Benefits Of Music Therapy

Music therapy uses music to promote positive changes in the wellbeing of an individual. These positive changes may be manifested in changes in physical development, social and interpersonal development, emotional or spiritual wellbeing or cognitive abilities.

The therapeutic benefits of music have been known and harnessed since ancient times. However, music therapy in modern times dates back to the World Wars when music was used in hospitals in the rehabilitation and recovery of soldiers who had suffered physical or emotional trauma. The University of Kansas was the first University in the United States to offer a degree program in music therapy in 1944.

Early exponents of music therapy in the 1950’s to 1970’s included the French cellist Juliet Alvin and Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. The Nordoff-Robbins approach is still used in many countries around the world including the USA, UK, Australia, Germany and South Africa.

So, how does music therapy work?

Music is universal and connects across language barriers. Most people can respond to music in some way regardless of illness or disability.

Music has an inherent ability to generate an emotional response in the listener. It stimulates a relaxation response which can therefore lead to physiological changes in the body. Music is known to reduce stress thereby producing related benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved respiration, reduced heart rate, better cardiac performance and reduced tension in muscles.

Music is processed in both hemispheres of the brain and this stimulation has been shown to help in development of language and speech functions. It promotes socialization and development of communication, self expression and motor skills. Children and adults with autism spectrum disorder have been found to respond very positively to music and many of them display high levels of musical skill.

Music encourages verbal as well as non verbal communication and promotes social interaction and relatedness. It’s a valuable outlet for self expression and creativity. It has also been successfully used in pain management by providing a distraction from the painful stimulus as well as a means of relaxation and stress alleviation.

Children with developmental and learning difficulties,children and adults with autism spectrum disorder or special needs as well as the elderly and dementia sufferers have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. Although the benefits of music therapy have been accepted intuitively and based on anecdotal evidence it wasn’t till recently that quantitative evidence of its efficacy started to emerge.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Miami School of Medicine blood samples of a group of male Alzheimer’s patients who were treated with music therapy were found to have significantly elevated levels of melatonin, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are chemicals which act on the brain to control mood, depression, aggression and sleep. The benefits of the therapy were still evident even six weeks after cessation of the therapy and in the case of melatonin the effects persisted even longer.

Music therapy is gaining wider acceptance in the general medical community and has certainly stood the test of time. Music therapists can now be found practicing in a variety of institutions dealing with mental health, developmental and early intervention programs, correctional institutions and special education programs to name but a few. Many are having success where traditional treatment methods have failed.

Autism and Music Therapy

In recent years, medical professionals have combined autism and music therapy in order to determine if there are any advantages associated with this type of treatment. Music is often regarded as the most ancient form of communication among individuals worldwide because of the fact that it is considered to be common among all cultures, in all locations of the world. Due to the amazing popularity of music and the effects that it seemed to have on individuals that were subjected to it, many researchers developed what they refer to as “Music Therapy”. Since the initialization of this form of therapy, it has been established that it has the ability to assist those that suffer from many different types of cognitive and physiological problems. Today, the use of music therapy is becoming increasingly popular for children that suffer from autism. Throughout this health guide, you will learn many interesting facts on autism music therapy.

Certified Music Therapists

The individuals that focus on autism and music therapy are known as “Certified Music Therapists”. If your child has autism, it is absolutely imperative that you choose a therapist that has an extensive education and valuable experiences in the field of music based therapy. The professionals will be identified as “Music Therapist-Board Certified” or “MT-BC”, and commonly work in educational settings, clinics that specialize in developmental disorders, and private practices. These professionals use an assortment of music types in order to assist in building skills in the autistic child. Furthermore, it has been found that the music may be used to enhance communication skills. Many studies also indicate that these specialists are highly effective at helping an autism patient experience lower anxiety levels.

