Music Therapy to Improve Overall Health
Listening to music can be more than a pleasant hobby. Did you know that it has therapeutic value? According to the American Music Therapy Association, this treatment modality can help promote physical, emotional, social, and cognitive well-being in individuals. What makes it particularly attractive is that clients don’t need to be active participants to receive benefits.
Definition of Music Therapy
Music therapy is not simply turning on the radio. Rather, it is a program of clinical, evidence-based, musically oriented interventions. Specific goals are set by credentialed professionals who are trained in systematically using music to promote wellness. The experts who conduct such therapies must have completed a rigorous training program that has been approved by the American Music Therapy Association.
Services provided include active engagement such as movement, dance, singing, and songwriting. For some clients, more passive forms of participation may be more appropriate. The goal is for the client to relax and enjoy the therapy while healing and growth occur. While participants may be encouraged to sing or play a musical instrument, skill and talent are not required for the therapy to be effective.
Some of the many benefits of music therapy include:
• Managing stress
• Alleviating pain
• Enhancing memory
• Improving communication
• Facilitating self-reflection
• Increasing motivation
• Promoting physical rehabilitation
• Helping to express feelings
• Lowering blood pressure
• Reducing muscle tension
• Aiding in self-discipline and self-regulation of both thoughts and feelings
• Helping to achieve education goals for children
• Increasing joy
Where Does Music Therapy Take Place?
Typically, music therapy is offered in outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and schools. Residential facilities for the elderly or those with developmental issues may also offer programs. In some cases, music therapists may travel to private homes or to juvenile detention facilities.
Are There Outpatient Options for Music Therapy?
Often, there are outpatient options. While many music therapy options are limited to inpatient services, others provide an opportunity to book sessions just as you would when you see other types of therapists. You might also be able to have a music therapist pay a visit while you are in a hospital setting or at school. While music therapy is often held in groups, one-on-one sessions can also be found.
How Do Clients Prepare for Music Therapy?
Prior to a therapy session, a music therapist will assess the client’s needs and determine the person’s musical background. This includes understanding his or her familiarity with instruments as well as musical preferences.
The types of things that may be discussed by the therapist include the client’s emotional and physical well-being as well as physiological responses to stimuli, cognitive and developmental issues, social and communication skills, and any trauma history or triggers. Age and developmental stage are additional factors to be considered when choosing the type of therapy and music to be used.
What Does a Music Therapy Session Look Like?
There are many wonderful ways that a client can experience a musical therapy session. The client can:
• Create music: Many clients enjoy the opportunity to compose their own melodies or write lyrics that are meaningful to them or to make music along with the therapist.
• Sing: Whether singing alone or accompanied by the therapist or a recording, vocalizing can give a client great satisfaction.
• Move: Some clients may want to dance or sway to music they enjoy; even those with physical limitations can often tap their feet or move their fingers.
• Play an instrument: A client doesn’t have to have formal training to enjoy playing piano, strumming a guitar, or tapping on some drums. Often, the focused concentration required by these activities helps clients become more absorbed in the process.
• Listen to music: For some people, being able to relax and listen to music they enjoy is the best form of therapy. For those with other limitations, this might be the best modality.
• Discuss lyrics: Often discussing the meaning of a particular song helps provide insight.
What To Expect After a Session?
Your music therapist will evaluate how effectively your therapy session met pre-determined goals. In many cases, multiple sessions are required to obtain the desired results. In general, clients should feel a greater sense of well-being after participating in music therapy. While in some cases the person may show a dramatic change, in many cases the benefits occur more gradually over time.
Who Benefits From Music Therapy?
Music therapy has a wide range of applications for a variety of individuals. Since it carries low risks and is relatively inexpensive and readily available, it is a great choice for a broad range of applications. There are a number of groups that can particularly benefit from its potent healing properties.
People Recovering From Surgery or Undergoing Medical Procedures
Researchers have demonstrated a small but statistically significant reduction in the experience of pain by individuals undergoing procedures such as radiofrequency lesioning. Because of its ability to help individuals manage pain, music therapy is often offered to those in acute or intensive care units as well as for those undergoing procedures such as MRIs that may cause anxiety.
The United States War Department first defined and used formal music therapy after WWII in 1945. It was discovered that this novel modality helped those recovering in Army hospitals. It was used as a complementary therapy along with occupational therapy, education, recreation, and physical reconditioning.
