyment and motivation, or in other cases, it can promote total relaxation.

Here are some key benefits from clinical studies evaluating the effects of music therapy on patients’ health.

Reduces the physical effects of stress

Although there are wide variations in individual preferences, music exert direct physiological effects through the autonomic nervous system. It can cause immediate motor and emotional responses, especially by combining movement and stimulation of different sensory pathways.

It has long been known that music affects a person’s mood and can make someone feel happy or experience a sad event … that is why music therapists are trained to competently develop the type of music required for the problem in question.

 Improve memory

People with a disease such as dementia, who have symptoms such as memory loss, show improvement in remembering things after a few therapy sessions. Music evokes past experiences in the brain; it is said to interact with a part of the brain specializing in memory, stimulating you to start remembering things that happened a long time ago.

 Reduce anxiety

One of the ways music therapy is used in hospital settings is to enhance healing by reducing anxiety before procedures or tests. Music therapy will help a person to respect themselves and recognize that they are unique; playing music requires one to focus on it, it tends to make the brain forget worries and experience something new, people can express themselves freely, and in the end, they are in a better position to see the world from a more positive side.

Additionally, playing music requires movement, and studies have shown that exercise can combat depression and anxiety.

Improve communication

In a music therapy session, sometimes a person is required to sing; this needs the person to know the words well, as singing will require them to say the words appropriately and at the correct time. Thanks to this therapy, people with disabilities who previously did not speak correctly have improved their rhythm and tone.

More socialization

People who are stressed or depressed can socialize better when they receive music therapy. Music evokes positive emotions that people may not have experienced in a long time; this can make them realize that the world is different from what they see. Some sessions are held in groups; this encourages people to get to know each other and share their life experiences, and it can continue even after the sessions.

Reduces depression and other symptoms in the elderly.

Music therapy is now highly recommended in senior care settings because of how it helps improve older adults’ social, psychological, intellectual, and cognitive performance; depression, feelings of isolation, boredom, procedural anxiety, and fatigue are common complaints among geriatric patients, both active and passive seem to help with the improvement of mood, providing a feeling of comfort and relaxation and even modifying the behavior of the caregiver.

 Improves movement and coordination

Our body parts, such as our hands and legs, do the actual movement, but the initial stimulation comes from the nervous system; the brain tells the muscles what to do, when to do it, how to do it, etc.

However, sometimes the nervous system can present problems that affect mobility.

Playing with the rhythm involves the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination; it is the same when you dance; the brain will slowly learn to control the muscles if you have not moved for a while.

It is mainly true for children with disabilities or people who have lost mobility control due to other illnesses.

Helps to deal with pain

Studies have shown that music therapy can help people cope with pain

Control emotions

Music helps people to experience emotions such as sadness or anger and many others in a controlled environment; it allows them to better deal with that same emotion in real life. People who suffer from diseases such as dementia and  Alzheimer’s disease, for example, have problems controlling their emotions. Sometimes they are very aggressive with those around them, but after music therapy sessions, these symptoms generally improve, and they have a greater capacity for emotional management.

What happens in a music therapy session?

A music therapy session can incorporate several elements, such as making music, writing songs, or listening to music.

The goal may be, for example, to encourage a patient to express emotions, relieve the patient’s stress or anxiety, help improve mood, and enhance the quality of life if the patient is coping with illness.

Research shows that patients do not need musical skills to benefit from music therapy.

The intervention methods employed in music therapy can be roughly divided into active and receptive techniques; when a person is making music, whether it is singing, playing musical instruments, composing, or improvising, that person is using active techniques.

On the other hand, Receptive techniques involve listening to and responding to music, such as through dance or analysis of lyrics.

Active and receptive techniques are often combined during treatment, and both are used as starting points for discussing feelings, values, and goals.

Music therapy can be performed with individuals or in groups, and the music can be chosen by the therapist or by the person in treatment; a music therapist, in general, will ensure that the type and mode of music chosen, as well as the timing of musical intervention, are appropriate to meet the needs and goals of the individual in therapy.

When introducing music, therapists often base their selections on the Iso principle, which states that music is more likely to influence if it matches an individual’s current condition; therefore, therapists try to ensure that the lyrics and the melody of a selected piece of music fit the mood and psychological state of the person in therapy.

Songwriting is commonly used in music therapy and may involve writing original songs or modifying existing ones, the latter being a more structured approach to writing. A person can modify a piece by changing some words or lines, adding new verses, or writing entirely new lyrics to match the existing melody. In cases where songs are freely composed, the therapist can provide an emotion or theme to serve as a starting point.

Music therapy can be used in several ways:

  • When a person experiences difficulties communicating after a stroke, singing words or short phrases set to a simple melody can improve speech fluency and production.
  • A person with motor problems can improve fine motor skills by playing simple melodies on a piano or playing a rhythm on the drum pads; listening to a rhythmic stimulus, such as a metronome, can also help a person start, coordinate and synchronize their movements.
  • A therapist could play a piece of music for children with autism who have limited social skills and ask them to imagine the emotional state of the person who created the music or the person playing it. Doing so can help a person develop or strengthen the ability to consider the emotions that others are experiencing.
  • Group drum circles have been used to induce relaxation, provide an outlet for feelings, and foster social connection among group members, where they can sit in a circle with a hand drum. At the same time, the therapist guides them in drumming activities. They can involve group members playing one at a time or all at once.

Music can be incorporated into guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to enhance the effectiveness of these methods.

Georgia Tarrant
 | Website

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.