Benefits of Autism Music Therapy

Autism and music therapy works to address the most common problems experienced by those that suffer from this condition. These problems include communication difficulties, issues with behavior that is considered to be aggressive or inappropriate, as well as social interaction issues. Autism therapy using music combines many different types of elements in order to enable the autistic child to communicate effectively and openly express their true feelings. While many forms of therapy have been used to assist children suffering from autism, music based therapy is the one treatment that shows the most promising results. The following highlights the benefits associated with autism and music therapy:

1. Autistic children that have participated in this form of therapy have been found to be successful at building relationships with others. As a result of this development, the children are motivated to learn and master behaviors that are considered to be socially acceptable.

2. Since autistic children often have high functioning cognitive abilities, many have learned to engage in musical activities such as playing an instrument. Not only is this wonderful for cognitive development, but it is beneficial for their academic and social growth.

3. Many songs that are designed for autism and musical therapy sessions include catchy lyrics that instruct a child how to behave appropriately or engage in certain activities. By being exposed to these catchy lyrics, children with this disorder are more likely to learn rapidly and progress in their development of basic skills.

Conclusion

While there are many productive forms of therapy for autism, autism music therapy is considered to be one of the most effective. Unfortunately, this type of therapy is not offered in many locations. You should not let that stop you, though. If you have an interest in autism and music therapy, you are fully capable of creating an at-home autism music therapy program. Simply purchase items such as musical DVDs or CDs that are designed for children. These often include lyrics that are catchy, easy to remember, and instruct on proper behaviors and how to engage in basic skills – such as buttoning clothing or brushing the teeth. You will quickly discover just how engaged your child becomes. By exposing your child to autism music therapy, you will be able to see their cognitive growth and development. Autism and music therapy sessions seem to go hand in hand. Many rewards are reaped by families that engage in this type of therapy.

Role of Music Therapy in Dementia

Dementia:

Dementia is a progressive neurologic disorder that changes behavior, diminishes cognition, and deteriorates memory due to a disease or injury. Some causes of dementia which may or may not be reversible are brain injury, use of certain medications, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, immune disorders, vitamin B12 deficiency, excessive alcohol intake, and smoking. The common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementia.

The most pronounced effects of dementia are on memory and visual-spatial. Some psychological and behavioral expressions that can manifest are aggression, agitation, depression, wandering, restlessness, and trouble eating or swallowing. During the late stages of disease, difficulty in swallowing can result in breathing food into the lungs that may lead to aspiration pneumonia.

Treatment:

The symptoms associated with behavior and psychology affect patients and their caregivers. Available pharmacologic treatments used to treat behavior have little benefit and significant risks. Due to increased risk of mortality associated with these drugs, FDA has issued warnings against their use especially in elderly patients. The Dementia Action Alliance encourages integrated approach to focus on a person’s behavioral and psychological expressions rather than following general practices.

In a holistic approach patient-specific behavior is identified and modified to eliminate conditions which contribute to a specific behavior. A targeted approach provides patient activity program and builds skills that simplify communication and tasks. Various therapies that have been used to support a person living with dementia are music therapy, art therapy, reality orientation, aromatherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Music therapy:

It is a health profession in which music is used as a therapy to improve mental, physical, and social wellbeing of an individual. It helps to balance spiritual and emotional needs of an individual to improve quality of life.

The qualified music therapist provides treatment based on individual patient’s needs and may include playing musical instruments or video games, singing, dancing, song drawing, listening to music, and/ or multisensory stimulation. It can be provided as individual or group therapy, however studies have shown more positive results with group therapy. Active therapy engages patient with direct participation while passive therapy allows patient to listen to music or engage in another activity. Active therapy has been found to be more helpful in improving physical functions of the patient like grasping an object.

Credentialing of music therapist:

Music therapy is a health profession based on evidence. The therapist must earn at least a bachelor’s degree, complete 1200 hours of internship and obtain MT-BC credential issued by the Certification Board for Music Therapists to become a certified music therapist.

The therapist may hold different designations like Certified Music Therapist, Advanced Certified Music Therapist, or Registered Music Therapist. He must obtain continuing education credits and hold licensure in states that require board-certification to safeguard competent practice.