Children and Adults With Developmental Disabilities
Musical therapy has shown great promise for helping those with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For these individuals, research has shown an emotional response to music that is similar to that of neurotypical individuals. Even children with no prior exposure to musical interactions will demonstrate improvements in attention span, participation rates, communication skills, and social skills. Given that the latter two components are often a real challenge for those with ASD, the advantages of music therapy are clear.
Children suffering from developmental disabilities experience enhanced self-confidence, decreased anxiety and stress, increased academic achievement, and many other benefits from music therapy.
Music therapy can motivate patients; it may also help them to more deeply examine and engage with their feelings, which could help improve sobriety over the long term. Clinical options can involve everything from lyrical analysis to playing musical games or simply listening to relaxing sounds. Emotions are engaged and processed while self-awareness is increased. All of this can help remove barriers to recovery.
Studies have found that clients experience an increase in positive emotions and relaxation while also having a decrease in anger, stress, anxiety, and depression. It was discovered that women, in particular, might be amenable to this type of therapy.
Outside of a clinical setting, music therapy can be used in halfway houses and group homes to help clients continue to address the issues that contributed to addiction.
Musical Therapy for Those Suffering From Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
According to studies, music may reduce agitation among those suffering from these conditions, even in the late stages of disease progression. While many clients at this point may not be able to verbally communicate, they can still remember lyrics or tap out rhythms from their youth.
To optimize the effectiveness, it is suggested that the client be allowed to choose the music if possible and that content is free of commercials. Clients should be encouraged to move with the music if they desire. The therapist should choose music to facilitate the desired outcome – for example, calm music to soothe someone who is agitated or more upbeat tunes to foster happy memories.
Research has shown that music therapy can lessen the need for opioids to manage pain. Investigators looked at the situation of people suffering from both acute and chronic pain as well as the intensity of cancer pain. Several studies showed that subjects exposed to music experienced pain relief while three studies evaluating opioid usage shortly after surgery showed that those who were exposed to music required over 18% less morphine than those who did not listen to music. In studies conducted 24 hours after surgery, similar results were seen.
At a time when concerns about opioid usage have grown, including this treatment modality seems an obvious way to help prevent possible addiction issues as well as providing measurable benefits to the well being of clients. Having an experienced music therapist to assist in this process helps maximize a positive outcome.
Other applications for music therapy can include therapy for those who are incarcerated and those in mental health facilities. These groups may benefit from enhanced communication skills and decreased impulsivity.
Victims of trauma and crisis can also benefit from experiencing less pain, stress, and anxiety with the assistance of a qualified musical therapist. So can those who have a variety of mental health disorders as music therapy can enhance self-examination, mood, and concentration.
In all of these situations, the use of music can help clients improve their coping skills.
In What Areas Is Music Therapy Effective?
There are six areas in which appreciable benefits have been found: physical, emotional, cognitive, social, psychological, and spiritual. Research has shown that in each area, music therapy is effective in promoting enhanced well-being.
Physical benefits include improved sleep, relaxation, reduced pain, lower blood pressure, improved respiration, improved coordination, and motor skills, management of pain, reduced occurrences of asthma, stimulus of movement, improved gait and speech, and increased activity level. Premature infants may gain weight, and those with Parkinson’s may see an improvement as well.
Emotional benefits that have been noted include the improvement in general mood as well as a decrease in anxiety, depression, stress, and social isolation. Those in therapy may more easily be able to recall repressed emotions and release them as well as being better able to express themselves.
Cognitive benefits have included an enhancement of coping skills and an increased sense of volition in clients as well as the lessening of the effects of dementia among the elderly. Psychological benefits include improvement in a variety of disorders such as depression.
Social benefits include improvement of communication among those with autism and the elderly as well as enhancing gatherings. These can include group sessions in a clinical setting as well as social gatherings such as parties or weddings and smaller meetings in places like private homes or hospital rooms. Spiritual benefits include an exploration of one’s belief system as well as the chance to share with family and friends.
What Is the Outlook for Those Who Go Through Music Therapy?
When a client engages in music therapy, he or she will find that other areas of his or her life are also enhanced. When someone works on forming vowels, for example, by singing, this helps them improve their normal speech.
For more information on how you can try music therapy in Mississippi, contact us at Defining Wellness Center. We can make sure you are plugged into the best option for your specific needs.