The healing effects of music were known for centuries, and the idea can be traced back at least to the writings of Plato and Aristotle. After World War I and World War II, community musicians used to play in hospitals for veterans suffering physical and emotional trauma. The patients’ response to music was extremely positive, they reported less pain and improved mood. This led doctors and nurses to demand the employment of musicians by the hospitals. Soon, it became clear that the hospital musicians needed some prior education before entering the facility, which created the demand for a new college curriculum. Thus, the first music therapy university degree program ever was offered at Michigan State University in 1944.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy is a therapeutic use of music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social problems of patients. It is an established profession done by experts qualified in assessing each patient’s needs in order to provide suitable treatment.
The evidence is mounting that music therapy can reduce symptoms of many illnesses. It is particularly effective in improving motor skills, cognitive functioning, social skills, emotional development and quality of life. It is also used as a relaxation technique for alleviating stress.
What methods are used in music therapy?
There are many different methods a music therapist can use, and the choice of method will depend on the needs of every individual patient. In general, methods used can be passive and active. They can range from simply listening to music to discussing, singing, dancing and playing music. They include receptive music listening, music improvisation, lyric discussion, song writing, guided imagery, music performance, and learning through music. The latter is used to indirectly enhance non-musical skills, such as communication and physical coordination.
Therapy can be organized as group meetings or one-one sessions.
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Music therapy has a wide range of applications. It is used to help premature infants, disabled children (e.g. children with autism), hospitalized patients, adolescents with emotional problems, adults with impaired motor skills (e.g. patients recovering from stroke, people who have Parkinson’s disease), people with mental health problems, older adults with dementia, etc.
What kind of music is used in music therapy?
The choice of music will depend on every patient’s individual responses, situation and preferences. There is no one particular kind of music that is best for music therapy. For example, soothing instrumentals are a good choice in relieving anxiety, whereas patients with dementia may especially benefit from listening to popular hits from when they were young, which can spark their memory.
Does it really work?
There is a vast amount of ongoing scientific research and so far, empirical evidence has shown that music therapy can help patients with brain injury recover lost speech function, reduce asthma episodes and pain, counter the effects of dementia, improve sleep patterns in premature infants, develop speech in people with autism, increase motor function in people with Parkinson’s, and much more.