Music Therapy – Improving Health

If listening to a classical concerto makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, music therapy may unlock the secrets to life’s many mysteries for you. Similarly, if hearing an Abba song or even a cheesy old Marie Osmond recording makes you swoon with joy and delight and can bring you out of a funk, then music therapy may be just what you need.

Music therapy is thought to originate in veterans’ hospitals, helping those who came back ravaged from the war acclimate better to the often traumatic injuries they suffered.

Actually, music therapy is not as daft as it may seem. The idea is that music is used as a therapeutic vehicle to achieve goals that are not really related to music at all. The parallels are obvious: speech and singing, walking and movement, rhythm and motor skills. As music has been scientifically proven to enhance mood as well, it’s thought that music therapy can optimize people’s abilities to interact and communicate on many, many levels.

People who can benefit from music therapy are manifold. They can be both adults and children, either those who suffer from certain disabilities, or those who have chronic health problems. Advocates of this type of therapy say it works in a variety of ways, and can improve not only an individual’s emotional well being, but also help them physically, cognitively, socially and even on an aesthetic level.

Some people find it hard to communicate for a variety of different and varied reasons that are either developmental, social and/or physical, and feel that communication through or with the use of music is the best way to open up. Music is used purely as a vehicle; it’s thought that the communication between the patient and the therapist is the most crucial aspect.

According to the American Music Therapy Association website, music therapy can:

* promote wellness

* manage stress

* alleviate pain

* express feelings

* enhance memory

* improve communication

* promote physical rehabilitation

History of Music Therapy

The use of music to make us feel happy has been around for time immemorial, while the therapeutic effects of music have been recorded more than 1,500 years ago. The idea of music as an established therapy, however, has only been around since World War II, at least in the United States.

Music therapy is thought to originate in veterans’ hospitals, helping those who came back ravaged from the war acclimate better to the often traumatic injuries they suffered. An undergraduate degree program in the discipline was founded at Michigan State University not long after, and the rest is history. Many universities now offer degree programs in music therapy, and it is not as uncommon as you might think.

In case it all looks a tiny bit airy-fairy, rest assured that contemporary music therapists must go through intense training before they become certified. This includes not only gaining counseling and health skills, but also reaching proficiency levels in guitar, voice, music theory, piano, improvisation, and music history and reading music, as well as other disciplines.

Music Therapy and Strokes

Music therapy to help people with strokes is seen as being especially important as music has been shown to have a strong impact on the brain, affecting particularly social interactions and emotions. The therapy has been proven to help people who have experienced strokes improve their speech and communication, cognition, mood, motivation, movement and muscle control.

This can be accomplished by a variety of exercises set out by a trained music therapist. They include rhyming, chanting and singing to exercise mouth muscles, playing on the drum to exercise arm muscles and control and creating songs to match the patient’s gait.

Particular emphasis is put on exercises that can increase mood and motivation, which in turn affect a lot of other activities. They include song-writing, lyric writing, performing, improvisation and more. “The emotional and aesthetic qualities of music are used to improve mood, to increase motivation, and to assist in pain management,” says the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function.

Music Therapy and Heart Disease

Music therapy can also help heart patients. An American Heart Association Scientific journal reported the results of an Italian study saying that music can “synchronize and influence” the cardiovascular system, and that crescendos increased the heart rate and lowered blood pressure.

Previous studies showed that music could be used as a therapeutic tool for people with neurological impairments. The studies showed that music improved athletic performance, enhanced motor skills and reduced stress overall for people with impaired brain function.

There is also evidence that music therapy can help limit nausea and vomiting experienced by cancer patients on a course of chemotherapy, and that it can help alleviate symptoms of depression and insomnia.

Music Thanatology for the Sick and Dying

Another aspect of music therapy that is less widely prescribed is known as music thanatology, dervied from the Greek term “thanatos”, which means death. It involves the use of music to help with the physical and spiritual care of people who are dying, and to help their loved ones deal with the grief when they eventually do pass away. Incorporating the use of music in palliative care programs is becoming more and more common, as people begin to understand the benefits it can bring.

Music thanatology can take many forms. Sometimes a trained musician will come to a dying person’s home and play harp music for them. Other times people will play a “music vigil” for the dying patient, easing their passing and providing support and comfort to their friends and relatives as well.

“The goal is to support the patient and family, not to seek applause. Some musicians avoid using words like ‘perform’ or ‘performance’ to describe what they do, because these words may put focus on the person creating the music rather than on the patient for whom the music is being played,” says growthhouse.org, whose motto is “Improving care for the dying”.

A music-based approach has been scientifically proven to help people in many aspects of their lives. Both children and adults can benefit from its application. Look for a music therapist near you if you think you or someone you know could benefit from this well established health care profession. And the next time you hear a rendition of Paper Roses, suppress the urge to run the other way and think how much it could do for you…

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care an appropriate health care provider.