Impact of music therapy:

When we listen to music different parts of brain become stimulated. For instance, music stimulates amygdala which is involved in processing of emotions. Dancing and playing an instrument involves motor cortex which controls movement. Musical experiences excite hippocampus which is responsible for memory and spatial navigation. It increases blood flow in the brain, strengthens executive functions, supports heart, improves communication, and reduces stress.

Studies have shown the positive effect of music therapy on psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia. A study by Ozdemir L et al., 2009[1] improved cognition and reduced depression and anxiety with continued effect for three weeks following the completion of study in mild dementia. Another study by Li CH et al., 2015[2] showed that cognition in music therapy group was reduced less as compared to the control group and change of abstraction domain in the music therapy group was better.

Numerous other studies have been done using different assessment instruments like Mini-Mental State Examination, Geriatric Depression Scale, Beck Anxiety Scale, Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, Clinical Dementia Rating, Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument, and Neuropsychiatric Inventory. Several studies have shown promising results in the form of decreased anxiety, positive emotional states, and increased relaxation.

It has the potential effect to enhance the quality of life, improve neuropsychiatric symptoms, and reduce symptoms like cognitive decline and depression. It benefits patients who have difficulty communicating or expressing themselves in words. This, in turn, strengthens patients’ abilities and transfer it to other areas of their lives.

Conclusion:

A clinician can play a role in facilitating collaboration with specialists and other healthcare professionals to implement music therapy. Researchers have demonstrated that music therapy can protect cognition, executive function, psychomotor speed, and autobiographical and episodic memories and can yield high levels of patient and caregiver satisfaction. Additional clinical trials will add evidence to support the positive effect of music therapy. Multisensory stimulation with dance, art, video game, and physical exercise seems an exciting and promising approach.

References:

1. Ozdemir, L, and N Akdemir. “Effects of Multisensory Stimulation on Cognition, Depression and Anxiety Levels of Mildly-Affected Alzheimer’s Patients.” Journal of the Neurological Sciences., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Aug. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19289242/.

2. Fang, Rong, et al. “Music Therapy Is a Potential Intervention for Cognition of Alzheimer’s Disease: a Mini-Review.” Translational Neurodegeneration, BioMed Central, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5267457/.

How Music Therapy Helps Children With Autism

Several researches have proven, time and again, that music therapy can benefit individuals of all abilities and ages. Such therapy has been used to support cognitive, social and emotional development in people across races, countries and communities. It can also help promote wellness by enhancing memory, improving communication skills and managing stress. Researchers have also shown that children and teenagers, who have been suffering from autism, can benefit a lot with music therapy. It helps improve their social behavior, better their communication attempts in terms of gestures, verbalizations, vocabulary and vocalizations, reduce their anxiety, increase their attention and focus, and even improve their body coordination and awareness. A few studies even show that both adults and children with autism spectrum disorders or ASD respond very well to music. This is why music is considered to be a potential therapeutic tool for treating autism.

Here’s how it can help children with autism:

· Music encourages social interaction- Kids, who suffer from autism, show more social engagement and emotional expression during music therapy sessions, as compared to the play sessions, without music. They also respond to the requests of the therapist if there is music in the session. Moreover, a trained and experienced therapist can use music to improve the social skills and increase the social interaction of these kids. Playing different types of movement and music games, passing and sharing instruments, learning to listen, singing greetings songs and gathering around a central instrument are some of the ways that a therapist can use to increase such interactions.

· Music helps improve communication – Almost thirty percent of kids with autism are non-verbal. Again, there are many kids who can’t follow verbal commands or understand body languages. Studies have proven that music improves the mapping of sounds to actions. This is done by connecting the motor and auditory sections of the brain. This helps improve the understanding of verbal commands. With the help of repetitive training and by pairing music with actions, the speaking skills of these children can be improved.

· Music helps improve one’s behavior – With some studies conducted over a span of ten months, it has been proven that weekly music therapy sessions improve overall behavior of kids with autism, especially when it comes to dealing with inattentive behavior. In a particular study, children were exposed to hour-long sessions of music therapy, once in a week, and their conduct was tracked against a checklist of certain behaviors. The results showed significant improvement in their observable behavior.

Surely, music therapy can be very useful and rewarding for children with autism.