Getting Started With Autism Music Therapy

Studies and anecdotal evidence alike are clearly showing that therapy based on music can have a significant impact on reducing the symptoms of autism in children including undesirable autistic behaviors. Music therapy is a form of autism treatment based on carefully planned musical exercises and experiences. It is carefully evaluated before, during, and after every session so that it can be altered to best suit the individual needs of the autistic child. There are many different elements involved in autism music therapy, including:

– Listening to music
– Creating music
– Singing along to music
– Moving or dancing to music
– Playing musical instruments of any kind

This form of music therapy can have a notable positive outcome when treating children with various types and levels of autism. Participation in this kind of therapeutic assistance provides the children with the chance to be exposed to carefully measured and chosen, non-threatening stimulation, since no human contact is required.

Music therapy is beneficial as it can be tailored to specifically meet the unique needs of the child based on their own autism symptoms and their tastes and preferences. This ability to customize the therapy is very important as every case of autism is different from others and what may be very effective for one child may create negative results in another. To accomplish this customization, there are several kinds of music therapy that can be used on their own or in conjunction with one another.

The results of autism music therapy is far reaching and touches on many elements in the child’s life. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

– Socio-emotional development – Autistic children frequently struggle with (or ignore) social contact efforts made by other people. Using music therapy, children can be drawn out of social withdrawal through their relationship with the music or an instrument of their choice. The music works as an intermediary between the child and people around them.

– Verbal and non-verbal communication – Singing and dancing to music helps autistic children to improve their speech vocalization and express themselves physically. Many mental processes are stimulated by listening to and producing music, such as symbolizing, conceptualizing, and comprehension. Often, autistic children find it easier to accept different sounds than verbal speech. Music is therefore a good transition to get them used to sounds. Furthermore, when playing wind instruments and singing, the children become more familiar with the various parts of their mouths and how to manipulate them for speech and other purposes.

– Emotional fulfillment – Many autistic children struggle to respond effectively with stimuli in their environment, making it difficult to enjoy a full emotional experience. Therefore, since the majority of autistic children respond well to the stimulus of music therapy experience, autistic kids can enjoy a fear-free experience for a full emotional moment.

Autism music therapy sessions are generally very flexible, allowing the children the opportunity to learn and express themselves at their own pace and to their own preferences and taste, achieving great emotional satisfaction.

A PhD in Music Therapy Instead of Popping a Pill

Have you ever noticed why certain kinds of music are played in specific places? We laugh it off as elevator music, old familiar tunes heard over the phone when you’re placed on hold or in doctors’ waiting rooms. Music is no longer to be denied its apparent influence in calming or exciting levels of emotion. Whether it is the melody, intonation, beat or whatever other elements contributing to the structure of a song, it evokes certain reactions.

Since music can cause people to act and react, much research has gone into utilizing it as a tool to treat the ailing. An alternative to invasive procedures and medications, music takes on the form as a therapeutic tool. Obtaining a PhD in Music Therapy allows one to explore various methods to use music to address patients’ conditions. As conditions stem from physical, mental, psychological, emotional and social states, this doctorate program ties the expression and presentation of music to clinical treatment. Hence, it is the drawing out of the science of music as the focus is normally on the art and aesthetics of music. As it is also a more economical approach, healthcare organizations and insurers are keen to see its success and lend their full-fledged support.

As part of course work for a PhD in Music Therapy, the student is expected to keep a strict log of his research work. Clinical knowledge is applied to the research work to test and measure results of music in improving one’s well-being and health. As continuing research is being carried out, it is a complex matter to comprehend and explain how music played in certain quarters causes a positive outcome whilst differing in other situations. Strict ethical values must also be enforced to ensure no elements of wrongdoing in due course of practicing the science of music. Whichever the case, successful scholars of this program are able to contribute to society’s well-being by utilizing music as a healing tool. They normally seek employment opportunities in places which provide rehabilitation services such as hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, schools and community organizations.

Music Therapy and Its Benefits

Music perhaps is the best relaxing and soothing medium in any mental or intellectual impairment. People usually find refuge in the lap of music where they get a divine feeling and all their worries and tensions disappear. Music has emerged as one of the most popular methods of treatments and relaxation modes.

First of all, it refreshes the mood of the listener. If he is tired or feeling irritated, he will get back to his normal being after listening soft and soothing music for some time. It happens because music contains such notes and vibrations which relax the brain muscles and tissues. This increases the flow of blood in the brain and ultimately to the entire body and so the person feels light hearted and relieved of the day’s hard work. It is such a wonderful therapy that some people are addicted to this. They cannot sleep without listening music and some are even more addicted that they cannot even think or write without music playing by their side. In countries like India, music is considered as the gift of God and a medium to get in touch with Him. It affects the emotional, mental, social and spiritual well being of a person and helps a lot in improving his cognitive thinking and mental abilities.

In other therapies like aerobics and warm up exercises, music is played side by side so that the movements are cordial and move with the beats of the music. Music therapy finds greater applications in curing behavioral and emotional disorders where the person is stressed all the time and does not want to spend time in isolation. Music gives him a chance to think alone and about his own self.